Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Destination: Slippery Slope Land

Election 2012 is over and in the books.  I am pretty passionate person when it comes to politics (cf my FB and Twitter posts during the national debates).  Last night I sat with some of my CCU students and family as the results came in.  The news folks announced a "call" for Ohio going to President Obama and the air went out of the room.

My reaction?  Disappointed?  Yes.  Forlorn? No.  There are two foundations upon which I believe that make last night less "doomsday" as some are commenting this morning. First, as a believer in Jesus Christ and His reality in my life, there is something far more eternal than an election.  Second, as someone who has studied and played the "election game" for years, I see this as a loss, and much like a sports team, you reflect on the loss, learn from it and move onto the next part of the game - namely mid-term elections in two years and an even bigger presidential election in four years.

My bigger concern had to do with my "worldview" perspective on what I saw happening last night.  I think some of the comments I am hearing from conservatives correctly point to what the consequences of the election can be.   Clearly there are challenges ahead for those of us who oppose "Obama-care" and its infringements on religious liberties.  There are challenges to the potential selection of Supreme Court Justices who will legislate from the bench for the next 25 or so years.  There are challenges to those of us to who believe that fundamentally it is people who should guide their own lives and not the federal government.  There are challenges to the ideas of which ideas we want to impact the US conversation and action in the rest of the world.

Much larger than those challenges are the challenges at an ideological level.  Decisions were made last night that elected a President who believes government knows better; marriage is no longer between just a man and a woman; that pot should be legal and enjoyed by all; and that government money should be spent on things like abortion.

Now follow me here because in each of those cases the deeper ideas are the ones that begin to lead down a path that is not "slouching" (to use Bork book title) toward cultural demise but taking a flying leap.  Let's look at these pathologies through the argument used to make these decisions.

President:  One of the comments made in jest immediately after the announcement that President Obama had won was "Great President Obama is going to buy me a cell-phone!"  Whether this is true or not, I believe the greatest single ideology that fed this election was the remnants of post-modern thought - which is namely that the world revolves around "self" (my own interpretation of reality, and the shift from the ideas of the "other' to "me").  This is where the roots of entitlement come from.   President Obama won re-election because his community activist background taught him well that you deliver the message that people want to hear.  In this case it was the idea that he will do what is best for me - not the whole or others, but me.

Marriage:  32 times marriage initiatives have have been introduced and last night two states passed laws that protect same sex marriage on par with traditional marriage.  One might argue that it just took that long to overcome the bias against same sex marriages.  Perhaps but I believe the larger issue is that of "utra-tolerance" in world where to be against something is looked down upon, especially when it involves other people.  I have no problems with same sex couples having the same rights in health care, etc. but change those laws not the re-definition of marriage.  For over 50 years academic research has shown that in communities where traditional marriage is the norm, the community benefits in over a dozen ways.  We don't have comparable data that says if same-sex marriage is the norm that we end up with disadvantages, but we just don't garner the advantages.  Why is that true?  Maybe, just maybe, it is because God designed it that way those are the natural consequences of going against the natural order (note I said natural order, not tradition).  We take a further step (small in some people's eyes but a step) toward opening up public policy rights to all and we will cross a line at some point.  The problem with Slippery Slope Land is that the line gets moved so subtly that we don't realize it most times.

Legal Marijuana:  Two states also passed laws to legalize recreational use of pot.  Not a shock that one of those states was my home of Colorado.  Here is the rationale that threw me for a loop and is so very typical of the road to Slippery Slope Land;  since drug enforcement hasn't worked then we should make it legal.  Together with that is the positive spin put on it that it will increase tax revenue and save our schools.  Even some very well known conservative Republicans in the state advocated for it and voted in favor.  I disagree with both Mike Rosen (Denver based radio host) and Tom Tancredo (former Colorado legislative leader) vehemently.  If their rationale is valid, then anything we have difficulty enforcing should be legalized.  And anything that is additionally a potential for increased revenue is valid.  With that thinking would it be too much of a reach to legalize prostitution?  It could make it safer and raise vast revenue.   If marijuana can do this why not legalize cocaine?  Then there was the overuse of the "prohibition of alcohol" analogy that was invoked.   Fallacious logic at best.  Analogies should be truly comparable and the cultural context of both is vastly different.  That is primarily because of where we are on this trip down the road to Slippery Slope Land.

Don't be concerned that our guy didn't win the election.  Do be concerned that some of the ideas we stand for are threatened and in this great country guess what we have the freedom to do?  Stand up, pull up our boot-straps and get to work.  Tomorrow is here and its time to get to work making our worldview a way of life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What a difference a year makes!

In addition to learning that I just plain suck at blogging (I think of so many things to say but don’t’ spend the time stopping to write them down), I’ve learned a great deal about God’s providence and provision.

A year ago yesterday I walked into the office of my boss and was told that the place that I had poured myself into for ten years was headed in a different direction and I would no longer be a part of it.  I can feel the pit in my stomach today as I type those words.  No warning, no set up, no hype, just those words.  Within a month or so I had landed a job with Colorado Christian University as a professor of communication, director of debate and doing special projects for the President.

Today I was honored with an award voted on by the student body; Faculty of the Year.  Honestly I think the vote might have been fixed.  The runner-up should investigate.  Someone afterward said that I looked surprised.  I was surprised.  After one year?  That just doesn’t happen. 

So one year ago, I felt like my world had been ripped apart. I asked some tough questions of God and He asked some of me.  One of them was to revisit words I had said to students for years; “What are you doing when you feel the most alive? Or the most fulfilled by God?”  My answer is teaching.  I love the classroom and I love the engagement of learning that goes on when students, a teacher, a good text and some powerful ideas collide.  There is magic that can happen. 

During the last couple months there have been a number of challenges that have come up in my role as Chair of The Classical Academy board.  In the days when I have felt beat up by my leadership role, I found myself the next day standing in the classroom at CCU and just filling my soul (and the students were not even aware – they thought they were there for them…)

I have been able to find that “one thing” (Curly talks to Billy Crystal in “City Slickers” about it – watch it sometime) and connect with it.  Additionally I have found myself amongst a wonderful faculty, some stellar students, and being able to follow a leader like Bill Armstrong (former U.S. Senator from Colorado and now President of CCU) has been a huge blessing.  Yeah the drive from the Springs to Denver a few times a week can be a drag (or a real challenge on some snow days).  But the calling that is fulfilled is amazing. 

You also don’t travel that road alone.  I have gained a new appreciation for Team Leland and their support in a year of transition.  When I was out of work my wife, Becca cried with me and then being the “challenger” she is, went to work on a plan on how this would all work.  My boys reacted to the news a year ago differently but positively; from writing a worship song about the experience to plans articulated by my youngest that we needed to open a deli.  Not my sweet spot, but worth considering down the road perhaps. 

God provided perfectly for this season of my life.  I don’t state that in a matter-of-fact way.  I truly believe it.  He is Jehovah Shalom – my peace.  He is Jehovah Jireh – my provider.   He is all of those things for me… and YOU!  Don’t forget it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A 2011 Leland Christmas!

Not many Christmas letters begin with words from Lamentations, but Team Leland’s does…

“I remember my affliction and my wandering; the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them and my soul is downcast within in me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:19-23)

2011 for Team Leland has been a time of change and in the midst of it, we have remembered how great God’s faithfulness to us has always been, even when it is sometimes easy to reflect upon the negative “we call this to mind…”

Some things change a lot…

Stephen headed off to college and life around the house in Colorado Springs changed. As the picture shows, we celebrated his graduation in style, And lifting him up, his brothers will tell you, was made all the more difficult because of the number of “honor cords” he wore. We were very proud of his accomplishments including being named Titan Exemplar of the Year for his balanced excellence in academics, athletics and service to the community. He has just completed his first semester at Baylor University (Sic’em Bears!) making the Dean’s list as well as becoming very active in his Army ROTC unit, including competing in the Ranger Challenge for Baylor.

Change hit in May when Chris left Focus on the Family and the Focus Leadership Institute after ten years and joined the faculty of Colorado Christian University (in Denver). Even with a longer commute the Lord’s blessing has been all over it . It has meant returning to the Communication classroom, starting a new speech/debate program for the University, and doing some special projects for the President of the University. It is an exciting time to be involved with CCU!

Change came as Nicolas hit his 16th year with a new drivers license in hand and a cool new (used) Subaru Outback for taking his brothers to school and himself to baseball practice, and to lead worship at The Way (an interdenominational youth gathering each week). He also drives himself to school so he can crank out his great work on his grades as he heads into the second semester of his Junior year at The Classical Academy toward the top of his class.

Some things change a little…

Becca continues to enter her “crazy” season this time of year as her work at Glazier Football Clinics ramps up and adds to her busy-ness of running our household and the lives of Team Leland. Baseball Mom, Domestic Engineer, Taxi Driver, and Accounting Professor are all things that could be listed on her business card. She did find time this year to make a couple of trips to spend time with friends (a cruise with Colorado Springs girlfriends; and a trip to Indiana to spend time with Huntington girlfriends).

Other than the major change of shooting up just under six inches this year, Christopher continues his athletic ways. All-Star Little League baseball, club/traveling team baseball, League Champion Jr. High football, Lineman of the Year (played both center and nose-guard); and now at 13 he has decided to take up basketball. His first year of Junior High at TCA is a success both academically and socially.

Matthew is quite good at being 10 (in everyway possible). His change came when he transferred elementary schools within the TCA community. The change of venue has changed very little in terms of his striving for excellence in the classroom. His life continues to be full of baseball (spring, summer, and fall), and basketball (fall, winter, and spring). He makes us laugh even on our worst days!

Some things NEVER change…

God’s provision and faithfulness for Team Leland has been extraordinary. As Lamentations suggests we could all be tempted to reflect upon the past year and dwell on the things that challenged us, but we are to be reminded of His great faithfulness. That part of God never changes. Neither does the fact that in that faithfulness He sent His son to become a part of humanity to save us; an infinite God becoming finite by being tied to a lowly Jewish girl. Could anything be more puzzling or profound?

May you and yours reflect upon the past year and this season with His faithfulness in mind!

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Team Leland

(Chris, Becca, Stephen, Nicolas, Christopher Jr. and Matthew)

Feel free to follow us/friend us on Facebook; Doc Leland; Becca Leland; Stephen

Leland; Nicolas Leland; Christopher Leland – (we’d love to keep in touch)

Friday, July 29, 2011

New Definitions of "Hip"

I now have a commute (a fairly easy hour up Interstate 25 from Colorado Springs to Denver) to my new job with Colorado Christian University. I, of course, like to fill my time on the road productively so I played around with downloading some podcasts the other day. Yesterday I listened to a couple; one in particular really left me questioning where we are going as a culture.

The podcast was from NPR dealing with educational issues. Part of it was an interview done by Michele Martin of Lincoln Chaffee, currently Independent Governor of Rhode Island and former Republican Senator from that same state. Amongst several issues, the following interaction took place:

MARTIN: And, finally, one other national issue that's obviously being visited and addressed in Rhode Island is the whole question of same-sex unions. Earlier this month, you signed a law authorizing same-sex civil unions. Now, obviously, you know, issues like this obviously around the country, really, around the world, have generated a tremendous amount of intense feeling on all sides now.

Some people say that the law doesn't go far enough. Some people on the other side say that, you know, marriage should be between a man and a woman, one man, one woman. That they feel that this really undermines kind of core value. How did you come to a decision on this?

CHAFEE: Well, I'm embarrassed to say that Rhode Island does not have full marriage equality. And we're the state founded by Roger Williams. And the greatest liberties ever granted to any colony in the world back in 1663, I now - we're trailing on other New England states. New Hampshire legislature passed it. Vermont, of course, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York recently, and Rhode Island, just not giving full marriage equality.

But when you factor in the demographics of Rhode Island, we're a very high elderly state. And so change comes a little more slowly and we are the highest in the country, a Roman Catholic state. And so those two demographics certainly came to play in just getting that half (unintelligible) civil unions.

MARTIN: So you would've preferred full marriage equality. You just felt, what, the votes weren't there?

CHAFEE: Yes. I was pushing for it. I believe it could've gotten through the House of Representatives and maybe not through the Senate. But I would've liked to seen the roll called and see whether these members of our legislature want to be on the right side or the wrong side of history. And I think it's a - Rhode Island, we want the state to be a hip, happening place. And certainly marriage equality is part of that.

The Governor is "embarrassed" that his state is behind other northeastern states... and that makes his argument right (everyone else is doing it)? Roger Williams would have approved of same sex marriages? Not if I read history correctly, he would fight hard for the rights of all individuals to be fair and balanced and not dictated by the church. However there is a dangerous assumption that religious people are the only ones who want traditional marriages. Not true.

Oh this gets better. He faults old people and Catholics as retarding progress and keeping Rhode Island from being "hip" and on the "wrong side of history." Insert Rhode Island joke here.

I am heartily offended that Governor Chaffee governs from this type of supposedly enlightened ivory tower. It is a brilliant rhetorical trick; marginalize everyone who happens to disagree with you and make them seem like they are to be ashamed of having a particular view. Regardless of what you think about the issue of same sex marriage, this type of marginalization is NOT what guys like Roger Williams had in mind.

My big issue is that striving for "marriage equality" is an assumed legislative move to redefine marriages as civil unions and assumes that the only way individual and relational rights can be protected is by overhauling the entire institution of marriage. Secular research has held for over 60 years that in society's that are built on the traditional model of marriage (one man and one woman) then those communities gain multiple benefits. There is no research that says if you happen to approve of non-traditional models then there are a host of detriments, but we do see over and over that there are benefits to this traditional set of roles. (See Maggie Gallagher's work as well as others).

Finally, the Governor hits on the key ideological issue; we want to be on the "right" side of history and we want to be "hip and happening". The danger is that those that are defining that world are not always very good at seeing beyond "new and improved" when it is neither.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Leadership 222

I just read a stat that over 1800 pastors in one denomination in this country left the ministry last year. They didn't just change churches or go to work for other ministries, but they LEFT the ministry to seek something in the private sector. That's a bunch of folks. If we dig a bit deeper it seems to stem from burnout, but why? What is happening that keeps allowing ministry leaders to burnout? We have a great many resources (books, web, conferences, retreats, training, etc.) that are supposed to accomplish three things for them; refresh, re-energize, and retool. Unfortunately there is one aspect that is not being addressed; the paradigm of the church is broken.

There have been a vast number of books written lately that address this broken paradigm. Radical, Crazy Love, Hole in our Gospel, UnChristian, etc. have all addressed the idea that we are stuck in a mind-set that allows me to sit in the pews (or whatever your seating set up is), write a check, and let the staff do the work of the church. In our consumeristic culture that paradigm makes total sense. It is based on the postmodern idea that it is all about MY experience that matters. Jean Twenge in a book called, Generation Me, even addresses how the ideas have shifted in our call to missions. She points out that church messages used to be, "go on a mission trip and bless others." Then it shifted to, "go on a mission trip, bless others and you will be blessed." Finally it became, "go on a mission trip, be blessed and by the way others will be blessed." That demonstrates a radical shift in thinking. Seems so subtle doesn't it?

So how does this impact ministry leaders? What we appear to be doing, is lifting them out of their mild burnout, patching them up, and sending them back into the same old paradigm that continues to burn them out. Scriptures don't point to that model in any way, shape or form. 2 Timothy 2:2 reflects upon the fact that it is essential to equip leaders to be facilitators of those in the church to DO the work of the church. "...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (vs. 2).

Rest and recovery is an important aspect of leadership, no doubt. But in the work of the church, I contend that we must find a better way to equip the leaders to lead us, not do the work for us. Leads must find ways to be trained in how to help the church change that paradigm. We need to find those that are doing it well and let them coach the rest of us.

Changing paradigms is tough work. Let us encourage those that lead us, by allowing them to change our paradigms. Jesus didn't do the work of the church. He did His part (to be read, uniquely qualified to do those things alone) but then sent others to lead, facilitate and equip others. Leadership 222 - the next course we all should sign up for!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Finding balance in the tension

I have not posted for some time (you can see that clearly from the last date posted on the side over there) and mainly because there has been so little time. I was busy leading up a a college Institute and trying to keep its head above water during the last two years (and it has). I was busy trying to be a dad to my four boys (one of which turns 18 today - and I'm having some issues with that...) :) I was busy speaking to churches, college campuses and audiences who would listen about the importance of maintaining a civil Christian worldview in a culture that is hostile to some of our ways of thinking. I have more time on my hands now, but more on that later...

Until recently I was working as Vice President for College Student Ministries with the Focus Leadership Institute (a division of Focus on the Family) and while there had to opportunity to watch the transition from our found Dr. James Dobson to the new CEO Jim Daly. I have been a huge supporter of both men for very different reasons. I respect a great deal the standards by which Dr. Dobson set up the ministry and helped found the Institute. When Jim Daly came on, I used to introduce him to the students of the Institute as the right guy for the right time. I meant it. Still do. I have appreciated his willingness to reach out into the culture and talk with those that most in the conservative Christian culture have never reached out to. As human beings we DO share a great deal of the same conclusions about how to treat others.

However, Jim is walking a very thin line that creates a tension from time to time. In this morning's Colorado Springs Independent ( there was one of those lines that worries me a bit. The article is about (if you haven't clicked over and read it already) how those in all circles agree that foster kids should find homes with loving families. In the middle of the article, there is a line where Daly says, (on the question of gay adoption) "So in the context of same-sex marriage, or adoption by same-sex couples, the culture will go in the direction its going to go.We [the church] can't control that. But for the Christian in the Christian community, we want to do our job..."

But isn't that the point of the Gospel is that it is for everyone? As a "worldview guy" I worry that in the midst of this tension we perhaps make rhetorical statements that seem as if we are throwing our hands up about where the culture is headed and essentially say, we can only influence our own house. I don't think that is Jim's heart, but again we have to be careful with that line of tension. There is a design for marriage and family that isn't just for the church or Christians it is for all people, at all times, across cultures. That is the nature of God's Truth and Design for things. Follow the path of research on the strength of communities as it relates to the strength of traditional families (defined as a husband/wife and children). Over years and across cultures the message has been (and not just for the Church) that when you have cultures built on that model, they have any number of advantages (educationally, socially, economically, etc). When you have cultures based on non-traditional families, there isn't evidence that horrible things occur but that you don't have those advantages. Where do you want to live? Which type of culture? That transcendent truth about God's design isn't because some organization said it was so or some political approach claimed it was good, but because He designed it that way.

Be careful when walking the line. Sometimes the tension pulls too far away from the Truth.


Monday, January 24, 2011


My hats off to Lindy Keffer who is our FLI Internship Coordinator for sparking the ideas below... she spent some time with the students today explaining what her past jobs were and what she learned from them - in hopes that they would use the internship as a truly educational experience. That got me thinking about my past jobs...

Cook/Busboy - Sirloin Stockade Steakhouse

What did I learn? That people can be picky and rude and to live out "the customer is always right" was really hard some days. Also I learned that there are jobs that are dirty, disgusting, have to be done and have to be done every day. I used to not entirely understand why I had to clean the grill every night when it was going to be fired back up in less than six hours for the breakfast shift. I ultimately learned an appreciation for people in the food service industry and how hard the work is.

Retail Sales - Montgomery Ward (are they still around?); Dillards

What did learn? Same principle of the customer always being right was reiterated. Additionally I learned that there are times you don't say what is on your mind - even if it makes total sense in your head. When Wards would switch over its garden center to toys for Christmas, I usually got extended hours helping folks pick out toys for their little ones. One of the little guys took off around the entire store in one of the Big Wheels that had a clicker on the wheel. He was screaming as he went. The grandmother pondered what to get a five year old for Christmas? My response, "That five year old? Get him a cage!" I had a pretty severe talking to by the store manager after that, even though he agreed with the sentiment, it just wasn't what one said. I also learned about being a customer and hopefully don't treat the people on the other side of the register the way I see some people treating sales people.

Secretary - University of Arkansas

I spent a short stint working in the Student Services department and supporting a couple friends of mine in their work with Student Government. What did I learn? I learned that detail matters. When typing up minutes from meetings it was always good to get it right and to just report the facts, not people's opinions about the work they were doing. I also learned not to accept calls from those running for political office that you happen to volunteering for. Local reporters eat that stuff up. I also learned a life long appreciation for the folks that do this work for me now. It shouldn't be one day a year we appreciate them either -

Radio - Disc Jockey

When they had disc jockey positions still... What did I learn? I learned the value of working your way up the ladder. Very seldom does someone in media start with the prime slots. I went from being a part time fill in on the weekends, to regular part time, to overnights, to day shifts. I also learned the politics of organizations when I got fired by a program director who needed a job for his buddy coming back from the Navy. It was cool that I got hired by one of the competition within a day! I also learned that you can have a lot of fun with a job. Playing the music you like (and some that you don't like) talking with listeners, etc. - just fun. Pay is nothing, but it was fun.

Teacher - Univ. of Arkansas; Univ. of Oklahoma; Wichita State Univ.; Huntington College; Focus Leadership Institute and various shorter stints with churches, colleges and international ministries...

What did I learn (or am I learning)? I have learned that it is important to find the thing that makes you come alive and do it. When I stand in front of the classroom, I am so energized. The venue becomes unimportant as long as I am teaching. My encouragement for you; think long and hard about what you are doing when you feel the most alive and figure out a way to do it. You may need credentials. You may need guidance from others. You may need opportunities. Move toward it, whatever it is.

Happy Day!