Leaders are weird.

I was talking with someone today about the fact that leaders are weird. A leader is someone who lives in the same context as others but thinks differently about it than most everyone else. Socially speaking, this can come across in awkward ways.

  • Leaders may not seem to care about the things you think are important. It sounds mean and heartless, but the leader sees what you do not; there are things that go on in other spheres that may be 10 times as crucial to the mission and health of the organization. A good leader will listen and consider, but that doesn’t mean that every request you make out of your concern will come to be. My job as a follower in this situation is to make my concern known and to then let it be weighed out by someone who knows more than me.
  • Leaders may seem stressed, and that’s not usually good. But you’ve got to hand it to them — they carry a load that is not truly and fully known by anyone but them. Transparency is good and a support system is even better. Leaders need others around them to help carry the load; if they don’t set themselves up with this, then they only have themselves to blame before the fall. Everyone has bad days, and we need someone to helps us through, especially leaders. When I have a bad day, I tend to get tired, snippy, negative, etc. — and that may be because my stapler is jammed. The leader may be acting the same way, not because of a jammed stapler but because budget cuts mean someone is going to lose their job. Your role in that situation is to be supportive and encouraging. Don’t add to their load. Bring up the stapler problem later, or fix it yourself.
  • Leaders have a hard time unwinding. When your brain is so entrenched with the what what of the organization, it’s hard to just jump out of that mode. There are places where I lead and places where I follow. The leadership posts are the things that keep me up at night, enter my mind at the strangest of times (I need to figure out if we’re going to do a retreat or not — which is what crossed my mind while watching “Fraiser”). The places where I follow have much more freedom, which means I can watch Fraiser without worrying about stuff. Leaders have a problem, and that problem is that, well, it’s their problem. It’s always their problem. My role as a follower is, again, to support and make sure that I’m covering my bases, which brings peace to the leader. And, as a leader, I need to be out of the zip code for at least three days before I can truly feel disconnected and out of the trench. The unwind is critical to my ability to go back and lead well. And to watch reruns of Fraiser.
  • Leaders often seem aloof. Disconnected. Lost. Their brains have cogs that run at different speeds and gear ratios than ours. Do they have permission to not care? Absolutely not. Leaders must care; that’s their job. But part of that caring is to be thinking 1 or 2 or 71 steps ahead, which, quite frankly, takes an incredible amount of mental energy. I never thought that, as a leader, part of my job would be to go on a walk and think out loud about the coming ministry season. I do my best thinking when I’m walking alone (literally). Yet, I have had the best ideas while walking with others (figuratively). Leaders seem aloof, but they can’t stay aloof. To lead reality they must be connected. Aloof for a time, but then back to the “think tank”, which is where ideas are tested, and which leads to the last thing…
  • Leaders need a think tank. A think tank is where people gather and banter about ideas. In my office at the church, I get to share a large open space with 3 other people who serve in the same ministry area. I love it. We end up think tanking almost every day, running ideas past each other, thinking out loud to another informed human being, and just hearing our ideas tossed back at us. It’s good. I really can’t imagine being stuck in an office by myself anymore. I once thought that the think tank would still work because people would drop by. But, to my surprise, think thanking happens accidentally and by chance. We just happened to be talking about something we saw in Church Production Magazine, which led to an idea for stage setup. Would that have happened if we were in separate rooms? Probably not. I need that time, where my walking aloof comes back to earth and I can say “You know, I was thinking about this…“. Leaders must have a place where they can collaborate and share the thought process. We are often brought to the light in this kind of setting. Plus, it saves energy, footsteps and e-mails.
  • It was John Maxwell himself who introduced the whole idea of “leadership” to me. I studied it for my Master’s degree. I have tried to live it out in the past 10 years of ministry. I feel like I’m just now coming to grips with what practices are important, and why leaders act the way they do. It is because leaders are weird that it can never be about the leader. Amen? May God be honored by godly leadership that, above all personality quirks, points people to Him.

    RiP, iPhone

    After 19 months of faithful service, finger taps, phone calls, e-mails, texts, pictures and a drop or 2, my iPhone has, sadly, bit the dust.

    I watched it happen — slowly and painfully. First, the home button stopped working. This phenomenon actually started yesterday and was a hint that things were not looking good for my plans to have it hold on until January of 2010. Like a Windows user, I naturally chalked this up to the need to reboot. Alas, this did not remedy the problem, again, like a Windows user. Then I plugged it in to reload its system software, as someone mentioned that the 3.0 update was causing some 1st generation iPhones to overheat.

    And overheat it did.

    Upon plugging in my iPhone to my cheese grater Mac G5, I smelled burning. Yup– it was coming from ol’ iPhone. I unplugged it and, thinking that perhaps a piece of gum wrapper foil or something had become lodged, gave it a gentle thud against the desk.

    This wasn’t a good idea.

    I watched my screen slowly — painfully slow — go from a regular e-mail screen to a greyish/white screen. It wasn’t a blink, it was a gruesome moment of watching an old friend slowly slip back into the arms of Steve Jobs. It’s sitting on the desk now, on a sort of Universal Serial Bus Life Support, waiting for me to pull the plug.

    It’s horrendous, I know. It’s also a little too much like real life. What can I say? It’s the best phone I’ve ever owned, an extension of my pocket and a harvester/keeper of all pertinent information. And here it is, staring back at me, comatose, waiting for the inevitable.

    They make this look so much easier on TV.

    And here I sit. I’m not sure what to do next.

    A Week at Camp

    Being at a camp gives you perspective. I didn’t even actually camp — you know, with the traditional tent, sleeping bag and interaction with horrible, horrible nature*. A friend and I merely showed up, ate camp food, talked to campers, sang some songs and left to go back to our non-camping themed homes. But I experienced some camping joy when I saw high school students fully engaged in Worship. I was pretty thrilled to have conversations with teens about God and living the life. There are a few who are going back home to situations that push against their faith in ways we couldn’t imagine. Their courage and commitment (and, in some cases, recommitment) to the Lord are amazing.

    songs-a-plenty

    songs-a-plenty

    talk-a-plenty

    talk-a-plenty

    ————————————-
    *Not all nature is horrible; just snakes and bitey squirrels.

    Camp Juice

    I’m speaking/worship leading at a camp this week with a buddy. Last night was the kickoff, where 76 9-12th graders and their parents swarmed the campground, ate a meal together, and then said their goodbyes for the week. It is a ceremony which involves hugs, hamburgers, hot dogs and camp juice.

    Mmmm… camp juice. So red. So sweet. So stainy to the upper-lip.

    Don’t ask for it at a restaurant. No store has it in stock. You can’t even make it at home, since the ingredients for camp juice can only be gotten at a camp ground. It’s the definition of delicious, the concoction of camping, the liquid of life at camp — it is truly the flavor of the week, that mix of fruit, sugar and lake water that has (probably) been boiled. It is an energy supplement and an antibiotic, giving campers the needed strength to run the ropes course while, at the same time, fighting off the effects of Malaria.

    I’m rejoicing because of camp juice, yes — but even better is the fact that some campers made some big Spiritual decisions last night — what a great way to start a week at camp.

    Adam Goes to Dentist

    I sat in a dentist’s chair for over 5 hours yesterday, though I can only remember bits and pieces totaling 30 seconds, thanks to a powdery substance placed under my tongue which was preceded by my signature on a release form. I don’t remember the name of the medication that brings about amnesia, but that’s okay. I guess it worked then, eh? I don’t remember the fillings, the crown, the bridge or the dental banter which, in the past, has always given me bad dreams. “Okay, Robert. We’re going to use the gouger here to make sure your nerve endings are still able to respond to stimulus”, etc. I go to an excellent dentist now, so I’m sure that this never came up, though, if it did, I sure don’t remember it.

    From what I’m told by my lovely wife Emily, this sedation dentistry has its own side effects at home after the procedure is done and, well, forgotten. For example, she reports that I looked at our third child, Zachary, and asked aloud “now, which one is this?”. I guess I also declared –repeatedly– that I was way more aware and “with it” this time than last, so I should probably do things like drive a car, clean out the gutters, call distant relatives and go down to the post office and help them sort mail. I was like a 300 lb infant playing around the stairs. What would they have really done had I decided to put my weight into it and go get some Ice Cream? This is why I believe that some families should be given some sort of dart gun that they use when the zoo has a breach, just in case. Fortunately, Emily is a conscientious, wonderful and loving woman who I can trust with everything, including a forgotten Friday.

    Now… if only I could remember where I put my keys.

    Va/StayCation

    It’s vacation week for the Davidson Family. Our destination was lovely Maumee, OH, where we found a killer deal on a great hotel. Emily called a place of lodging on the morning of our departure. Working her Emily magic to save cash money, she said:

    “Listen — we need a deal.” I wasn’t there, but I’m sure the conversation continued on, though we will only hear one side of it right now:

    Yes, we have Triple-A.
    No pets.
    Yes, today through Tuesday.
    Is that *really* the best you can do?
    *really*?
    I see. Is it high-def?
    (etc).

    Long blog post short, we ended up with a really nice room for really cheap. Just for kicks, Emily went on an interweb site that features a certain Starship Captain as a spokesperson, just to compare the deal she just landed with what Kirk could come up with. It turns out that maybe you don’t need Bill Shatner to get the best deal after all, since their price was a good $30 a night higher. Perhaps there is a future for Analog Priceline ™ after all.

    We drove to Maumee (just south of Toledo, OH). We parked the truck and got our “keys” from the front desk. An aside: when I was a kid, a hotel key was an actual hotel key. Discuss.

    We took the hotel swipeycard and, upon the green light of approval from the lock, entered the room. The first thing that caught our eye was the huge flat panel TV over the fireplace in the living room. Next was the ultra-modern full kitchen with fridge, micro and dishwasher. A side step around the dining room table brought us around to the bathroom area, which came with the necessary accouterments, made from what I’m sure is the finest porcelain. Around the next corner and you’re in the decked out master suite. We marveled at the cool deco, new art, modern colors (neither peach or teal could be found in this hotel room) and that feeling — you know the one — that you’re ripping off the innkeeper. We took in the marvel of a suite as Malachi, like a homing pigeon, found the candy dish and asked at least 37 times whether he could have just a bite. That was pretty much all he cared about — hard, Grandma’s candy. Dude. They have that at the Super 8.

    We ate dinner, swam, slept and got up the next day to a sweet continental breakfast that included me taking three separate trips down to snag food for the family. Nope. This didn’t look suspicious at all. I’m sure.

    After breakfast, it was off to the Toledo Zoo. Admittedly, many of the animals of Ohio like to sleep during the day. Most certainly, it would have been best to put some Red Bull into the Tigers, or some Red Tiger into the Bulls, etc. None the less, we had a marvelous time. The whole idea of the Zoo is that we go and watch creatures do their thing through a fence. Ironically, that’s exactly what the animals are doing to us. It was funny to stand there and watch penguins stand around as they stood there and watched humans stand around.

    At a zoo, no kid is cute because, well, there are too many of them. Also, you feel like you’re at a stroller convention. Our wheels bump into each other like on the Nascar Track, but we don’t care. The Elephants are being “enriched”. I don’t know what that sign means, but it sounds educational and we must get our children there to see this NOW.

    We hit a second hand store where I picked up an LP — the Alan Parsons Project/Eye in the Sky — which spins on my Curtis Mathes turntable as I write this. There are only a few bands in the world that do songs as if they were epics and not 3-chord radio cuts. Spock’s Beard, Muse, Mae and Kerry Livgren do/did things that I dig and wish I could hear more of. I had never paid much attention to the Alan Parsons Project until now. Once again, buying a random vinyl has paid off in ways that the iTunes Music store kinda does, only digitally and for much more money.

    After checking out on Tuesday, we went out to Shipshewana, Indiana, for a visit to a Flea Market. A good time, though I’m noticing that a lot of vendors were selling essentally the same kind of merchandise. Oh, people were buying this stuff left and right, so I don’t want to knock it. I don’t question the Flea Market economy, but I do make a few observations from my limited perspective. I imagine that if someone were apprenticing, this is what they would be taught before opening their own booth:
    1. Flea Markets rely on the 6 legs of Flea Commerce: Discount Sun Glasses, Decorative Blankets, Personalized License Plates, Imported Tools, Miracle ______ (cream, polish, wax, gravel, etc), and Yard Decorations that make you think “so that’s where she got that thing from”.
    2. Flea Markets provide the shopper with a food experience that is like nothing else in this world. That smell? Smoldering ketchup. Sitting ketchup. Bulk ketchup. Ketchup on fries, tots, hot dogs and whatever else you can get it on. Ketchup is king of condiments, even if they ordered “just a coffee”. Also, ketchup is always spilled on the surface of something, and the napkins provided have an anti-ketchup coating that only push it around. You may want to bring your own napkins. And your own ketchup.
    3. Serious flea market shoppers can be detected by the following subtle clues: They are pulling a trailer hooked to their belt, for the purpose of hauling their treasure. They are wearing sun block, even if its inside. They tend to kick the tires on everything, both literally and figuratively. Also, they¬†make comparisons that you don’t understand, saying things like “Ya know, over at 347, they got a batch of those roosters with the waves for nine a piece”. They say this to whoever is standing there. Don’t let it be you.
    4. People always buy more than they anticipated at the flea market. It just takes a few rows for the cerebral cortex to surrender to the smell of burnt ketchup, the sound of vendors sharing inside jokes between booths and the sight of wolves pasted on any flat surface. The giant Nascar Pocket knife can be used to help seal the deal as their sense of commerce is slightly thrown off. By the fifth row, they are ready to buy, which is why we don’t put the ATM machine near the entrance.
    5. People can’t resist telling the story of how they found a bargain, so give them one. Remind them that you can’t get a 450-thread count bed sheet set without a prescription, so thank goodness they came to your booth. If they ask to count the threads, politely decline.

    After the flea market, we hit a Mongolian Barbecue that was on the way home. Now, when I say “on the way” I mean “not really”. Instead of coming home in a straight line, we took the triangulation approach that was slowed down even more by the fact that, upon crossing the state line into Michigan, we were greeted by a 30 minute wait for road construction. How…expected. But that’s okay. It’s progress. And progress is good. Potholes are bad. Besides, we all had flea market stuff to keep us busy, Malachi with his Bob the Builder figure, Emily with her 450-thread count sheets and me with my tweezers. “You can’t get these at Lowe’s” I kept telling myself as I looked around for more things to tweeze. Indeed.

    We got home and dumped the children into their own beds, which I think they appreciated. The cat meowed her joy of our homecoming until she could meow no more. “Meyie smell meow meow Zoo, meow flea market, meow novelty license plates, meow impulse items. Meow vacation! Without mee-ow!” Okay. That’s strange.

    And now we’re home, yet still on vacation. We are now on “staycation”, where you stay home yet don’t go to work. We will “stay” instead of “va” for the rest of the week, avoiding at all costs any thought about the very things we’re vacating (staycating) from. It will be good. Sabbath is built into the creation of the world, and this guy appreciates it quite a bit right now. It’s easy to miss just how badly we need rest, especially those of us who are driven. Just sitting there is actually pretty cool if you can get yourself to chill out enough. Peace which passes understanding is good, even when you’re not “in trouble” per se.

    Alan Parsons spins on as I now eat microwave Chicken Nuggets. Mmmm… miscellaneous.

    What a great staycation meal.

    Ordination

    This past Friday, I was ordained as an Elder (to be an Elder, to Eldership, to Elder-ness?) in the Free Methodist Church. Reverend Robert Adam Davidson. I am now officially Pastor Adam. It feels strange, but in a very good way. To be ordained means that you are set apart, under the recognition that God has called and equipped you to serve Him in a different way. We’re all ministers; I just do it as a life vocation. It’s for more than tax reasons. It’s a response to God’s call on a young kid in Garden City, Michigan, who grew up in a pretty normal neighborhood where we rode bikes, played with fireworks and built forts. God had planted something in my heart and was making it grow, much to the surprise and (still) shock of some — including me. I think I’m still recovering. I’m not supposed to be this guy. I’m not supposed to be God’s servant, or His mouthpiece, or His carrier of love and grace. But now that’s my job. My calling. My life.
    And I even have a piece of paper — Elder’s orders — to prove it, complete with a seal and the signature of the Bishop. It’s still sitting on the kitchen counter, mostly because I’m sort of expecting them to take it from me in a couple of days. I’m not sure why I think that the Bishop would call up and, clearing his throat, explain that the whole thing was just a clever ruse meant to impress my parents and make me feel like a big boy for a day. It’s probably just the gravity of the situation and the realization that God has done something in me that has nothing to do with how great I am or how quickly I can rattle off all the books of the New Testament. Church-ish people have been pouring into my life for almost 20 years, and this is the final bloom of seeds that were planted when my biggest concern was rescuing the princess on Mario Bros.
    I do feel different. I feel separated. In a good way, and in a strange way, I feel set apart. I could sense it when the other Elders laid hands on Emily and I — that we are God’s dedicated servants in the Church, called to proclaim the Gospel wherever we’re at. God has chosen us to be regional mouthpieces for His message. I’m supposed to be a vessel for God’s incredible grace, His unending love and His limitless power. Wherever I’m at and whoever I come in contact with. For the sake of His glory; for the sake of His Church. His Kingdom. His plan. His purpose. Me.

    Wow.

    I also feel strangely set apart from certain parts of my past that I tended to “haunt”. I keep going back, mentally, to my early childhood. I realized, after talking it out, that I keep “haunting” that time period in my life — going there and just roaming around, looking for something I can’t quite put my finger on. There are certain pains and experiences that God has been slowly redeeming from a long time ago. And it’s okay now. There is a sense of release, a feeling that it’s all tied up into a little “bow” now. Yes, I have arrived, but now it’s time for more arrivals — to keep doing the will of the Lord under the office and orders of a Rev. Do I feel different?

    You bet.

    I have a title that points all glory to God. My life — my very existence — is to serve the Church. It’s official. And it’s very real.

    Oh, if you need to get married, I can do that. Finally.