the power of the mundane


1. lacking interest or excitement, dull. 

2. pertaining to the things of this world, as opposed to things of the heavenly world.

Ordinary tasks fall into this category – mundane.  Google says synonyms include humdrum, dull, boring, tedious, monotonous, tiresome, wearisome, unexciting, uninterestinguneventful, unvarying, unremarkable, repetitive, repetitious, routine, ordinary, everyday, day-to-day, run-of-the-mill, commonplace, workaday. 

Give me extraordinary, imaginative, and heavenly any day!

Give me the mountaintop where the air is clear and where the view is spectacular. Keep me out of the humdrum valley of unvarying routine.

In the real everyday world, blood, sweat and tears are a reality. You don’t get better at skills or anything without practice.  Things break down and need fixing.  Things get dirty and need cleaning.  Things wear down and need to be replaced.

If only dishes could fly to their places like in the Disney movie,

or clean clothes could put themselves away, or dust didn’t settle so quickly…

If only paper didn’t multiply on contact with any horizontal surface in my home.

As one of my friends says, “Garbage does not take itself out.”  The “if onlys” are just that – a fantasy solution to uninspiring routine.

Those realities are part of living as a human being in our frenzied world. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away; indeed, the accumulation of tasks undone creates a disorder that will steal attention and energy from those truly extraordinary pursuits.

There is that famous story of  a group traveling through a difficult terrain with native guides. The group leaders wanted to press on when the guides stopped and refused to move. And no offer was tempting enough to make them move.

“We must wait for our souls to catch up with us,” was their reply.

The pace had been brisk; they needed rest and space to take in all that was going on around them. I wish I could remember where I read that.

The mundane things of life give us space for our souls to catch up with the rest of us.

In the midst of non-stop information, tons of people and plenty of tasks, something as simple as washing the dishes gives me breathing room.  As much as I wish I could avoid some of them, they are part of my life.  They are part of my responsibilities as a person, as a created being.  They are part of my stewardship.

doing the dishes

I, too, need my soul to catch up with the rest of me. Without taking care of those seemingly mundane responsibilities, I deny my humanness.  I lapse into trivial pursuits (and I don’t mean the board game).  Escapist behaviors become super attractive and lure me into thinking they will provide rest.

Part of being a leader at rest is recognizing the necessity and power of the mundane to keep me grounded as a person. They are the reminder that I am not God. To live in the pursuit of the spectacular only feeds the temptation toward grandiosity and self- importance.

Now, where is that dish soap?

How do you stay grounded as a leader?

how to get CLOSE to your leaders

When I stepped into my current global leadership role ten years ago, to have a meeting with someone meant you traveled there.  It was just a year before Thomas Friedman published The World is Flat. Skype only had one million users that year.  Facebook requested its domain name that January. Today one in every seven people on the planet are on Facebook and Skype is now a verb used by 70 million people.  Today, we have almost instant access today to people it would take days to reach previously.

On Facebook this past weekend, I saw a post with a photo of a friend I met in Spain, visited in Hungary, but hadn’t seen in years.  I ran into the person who posted the photo today, and she said to me, “I didn’t know that you know her!”  We could say that over and over again.  Our networks are vast and overlapping.  We are connected in so many different ways.  Communication has changed; expectations have changed. The ways we live and work have changed and are changing.

If one thing remains the same, or is perhaps even heightened, it is the need for effective leadership in this hyper-connected world.

But what kind of leadership? 

What kind of leadership closes the gap when you span nine time zones like my friends in Russia, or across the diverse cultures and languages of India to galvanize people to action? What kind of leadership is required to build unity of heart and action across 160 countries?

This kind of global leadership is the topic of Ken Cochrum‘s new book, Close: Leading Well across Distance and Cultures. Ken and his wife Ann are both friends and team-mates. They pursue the Lord and their work with whole hearts.  Ken is known for his focus and strategic clarity, so I looked forward to reading his book. Having seen bits and pieces of his research, I was intrigued to hear more.

What is it that leaders are looking for from those leading them?  What practices enable effective leadership across distance? What biblical examples are there to follow when our worlds seem so different?

PQ7_GloballeadershipFor those of us who lead in multi-national organizations, these are not academic questions.  They make up the substance of our skype calls and virtual meetings.  How do I show up today?

With expectations high in this world of rapid transfer of information, even a good leader can get lost in the whirlwind. Ken’s exploration of leadership in this complex environment is both well-documented in terms of research and very practical in its recommendations.  It is structured in two parts:  Part 1 -today’s leadership reality – how close are we?  and Part 2- Getting Close.

As someone who develops leaders, I found chapter 7, “Close the Distance,” insightful.  Citing a number of studies, it’s clear that global leaders require a great deal of personal and leadership bandwidth to navigate the complexities faced in crossing cultures and in multicultural settings.

Global leaders require a significantly high level of personal capacity than similar domestic leadership roles.

Ken’s personal experience in maintaining a good rhythm as a leader adds to the mix to bring the what and how together. He brings critical focus and expertise to bear in outlining what is needed in 21st century leadership. His points are well illustrated with stories of leader lessons throughout.

All that to say, I’m thrilled to have a resource to use with global leaders that clearly outlines what is needed and points in the right directions for how to move toward a more effective leadership in today’s world.

Close:  Leading Well across Distance and Cultures is available on and for the next few days the kindle version is just $4.99.

As my sister would say, “RUN, don’t walk!”

most important, most easily edged out

Sitting around the table and listening to a group of leaders, there was a certain consistency to the sharing – busyness,  pressing decisions, upcoming meetings, and missing the Lord.  Though it’s the desire of every spiritual leader & every follower of Christ that I know, the one thing that is most often and most easily neglected is unhurried time with God.  People have needs;  tasks have deadlines.  They are in our faces in a visible way.  But time with God is not urgent in the same way.  However our connection with Him is the most necessary and most important choice of the day.

People often put time with God in the language of spiritual disciplines, something that will help us grow in our relationship with God.  Somehow for me putting time with God in that category gives it a different meaning.  The relational aspect of it goes away.  Instead of spending tine with Someone I love, time with God becomes something to do, something to check off, like physical exercise.  The discipline itself becomes the focus. When I check it off, the quality of my relationship with God is defined by achievement. Yes, I did it, but the real question is : did I connect with God?

“Unhurried” matters  because sharing your heart with God takes time and attention.  I, for one, am not always aware of what is going on in me.  I can almost observe some of my reactions and ask myself, “where is that coming from?”  The unhurried time is where I get to bring those emerging parts of myself that are not mature, to the Lord, and let Him do the searching of my heart.

While visiting a team in France last year, we spent some time looking at some verses on prayer, including I Peter 5:7, “Cast your cares on the Lord, because He cares for you.”    I was sharing about the word cast.  How would I throw my cares on the Lord?  Someone at the table piped up, “The French word there means unload!”  UNLOAD.  There’s a concept.  Am I unloading my cares to the Lord?

When I heard that, I thought about unloading things from the trunk of my car.  I put them there for safe-keeping while I was doing other things, but when I get home, they come out (most of the time).  I unload them.

I do the same thing with the cares and concerns of the day!  I put them somewhere for safe-keeping.  I don’t have the time to deal with them at the moment. Someone needs an answer or a conversation or a response. Whatever it was is now relegated to some place in my soul equivalent to the trunk of my car.

My problem is too often  I don’t unload the trunk when I get home.  Things pile up in there, and like anything that doesn’t get addressed, at some point, things begin to spill out or spoil in some way.

Unhurried time allows me to come to the Lord and

  • unload the things that have piled up in my heart.
  • confide in Him the things that are burdensome
  • share my feelings with Him and seek His comfort or wisdom
  • ask Him to make a way for the places where I’m stuck
  • see Him in the splendid truth of His greatness
  • hear His counsel, receive His guidance, and
  • truly connect with Him.

When I linger in His presence, He speaks and things become clear.  I can see and confess the ways that I’ve offended Him and others.  I can bring the things that have delighted me, encouraged me,  and made me see Him in a different way than before.  I experience the reality of His forgiveness and acceptance.

When I have spent unhurried time with the Lord, bringing Him into everything happening in my day becomes easier, because we have already spent time together.  Like conversation with your best friends, you can just pick up where you left off.  I love that.

Don’t let anything else- people or tasks- edge this out.  The Lord Himself waits for us to respond to His invitation.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.


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