David Sokol and Worldview.

David Sokol is the heir apparent to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. I recently read several articles about this astonishing executive. He’s smart, wealthy, driven and intentional; not the type of person that wastes energy or time.

The most interesting thing to me was how Sokol touts his organizational values. Several years ago he laid out his principles in Pleased but Not Satisfied, a short self-published book about his management beliefs. Sokol’s six laws are: operational excellence, integrity, customer commitment, employee commitment, financial strength and environmental commitment.

These are wonderful values, but in and of themselves they are powerless. What gives them power is the imposing personality of a leader who tirelessly drives them home. I don’t know how effective David Sokol is in helping to create workplace environments that aren’t dependent upon his powerful confidence and charisma. What I believe with all my heart is that without people who believe in the “why” you do what you do, the “how” and the “what” do not bring significance to the work.

The best description I have seen of this concept is found at TEDx. Worldview is critical to aligning values for people who are connected to an organization; whether it is a family, business or church. The Biblical Worldview Institute uses this same premise to develop an understanding of how worldview (why) drives values (how) that determines behavior (what). Go back and click the TEDx link above. You’ll be glad you did.

Stephen Covey writes about the why in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, see habit #3, “Begin with the end in mind”. He also addresses the “why” in The principles of Leadership. They’re both great reads and I highly recommend them. Covey drives home the fact that if we’re not intentionally principle-centric, then something else in our center (core purpose, or “why”).

If I met David Sokol, I would love to find out why he is driven to do what he does. Seeking money is not innately meaningful. It is a behavior (what) sculpted by values (how). One of his principles for business gives us particular insight into his how, but gives no indication of why. “Environmental Commitment” can be motivated out of a biblical stewardship theology, a monetary incentive, a personal affinity for creation or nature, or peer pressure. There are more potential “whys”, but of the four I listed, only one that does not change over time (biblical stewardship may manifest itself differently within a culture, but it does not change based on what people think).

What happens when principles are in conflict with each other? C.S. Lewis wrote, “Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people.’ People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest.” In Sokol’s case, his ethical instinct became in conflict with his financial strength instinct, when the Waxman-Markey Bill was making it’s way through Congress in 2009. Sokol helped to lead the effort to lobby in the senate to kill the bill in the Senate.

The instincts and principles of the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and more were firmly opposed to Sokol’s environmental ethic. Their principle of conservation and protection of the environment is rarely subverted by a financial principle. On the whole, people I’ve met from those organizations are living primarily for the purpose of the environment (what). That may sound like a worldview, but the actual “why” of their existence is peer pressure that leads to situational ethics. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration, shared learning and synergistic relationships. Those are all noble efforts (how), but the core purpose of their organizations is, on the whole, poorly defined and feeble-founded. An exception within the environmental movement is The Evangelical Environmental Network,  claims to operate from the “why” of “tending to the garden” (a reference to the Genesis story of God entrusting Adam and his descendants to steward creation).

Why does David Sokol run businesses for Berkshire Hathaway? I’d like to know. Why did he (seemingly) oppose his environmental values by fighting the Waxman-Markey Bill? Because the “how” of his life was in conflict. I don’t know if his instincts were even at war with each other. Maybe it was such a simple financial decision that he never explored the environmental commitment that he claims to live.

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What about sick kids in our own country?

The question often arises, “Why does Rooftop 519 chose to help children only outside of the U.S.?” There are several layers to the answer, but before I dig into the solution, let me start with our Core Purpose. “To glorify God through healing people and transforming communities”.  As we have defined in our Messaging and Branding Guidelines, the Core Purpose is the “axis for why we exist.”

At that center of existence, we don’t care more about one life than the next. Nobody ever asks the question, “Why do you heal just children?” I don’t believe any person or organization has the moral high ground to choose one life over another based on subjective reactions to a feeling of ethics. Our mission focuses what we do and why we do it. Ours is “Healing the sickest kids in the world in the name of Christ.”

The mission becomes less subjective as we define our terms. One of the things we identified early on is that the vast majority of “sickest” kids exist outside of the U.S. Birth defect that are exhibited by teenagers in developing nations are, by in large, nonexistent among U.S. citizens (and even non-citizens residing in the U.S.). Any child born in any hospital in the U.S. who needs critical care is guaranteed, regardless of a family’s ability to pay, access to that care. While there are some exceptions for very complicated illnesses or injuries, children in the U.S. still have very good access overall to health care.

Some examples of this include Tuberculosis of the spine and Noma. Both diseases are rampant throughout Africa and parts of Asia. Estimates of children who are infected with these horrific and easily treatable illnesses run into the hundreds of thousands. Children in the U.S. may, on rare occasion, have a traumatic injury that would cause similar suffering – say from a boating or automobile accident, for example. The difference for a child in Michigan versus Nigeria is that when the Nigerian child’s body slowly disintegrates, either bones being warped and contorted or flesh being eaten by bacteria, there is no 911. I have heard stories of family members who will drown their own children because there is no hope for their disease. This is simply unthinkable among Northern Americans.

I live in one of the most pristine and affluent cities in all of the United States. La Quinta is a beautiful city, dubbed the “Gem of the Desert” in Southern California. Home to many retired executives and professionals, we are all privileged to walk down beautiful sidewalks, visit excellent libraries and have many wonderful amenities. Those amenities include access to emergency services. My son recently dislocated his kneecap. Save two minor wrist fractures, this was his first serious injury in his 13 years. Within seconds of his mishap, I realized what he had done and I asked a friend call 911. No more than 90 seconds passed until the professionals were on-site. Within several minutes he was at the hospital, comforted by some narcotics and met by doctors who eagerly relocated the wayward bone.

I try to imagine walking out of the coffee shop I visit in Old Town La Quinta and seeing a 13 year old child sitting on the curb, begging for food, but possibly unable to eat anything that was given to him because most of his lips and cheeks are gone. In his case, flesh-eating bacteria have consumed the muscles that contract to allow him to close his mandible. His body had fought off the infection, but not before it had stripped him of the ability to even hold water in his mouth.

Another thing about my city is that we probably have the greatest number of plastic surgeons per capita in the world. A block from where this hypothetical young teenager sits is an office where customers pour in and out to have their lips puckered and their brows hoisted. These surgeons have the ability to spend 90 minutes with a scalpel and some thread, maybe a little glue, and build him a face.

If that boy really came to La Quinta, I have no doubt that he would be healed. Rooftop 519 brings kids like this to the U.S. so we can all be a part of their pain, and more importantly, their healing. This is the core of what Christ would want us to do. What most of us have done, myself included, is that we have distracted ourselves from the pain of others because we don’t know that child. We cannot see him on our street. We do not experience his brokenness. He exists, and I am compelled because of the cause of Christ, to get him and show him to you. I am asking for you to help. Pray for him. Pay for a plane ticket or donate your vacation miles. Invite him into your home. Connect him with a doctor you know. Get your church to share the gospel with him and send him home to his family with a deep understanding of the compassion of Christ.

Why We Moved

In October of 2010, my wife and I partnered with a core team of people in the Coachella Valley in Southern California to begin Desert Foursquare Church. This is the first time in my life that I’ve lived further than 10 miles from the hospital where I was born. It’s the first time we have uprooted our children from their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the school they’ve attended since they were three and five years old. It doesn’t take an expert to do what we’re doing; it takes a calling.

II Timothy verse 2: “To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”. Grace, mercy and peace. You’ll need those in abundance, regardless of the path God chooses for you. Here’s how God is choosing me.

In the summer of 2009, I was working for Cascade Christian Schools as the Director of Development. A wonderful, secure, comfortable job with phenomenal people (that I miss terribly). That summer I had a $250,000 construction project that I was overseeing. The sports fields improvements were entirely donated, and I had a responsibility to our donors to ensure that things went according to plan. When my window for a vacation came up, my wife and I booked our trip and hoped on a plane two days later. It was a high of 116 degrees for each of the seven days we were in Palm Desert. It cooled down to 100 degrees at night.

At the end of our stay, I was really looking forward to coming home. We didn’t know anyone in the desert, and I can’t say that I have a natural affinity for the area. I like cool weather, rain and the rich green of the Northwest. Driving towards the airport, my wife began to cry. “It feels like we’re leaving home!” was all that she could say. I couldn’t understand that at all.

Over the course of the next several months, we began to pray about whether or not the Lord was calling us to something new. By October, we took our second trip down to the Coachella Valley. Several friends came with us, and we met up with some friends that had just moved down to Palm Desert. After several days of seeking the Lord, fasting and praying in the Spirit, we knew that we knew. We flew back on Saturday and I submitted my resignation on Monday (one of the toughest things I’ve ever done).

Because of my involvement in several sensitive areas of work, we chose not to announce my departure until January. Even my children weren’t aware of our decision until after Christmas. Of all the things I’ve ever achieved in work, leaving CCS under the best of circumstances, with the best possible hand-off to an incredibly anointed successor was my greatest career highlight.

There was never a single moment where I felt a call to “do” something in the desert. I had a lot of ideas… ways to make a living, things to accomplish, etc. The best way I can sum up our journey to La Quinta was that I was searching for who God wants me to “be”. This radical expression of our faith in God’s leading has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. We could not have scripted what this would look like when we started, but now that we’re here, I wouldn’t trade the adventure for anything. My purpose, meaning and identity are more complete in my weaknesses, which Christ is using for HIS purpose. That’s who Christ wants me to be. More dependent upon him and less on myself.

The story is just beginning, but the thing I am most grateful to God for are the relationships he’s orchestrated in ways we never could have anticipated. My closest friends are people I either didn’t know or barely knew just two years ago. Cheryl and I are much more dependent upon one another; more connected than ever. My children have a greatly increased appreciation for their family relationships, especially for their grandparents. Our lives are greatly enriched through our church relationships. We need lots of grace, mercy and peace, and we are increasing in our ability to be who God desires us to be.

I am burdened for the people of the Coachella Valley. Watching people come to our church and seeing them grow closer to God gives me an incredible sense of belonging. I wouldn’t trade my experiences with Rooftop 519 for anything. Thank you Jesus for your divine leading. May I continue to be your willing servant.

Happy New Minute

As I write this, the fireworks and screams have already begun around the world. 2011 is here for more than half of the earth’s population. I can already hear the sound of resolutions giving way; like a semi-breached dam preparing to shatter.

The problem isn’t making a resolution. What I have noticed is that it is really hard to suddenly stop anything when you get really good at it. For instance, I am a really good eater (and I don’t mean well-mannered, unless my manners will increase my access to yummy calories). My first resolution ever was to give up ice cream. I was 13 & pudgy, and I finally figured out that chicks don’t dig pudgy unless you’re a puppy.

How did I work up to my resolution? I practice my craft. 6 ice cream bars latter, I made my vow to never again have ice cream, and I really wasn’t even tempted to have any until at least a day later. You know what I did.

That experience with my resolution helped me to see how fruitless a sudden and sometimes whimsical resolution can be. Resolutions do work when they are a part of a disciplined lifestyle. When we demonstrate faithfulness by the moment in our godly disciplines, we are much more likely to truly resolve to do the right thing. There is very little power in a resolution by itself. There is great power in tenaciously seeking God in the seconds and minutes of our life.

“He will die for a lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” Proverbs 5:23. We all know people like this. I’m sure they make new year’s resolutions, maybe several of them for each December 31 that rolls around. We do not often enough live in the moment; disciplined and steadfast in our resolve for righteousness. We wait for something big to be our catalyst for something better. Unfortunately, the big things in life usually uncover our deficiencies rather than strengthen them. Take Peter, for instance. His embarrassing denial of Christ was preceded by at minimum four smaller failures.

Peter lacked discipline. Christ told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times, but he was very overconfident. Then Peter fell asleep when he should have been praying. In Gethsemane, Peter chopped off Malchus’ ear, a reckless and grossly undisciplined act. When Peter followed Jesus into town, he kept his distance. He already denied Christ in the proximity he kept. How could he resolve to do something like claiming allegiance to Christ when he’d practiced the exact opposite?

The Holy Spirit is in the moment. He is here, now, initiating with us to make the best choices we can. He doesn’t want us to wait until the new year, new day, Sunday, a retreat, a wedding or the birth of our children or grandchildren to do what he wants us to do right now.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16,17,24,25

There are many distractions to our discipline. Cut them out. If TV, facebook, Xbox, cars, or needlepoint get in the way of your daily devotion and discipline, wean yourself away from those things. They are not sinful in and of themselves, but they rob you of the moments that you could do something actually meaningful. Do things that resonate with your purpose and identity. Delve into your passions and discipline yourself in the gifting you have. Resolve to do what the Holy Spirit would have you to do this minute. Here’s what’s at stake.

Annual resolutions:

  1. Have a very high failure rate
  2. Lead to spiritual and intellectual frustration and apathy
  3. Don’t help you to develop your purpose and generally lack meaning
  4. Are forgotten by the following year

Resolving to give the minutes to Jesus:

  1. Have a very high success rate
  2. Lead to spiritual and intellectual fulfillment and engagement
  3. Help you to develop your purpose and meaning
  4. Are experienced at the end of your life, and remembered daily until then

What if Peter had been faithful in the moments preceding the cross? What if he had accepted his initial rebuke, prayed with Christ, disciplined his anger and taken the faithful steps of a friend? Peter went on to give all of himself to the Kingdom, even his life. I am sure if he had a mulligan, he would have the internal fortitude to live with Christ in the last minutes he spent walking this earth.

If you read this before the New Year, don’t wait. Give this very minute to Christ. If you’re reading this after the New Year, do the same thing! Joshua 24:15

Vivid Description

A friend of mine is the president for a large design/build company. To average Joe, they are a construction company. To those who know, they are a community-driven people-first company. He is helping me to write our Rooftop 519 “Vivid Description”. The Vivid Description is a brief narrative of what our organization will look like when we achieve our strategic plan while living the values our culture agrees upon. Here is my first stab:

Long-Term Vivid Description

The Rooftop 519 movement connects millions of people in relationships that are deeply meaningful and help to complete their identity in Christ, and catalyzes them to fulfill the cause of Christ. We will help hundreds of thousands of children to be physically transformed from brokenness to wholeness. Our ability to tell the story of injured and ill children is the best in the world. Nearly everyone who hears our stories will be compelled to help. The name Rooftop 519 will become a household staple in the U.S. that represents the very best in Christian service. The worldwide perception of our organization will elicit feelings of compassion, respect and love.

Interim Vivid Description

Rooftop 519 is a social movement that engages millions of people in the cause of Christ through healing injured and ill children in his name. By 2012 we have healed over 100 children and engaged one million people to help kids reach healing. We set the industry standards for using media to tell their stories.

Our GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) adherence and best practices exceed the standards for excellence as identified by Guidestar, Charity Navigator and ECFA.

Our team of employees and volunteers live and breathe their purpose in life through the culture identified in our guiding principles.

The children who are treated through Rooftop 519 are meticulously monitored for progress before, during and post-treatment. Our team of experts establishes the best system for identifying children for treatment and connecting the resources they need for healing.

We partner with hundreds of nonprofit organizations worldwide. Our goal is to help other nonprofits fulfill their mission while simultaneously fulfilling ours.

Our relational mapping systems allow us to segment constituencies that allow us to engage people where they are and move them to where God wants them to be.

We envision a better solution to mobilizing resources and passions during Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (CHE’s). We will build the system that governments, NGO’s and other leaders look to when children are best served by coming to the U.S. for treatment after a CHE.

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