Even these times God makes beautiful

Have you ever stopped to consider that God has made death beautiful?

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:11 states boldly that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.”

It’s a good sentiment, but have you ever taken time to think about the implications? The author reaches this conclusion after considering a long list of contrasts. You know the passage… or the Pete Seeger song:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh… (Eccl 3:1-4)

God has made everything beautiful: death, plucking up, breaking down, weeping. They’re all beautiful in their time. This season is a perfect one to consider that truth. Rather than simply letting the leaves brown and wither, God opted to allow them a glorious goodbye. In some ways, the fiery golds and reds of autumn declare the glory of God better than the vibrant reds and golds of spring.

Ecclesiastes tells us we can never have constant growth, constant abundance, constant life. In fact, death is necessary to create the conditions for life to spring up again.

Let’s dig a little deeper. Paul reached a parallel conclusion when he considered another set of contrasts in Philippians 4:11-12:

…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I’m challenged on a personal level by Paul’s perspective, but I’m also convicted on an organizational level. There’s been a lot written about organizational life cycles and “S” curves. The intense pressure on public companies for constant growth spills over to non-profits. As a leader, I never want to report on decline, let alone preside over it.

The reality is that organizations will have, must have, times of plenty and times of want. There are times when God’s provisions are abundant, when you’re able to engage in mission in new ways. It’s a fun time of dreaming, expansion and starting up. Likewise, there are lean years, times when vision leaks, when mission is difficult and programs must be contracted and commitments pulled back. Such times require digging deep and persisting.

Even those times God makes beautiful.

I’ve noticed in myself a strong sense of discontent about my organization’s situation. We’ve recently come out of a season of decline and contraction, and things are beginning to turn around. But it seems like we never quite have enough resources to do what we think we need to be doing. It feels like we take one step forward and one step back. Every time a new resource comes that we’ve been waiting on for years—and now we can do this big thing we’ve been waiting on—suddenly another resource evaporates and we’re stretched and waiting again.

Even these times God makes beautiful.

Perhaps it’s God’s way of maintaining dependence. Perhaps it’s God’s way of testing our contentment. Like Paul, I need to ask myself whether my contentment comes from circumstances, from growth and abundance, from the need to preside over “success” or from God Himself.

As the leaves start turning and falling to the ground, remember the fact that God has made death and waiting beautiful. And remember that unless these leaves fall to the ground, life can’t come in the spring.

Turn Turn Turn.

[This post republished from my President’s blog on Wycliffe.ca]

Top leadership movies on my list to see

These movies are even more difficult to rank, except to go by how many recommendations I got, who recommended them and the fervor of their comments.

Lagaan – A Hindi film, with subtitles in English, that’s been on my list before. Now that it’s been cast in the leadership category, it’s very high on my list.

Elizabeth – “The first one is the best, I think.”

Gandhi – “Great for… vision, modelling the way, courage, determination, sacrifice, unselfishness”

October Sky – A couple of nominations for this one, the highlight being, “Laura Dern’s character (the high school teacher) who inspires, challenges, and stands up for the “rocket boys” in Coaltown, WV. She is not the main character, but is a key catalyst whose commitment and leadership brings about positive transformation of her students and community. One of my favorite movies.”

Gettysburg – I’m a fan of the Shaara Civil War series of books, and “Gods and Generals” was great. So this war leadership one has been on my list.

Coach Carter – “Great for… vision, setting clear expectations, team ethic, overcoming resistance, influencing.” There are just so many coaching movies. Guess I missed this one.

Secretariat – “The story of Penny Chenery is the best example of empowered female leadership in the last 20 years.”

Of Gods and Men – “It has more to do with the impact of a crisis on a small community – 8 monks in the face of terrorists in Algeria. You see their decision making process and how that changed. (Very moving and tragic story, but really better for crisis management, theology of risk, etc).”

12 O’Clock High – “A 1940′s WW2 movie about redeption vs. maxium effort…and the cost.” Great for “seeing what happens when a Leadership Change occurs.

Shake hands with the Devil – Somehow when my wife and I went through our Africa movie marathon, we missed this one about the Rwanda Genocide



These next ten aren’t on my list yet, but I could be convinced.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – “’Greed is good.’ Unfortunately, greed and sustainable leadership cannot occupy the same space.” Haven’t seen it, but I’m a big fan of Michael Douglas.

The Lady – The story of Aung San Suu Kyi is one I’ve been interested in. Just discovered there’s a movie, but is it any good? One person thought so.

Places in the Heart – A movie “for which Sally Field won the Oscar in portrayal of depression era TX widow who keeps family and farm together against great challenges.”

Freedom Writers – I got a few nominations for this one.

Norma Rae – “Older and less well-known, but 2 Oscars and Sally Field.”

Lion in Winter – “3 Oscars, O’Toole & Hepburn.”

The Hiding Place – “Those women are still leading others today through their story and testimony.” I did watch half of this the other day when my son was watching it for a school project.

The Emperor’s Club – Nominated “for its Integrity focus that is so absent in much leadership today and as a result also in those mentored.”

Mulan – The person who nominated this one felt strongly enough about it to give it three exclamation points.

Whip It – Hard to get excited about a roller derby movie as an excellent leadership portrayal, so maybe I’m missing something.


Credit: Some of the comments I received included links to other lists. So let me give due credit for some of these thoughts: