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Beyond Mars

Blog

Luann Budd, president of NEWIM, blogs about the spiritual life of a leader, shares insight from what she is reading, and reflects on the call to Christian leadership.

Beyond Mars

Luann Budd

I was flying to Chicago and although I had my own books to read, I started flipping through the Southwest Airlines magazine. I never read the airline magazine. Tucked inside was a nugget of wisdom, hidden treasure from the Lord.

In "Beyond Mars," a 28-year NASA veteran tells the story of the Chinese admiral who launched the greatest armada the world had ever seen: more than 300 ships with nearly 28,000 men. (His ships were 3 times the size of Columbus', Santa Maria. These mega ships had nine masts, 12 sails, and four decks and could carry 2,500 tons of cargo. In 1405 they put down a pirate uprising in Sumatra.) Admiral Zheng and his fleet were unrivaled in the world... "But then, a generation later, the Chinese turned back. The fleet shrank, the voyages stopped, and pirates retook control of the ocean. In 1525, while the Spanish were exploring the Americas, the Chinese government had their last ships burned. The world's most powerful technology for international prestige, exploration and trade—gone. Destroyed not by an enemy, or by a natural disaster, but by themselves." 

I was hooked...Why would the Chinese burn their own ships?

In the short-term they had reasons, namely cost. Building and maintaining the fleet was expensive. But what if, instead of burning those ships, they had continued exploring? What if they had developed more powerful ships with even better technology? What if they had sailed around Africa to Europe and beat Columbus to the Americas? Or what if they had crossed the Pacific? The Spanish explorer Cortes might have gone all the way to the west coast of America only to discover a fleet of enormous Chinese ships.  

"Instead, they committed what some consider one of the biggest blunders in history." 

The Lord was nudging me....pay attention...there's wisdom here. But it wasn't just the Chinese who did this. Sandford continues:

"Three years after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, NASA mothballed the Saturn V. The most powerful space exploration vehicle ever constructed was cannibalized for parts....What happened? Like the Chinese, we had good short-term reasons for shuttering Apollo. The program costs money. The government had other priorities. (We all had other priorities.) But more importantly, we had failed to place space exploration in the context of a larger purpose. Thus, when we reached our goal—one of the most ambitious endeavors in the history of humankind—we turned back."

Standford's conclusion: "I've learned that a goal can actually act as an impediment to further progress if it represents the height of our ambition. And somewhere along the way, we forgot why we were inspired to reach the moon to begin with."

Why was the Lord drawing my attention to this article? What's here for NEWIM? These are spiritual discernment questions.

As I reflected on NEWIM's thirty-year history, we had reached lots of goals. The Board needed to go back and revisit WHY we were inspired to begin an organization for women in ministry at the start. And this was exactly what we were doing. The Lord used this article to confirm the Appreciative Inquiry process we were using for our transition, and gave us direction. Don't burn our own ships. REMEMBER why we were inspired to begin NEWIM. Don't turn back.

As we begin 2018, what do we need to remember about WHY we began our ministry, our vocation, our writing in the first place?

To read the full article go to the January 2017 issue of the Southwest Airlines Magazine, pg. 63-66, available online at:  https://issuu.com/southwestmag/docs/january2017/68