Mar 27 2012
Katniss and Her Friends: Why "The Hunger Games" Resonates

So every teenage girl, it seems, wants to be Katniss.

I'm not surprised.  I would, too.

The Hunger Games is about culture, and more specifically, Katniss vs. Culture. And it's our culture, of course, through the lens of caricature.  

It's our culture, and every teenage girl, it seems, would like to pick up a bow, and fire an arrow directly into the heart of it, and watch it die.


In the books (I haven't seen the movie, yet) Katniss is substance, and adult culture - embodied and enforced by the Capitol - is all about appearances. It's mean, it's selective, it's heartless, it's cruel, and it pits one-teen-against-the-other.  

Katniss cares about her appearance, but not very much.  It's the Capitol, the culture, that cares very much, foisting makeup and fashion experts upon her, each charged with making her understand how important outward beauty is to her survival. They convince her: Change, and change outwardly, and extremely... or you will not survive.

Katniss has romantic feelings, but they don't control her story. It's the Capitol, the culture, that wants romance to control her story, to define her, and give her meaning.

Katniss wants to protect her younger sister from this culture. No girl, she thinks, should be drawn into this, but certainly not one so young. But to her horror, the Capitol, the culture, wants to draw in the youngest, the pre-teen, girl.

Katniss wants to provide for her family, in the absence of her father. The Capitol, effectively, took her father from her, through his work. Forced to work in mines, he was killed in an explosion.

Katniss wishes she didn't need to hunt, but she is willing to do what it takes to make it work. The Capitol, the culture, literally sets up barriers to stop her.

Katniss finds a boy/man who is flawed, but self-sacrificing, protective, warm, and committed to not being changed by the culture. He will not, he says, become a self-seeking "monster." The Capitol, the culture, is patronizingly charmed by that... as it is fully committed to changing him into a self-seeking monster.

Katniss knows truth matters. She's no philosopher, but she knows loyalty matters. She knows sacrificing for the vulnerable matters. She knows there is such a thing as Good, even if she can't articulate it. The Capitol, the culture, tries to convince her otherwise.

Katniss loves her family. The Capitol finds that quaint, and valuable only in that it adds to an entertaining storyline, since amusement is, of course, the ultimate goal. And a human, a teenage girl, only has value to the extent the Capitol, our culture, is attracted to her.

No wonder Katniss wants to kill it.

And millions of teenage girls want to help her.

Mar 21 2012
Excerpts: The 417 Rules of Awesomely Bold Leadership

It's taking me a while to finish this, but I've read a lot of extremely impressive leadership books from some extremely awesome-sounding leaders, and now I'm coming out with my own leadership book, that I hope will out-awesome all of them.  Here are some excerpts:

Rule #31  Awesomely Bold Leaders Lead Authentically

...and, gentlemen, there's no getting around it:  To awesomely, boldy lead in an authentic way, you must be authentically awesome.  There's no room for deception.

This occurred to me as I was out flying MiG's with my Saturday morning Leaders' Bible Study and Adventure Group:  Leaders must be true-blue.  Your followers can see right through you if you are not truly, deeply, honestly, as awesome as your leadership.

Search your heart.

That morning, as I buzzed the homes of the men who oppose me on the Elder Board, I could see the look in their eyes.  We may quibble over budget issues, but -- never forget this -- they knew I wasn't just posing as a bold leader.  I am a bold leader, through and through.  It's important to be authentic, and...


Rule #112  Awesomely Bold Leaders Lead the Leading Leaders of Visionary Leaders gentlemen, you can't get around this. 

The other day, while I was dead-lifting 635 pounds, I remembered a time I led a group of men up Kilimanjaro, where I introduced them to my good friend, Norman Schwarzkopf.

Norman looked at me, his eyes moist.  "Thank you," he said.  "For taking the time to lead me.  I lead everyone, but you're the only one who led me, and I'm one of the leading leaders of visionary leaders.  Thank you."  He tried to hug me.

It' was right then, when I realized you can't be distracted by everyone who's clamoring for your time.    Be like Jesus, who Himself chose only proven leaders, like Peter.  Jesus knew His time was limited.  He didn't have time to "mess", as the kids say.  And neither do you.   Don't let teenage guys with problems distract you, or some guys who want you to go fishing.   Pick proven leaders.

And in this day and age, in today's churches, it's not enough to only lead leaders.  It's not enough to lead leaders of other leaders.  You must prioritize: You must lead only the leading leaders of other visionary leaders. 

Remember:  Without your visionary leadership, with the leadership of leading leaders of visionaries, the people will perish. 

And then recall #16:  If your people perish, you will not be selected to facilitate a break-out group at my next satellite seminar. 

Mar 19 2012
Congratulations, Jason Russell


(I don't know Jason Russell.  I'd love to talk to him, someday, about all the stuff he's been through. What's strange, maybe: I didn't really want to talk with him before "the incident" last week in San Diego.  I'm sure he was a good interview before, but it's after something like this that someone becomes a fascinating interview. 

I decided to write this to Jason, instead of about him, but it's not to give you the impression that I know him. I find occasionally writing this way helps me be more charitable, and feel things more deeply.  Perhaps someone who knows him can pass this along, if they deem it appropriate. I'll leave that to him or her.  The whole episode, and forcing myself to write about it, has made me truly pull for Jason, and - I didn't anticipate this - renewed my appreciation for the scandal that is the Gospel.)


Jason, you're free.  You may not realize it, yet.  But you're profoundly free.

Your breakdown, your fallenness, your foolishness, your weakness, made national news.  Ours hasn't, yet. But everyone knows you are no Superman.  Everyone knows you are a man who cannot "hold it all together".  Everyone knows you are not to be placed on a pedestal.  Everyone knows you are a man who cannot be trusted to save the world.  Everyone knows you've got "issues".

Everyone knows, Jason, you are a human.

And, if you so choose, Jason, you can now have a freedom most will never experience.  This is because your fallenness was in the light of day.  

That's the difference, of course, since every "Christian hero" - author, pastor, athlete, musician, whatever - would be utterly humiliated to have his own inner thoughts and private actions exposed to the light, for all to see.  Every single one of them, and every single one of us... utterly humiliated.  Of course, we're promised, in 1 Corinthians, that God "will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and expose the motives of the heart."  But your brokenness has already been exposed.

...and that makes you a dangerous man.  You've got nothing to lose.  You've got no one to impress.  You've got no false "dignity" you've got to protect. Like Jim Bakker, who, after being released from prison, could walk in bars to freely talk to people about Jesus, you won't have to worry about scandalizing people who want to find fault with you.  The gig's already up:  You're not in the running for Moral Man of the Year. 

Nothing to lose. Reputation? Shot. Like I say:  You're dangerous.  In the best way.

It's not a great movie, but it's sure a great scene, in Phone Booth, when Colin Farrell's character is forced, at gunpoint, to admit his shame to a national audience on CNN.  He's forced to confess everything - not only his hurtful philandering, but his desire to impress people, to be "cool", when deep down, he's really a fraud.  A whole nation, riveted in front of their televisions, now knows his deepest, darkest, insecurities.  And the scene ends, the movie ends, in a clear way: He's utterly humiliated.

And... utterly, completely relieved.

No more "rep".  No more pretending.  And, thing is, almost everyone is very, very concerned about how they are perceived, and deep down, would love to be relieved of this burden.  I think this is one reason we are to confess sin to one another.  It brings light to our shame, and the light prevails against it.  

I don't know what you've been carrying on your back. I did get the impression, from the video (just speaking honestly here, with no clue what you were really thinking) that you wanted to be seen in a salvific light, for the children in Africa.  If so, that's pretty heady stuff.  I admire your desire to help, and share a desire to be significant. I wish we could, here and now, once and for all, find our significance in Christ, but I know it's a process for you and me and everybody.

So I don't know what happened, exactly. I just know your humiliating moment was in broad daylight.  That's the difference right now between you and us - the only difference.  Anyone who wants to claim otherwise is kidding themselves, and still trying to play the reputation game, trying to impress people, impress God, with how good we can pretend to be.

The Gospel astounds. God knows our darkest motives, our worst moments, our private shame, and is yet willing to say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant," because of what Jesus has done for us.  I simply can't imagine having everything brought into the light, and then hearing "Well done..."  

I can't believe it!  My shame, brought into the light, and yet, "Well done..."  I can't believe it, and yet, there it is. 

And there you are, brother.  

Here's to the days ahead.  May we both walk in wisdom, and show our families, friends, neighbors, and enemies, a Jesus who's made a way to find freedom from our shame.

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