The Best Day of the Year

Remember when you were a small child and your mom said you were going to get to go to Six Flags/Disneyland/whatever in a few days? Remember how you couldn’t sleep and you kept asking “Is it today? Is it today?” and it never was, or at least seemed like it never was? Remember when the day finally got there you almost couldn’t stay in your skin you were so excited?

I still get that way. Except, instead of Six Flags ($45 so I can go spend the day in 105 degrees and eat bad, expensive food? Ummm, let me think about it, NO), it’s The Summit. The first day of the Summit is the best day of my year. This is my tenth year: all of them have been good, nine have been great, and four or five have been mind-blowingly un-stinking-believably awesome.

The first year was like the proverbial drinking from a firehose. I’d never seen or heard anything like it. The music was incredible (at the time, I was still in a traditional church with a traditional church service). The speakers were better (speakers as in persons speaking, not speakers as in things music comes out of, although they were pretty good at Lakepoint, too). I came home the first day and talked to my wife for an hour-and-a-half. Of all the droplets in the fire hose, one that has stuck with me was from John Maxwell: Choose who you lose.

In 2001, Bill Hybels interviewed Chuck Colson and asked him, “What is it that gets under your skin?” Colson thought for a second and replied, “People who have too small an idea of what God wants to do through them.” I almost stood up and cheered. Someone had put words to my thoughts, to at least a portion of my calling — to enlarge people’s vision of what God had called them to do.

In 2003, Erwin McManus completely blew me away, not once, but twice. I could write a book just about those two sessions (and he wrote two), but one of funniest quotes was from a discussion about the names we have for groups of animals. He said a group of rhinoceroses (rhinoceri?) were called a crash, and they could run 60 mph but couldn’t see 30 feet in front of them. He said, “That’s what I want to be — running 60 mph for Christ, but only seeing 30 feet in front of me, because that’s all I need to see.”

In 2005, Rick Warren talked about stewardship, a subject near and dear to my heart. He talked about not desiring either money or fame and being given both, and determining the influence he’d been given was to be used for those that didn’t have any. He also talked about living on 10% of his income and giving 90% of it away, not taking a salary from Saddleback any more, and reimbursing Saddleback for every dollar they’d ever paid him.

Last year, Richard Curtis, a non-believing but searching film director, talked about living for the greater good, selling big red noses for a pound in England to raise money for poverty. His interview touched my pastor so much he came home and decided to raise money for a social injustice issue as part of the building campaign we were about to embark on.

We’re only halfway through this year, and already it’s been a great year.

Bill Hybels talked about axioms, and quoted Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to vanquish an enemy is to turn him into a friend.” I needed that.

Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission (another subject near and dear to my heart these days) said if we want our leadership to matter, we need to lead in things that matter to God (i.e., are Jesus and I really interested in the same things?). He also pointed out that at the feeding of the 5000, the disciples focused on what was needed (which was overwhelming), while Jesus focused on what they had (which was little), and then turned it into enough.

Bill George said we were all born to manifest the glory of God in us, and therefore we should be asking whether we’re fulfilling God’s calling for our leadership. He also said that leaders who fail don’t fail in leading others, they fail in leading themselves.

Wendy Kopp (Teach for America) had a host of miserable statistics about education of the poor in the U.S., but the most interesting thing she said was about a Gallup poll. When the polling group was presented with 20 choices about what was wrong with education, the top three answers given were 1) Lack of student motivation, 2) Lack of parental involvement, and 3) home life issues. However, when T4A interviews their alumni teachers after they’ve finished their 2-year commitment and asks them the same question, their answers are 1) Teacher quality, 2) Principle quality, and 3) Academic expectations of the students. Hmmmmm.

John Burke said people are like Rembrandts covered in mud: we see the mud and treat them like a muddy mess, but we should look past the mud and treat them like the masterpieces they are, because that’s what Jesus does.

Efrem Smith had at least two hilarious rants (“No more grown men with ‘Lil’ in front of their name!”), but also painted a picture of the racial storm in America as being the high pressure of what God wants hitting the low pressure of what we’re willing to settle for. Wow.

In short, it’s been the best day of the year. At least until tomorrow (the second day of the Summit).

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