Thursday, November 18, 2010

Leadership: Imitation, climbing the coconut tree

Photo by Robbie Pruitt

"pye kokoye"—What climbing coconut trees can teach us about leadership and discipleship.

In Haiti coconut trees are abundant. These tall trees present a challenge if you want to enjoy the delicious coconuts that they produce. Coconut trees can grow up to 30 meters tall, or about 98 feet. This makes getting to the coconuts at the top of the tree a very difficult and arduous task. In order for the Haitian people, or anyone else, to enjoy coconuts, someone has to climb the coconut tree. This can be a dangerous and daunting task.

Haitians are skilled climbers and can shimmy up a coconut tree barefooted, with machete in tow, with ease, skill, and precision. This is not a skill that an ordinary or average American possesses. How does someone learn a skill like this? There is hardly room for error forty to ninety feet up in a tree slinging a two foot blade at a cluster of coconuts.

If you visit Haiti an answer to how one learns to climb coconut trees comes into focus, and clarity can be gained. The Haitian people take great pride in learning and teaching and you can often observe a young Haitian boy or girl watching their parents or neighbors as they work. There is as much education going on in the normal day to day activities as there is during regular school hours. Young Haitian boys study their fathers as they climb the coconut tree; they watch and observe, they stand closely and study every move, they imitate their fathers.

Photo by Robbie Pruitt

Leadership and discipleship have everything to do with imitation. As leaders we are to be what we want to see in others, so that in imitating us, people look like what we want them to become. As leaders, we reproduce in others who we are. If we want to see in others what we would have them become, then we must exhibit these same traits ourselves. We must "climb the coconut tree of leadership” to develop leaders who can “climb the coconut tree of leadership.”

Jesus models this imitation for us in
John 5:19-20 when he said,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” Jesus imitates the Father. He does what he sees the Father doing. If we are to make disciples, develop leaders, and help lead others to Jesus, we must be doing what we see Jesus doing, through His power, work, and grace in us.

The Apostle Paul modeled this imitation as well, and imitated Jesus’ imitation in the above verses, in his ministry with the church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 11:1-3, Paul asked the Corinthians to “Imitate him, just as he also imitates Christ.” He goes on to say, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ.”

Paul is exhorting the Corinthian church to do what he does as he imitates Jesus. This is effective only as long as Paul is imitating Jesus. His desire for the Corinthian Church and for us is that we remember the entirety of all he has taught us and that we recognize Jesus as the “head” or the leader that we should all be ultimately following and imitating.

May we "climb the coconut tree of leadership,” imitating Jesus, recognizing that others are watching us follow Jesus as we lead, and that they are eager to learn to follow Jesus and to lead as well.

Finally, may we rest in this blessing from Hebrews 6:9-12 as we imitate our Lord: “Beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you. . . For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”


The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Jn 5:19-20

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. 1 Co 11:1-3

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Heb 6:9-12

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hands to the Plow

Photo By twoblueday gerry

When I was a kid, my Grandfather used to take me out to the country where he owns three acres of land. Pop planted a garden there almost every year. He used a motorized tiller to break up the ground to make it easier to plant the seed. I would watch him wrestle the steel beast and plow perfectly straight rows. Pop would place a focal point at the end of each row and would set his gaze on that focal point to make the rows straight. As I watched him, I remember thinking that one day I would be a strong man who would know how to plow a straight row with a tiller. I also remember when that day came. Pop taught me how to plow. He handed me the tiller and pointed out ahead to the goal. The steel beast shook me and I wrestled with it toward the row’s end. At one point, I looked back and the tiller turned and bucked and I had to wrestle it back to its place, making a crooked row and a mess out of the garden. Eventually, through the years, practice made perfect and the rows became straight and perfect.

Granddad also taught me who Jesus is. I saw Jesus in Pop way before I ever understood a single sermon this Baptist preacher ever preached. Pop lives a life committed to following the Lord. I have learned what it means to follow Jesus through watching Pop keep his eyes on Him. As it turns out, living for Christ and plowing have a lot in common. As Jesus says, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).” When Pop put his hand to the plow, he never looked back. With Jesus as his focus, Pop’s rows have been straight through the field of life and he has shown many The Way.

Perfect Rows

(Luke 9:62)

Grandpa taught me

How to plow

In straight rows

Machine in hand

Eyes in front of me

Tilling the land

Perfectly plowed rows

Where my gaze is set,

My body goes

Eternity displays its fertile fields

And all that eternity knows

From heel dented mounds

And the sprinkling of seed

Spring forth growth and abundance

Of every plant, from every breed

No more lacking, no more need

Walking the straight rows

Hands running through the green

Into eternity as eternity is seen

My eyes set out before me

My hand to the plow

Never looking back

Gazing at Jesus now

Straight perfect rows

Into eternity

The way my Grandfather chose

My gaze toward my savior

Just like he taught me

To look to the cross and to eternity

© 2010, Robbie Pruitt

“And Jesus said unto him, ‘No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” –Luke 9:62

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Photo above by Ron Holt

As of October 2010, 2% of the rubble has been removed from Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake that crumbled that country. Observing the effects of this reality, the current state of Haiti, can make one feel helplessness and despair. Looking out over the vast devastation, the conditions of poverty, and the destruction is profound, sobering, and leveling. There is so much need and brokenness.

When my wife Irene and I were in Haiti recently, I wanted to fix the things that I saw. I am “a fixer” by nature. As I looked out over the landscape, the sinking feeling in my gut was a feeling of helplessness and despair. “There is just no fixing this.” I thought to myself. Just as I was thinking this, I felt as if God were speaking to me, “That’s right, you cannot fix this. You cannot even fix yourself. I can fix this. I will fix this. You cannot, but I can. You are not their saviour, you can’t be. You cannot even save yourself, because you are in the same condition, but I can. I can renew and restore Haiti and I can renew and restore you too!” This was a moving and powerful word from the Lord for me.

We live in a fallen and sin riddled world that is filled with destruction and disrepair. We live in a world that is in a constant state of decay. Our world is groaning (Romans 8:22).

The following poem, “Rubble,” compares the human heart condition, the result of sin’s rampant rule, with Haiti’s brokenness and destruction, due to fallen world we live in and the magnitude of sin’s consequences throughout history.

It is God that pardons, saves, restores, renews, and rescues. God is at work in His creation despite of sin and evil in the world, and it is God who will make all things new, including Haiti, and including the Haiti like destruction and devastation that is in me and you.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” –Jeremiah 17:9

Photo above by Ron Holt

(Jeremiah 17:9)

I got rubble . . .
I got rubble
Down inside of me
Fists full of rubble
Heart full of rubble
Broken heart and trouble
I got torn canvas
Tarp shredded
And days dreaded
I got stench filled polluted air
Charcoal fire burning
And no loving care . . .
Shame and a blank stare
I got worn out clothes
Nowhere to go
Where my next meal comes from
. . . I don’t know
I got dusty shoes
No good news
So far faded to black
Can’t see the blues
I got crowded streets
Shredded sheets
And no one to meet
I got polluted water in my veins
Spotted and soiled and stains
I got carcasses and death and remains
Viruses of all strains
I got a Haiti as my heart
Because I played my part
I am sin’s destruction and death
Gasping for life and breath
I am shattered destruction
Condemned collapsed building
Nothing to offer and nothing to bring
Soiled and dirty, never clean

I am ruins and decay
Broken and in disarray
Dashed hopes and dismay
I am hurricane torn
Weathered and worn
I am exploited lands
And caught with red hands
I am earth quake rattled
Crushed and tattered
Crying out . . . smattered
I am rubble
I am rubble in streets
Crashes nearly avoided
And skipped heart beats
Aftershocks and broken infrastructure
Spilled out in rupture
I am muddied murky waters
And close dilapidated quarters
I am refuse and abuse
Left out alone and cut loose
I am resource depleted
Promises never delivered . . . defeated
Broken glass on the shore
Never having enough
And always wanting more
I am helpless and despair
No health care
I am a world apart unnoticed
Out of sight, out of mind, unaware
On my own, I am unfed, full of dread,
And left for dead
I am Haiti
There is no life independently
No life on my own you see
I am wearing down and washing into eternity
Erosion . . . corrosion . . . implosion . . .
I got rubble
I got rubble breaking down to ashes and dust
Dust storms and winds gust
I got Haiti blowing through me
My destruction before me
Endlessly . . . effortlessly . . .
Carelessly . . . recklessly . . .

© 2010, Robbie Pruitt

Psalm 107:18-22

“They draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.”

Revelation 21:5-7

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”