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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Books, Balconies and Best Practices 4-19-17

Egads!! I haven't had one post in 2017 yet. I won't even bother with excuses, but let's just say I've certainly stayed occupied since my last post. Travels to Illinois, Kentucky, and a few times to So Cal have kept me on my toes, and I never tire of learning from everything I do. As a result, I've also used a bunch of useful resources in that time and want to share a few with you...

8 Ways to Read a Lot More Books This Year While it would be stretching the truth to pretend that I have not posted in 4 months because I've been too busy reading books, I will say that this article got me motivated to get more strategic in my plans to read. I've read three books so far in 2017 and am currently working through two other books. I won't ask for a show of hands for those whose ambitions to read outpace their actual accomplishments in this regard (guilty as charged!) but I did find that applying even a couple of pointers from this article was helpful... and I'll add another one he didn't mention: seek out friends who are equally motivated to read and keep each other posted on how things are going. Sure, this can get weirdly competitive if you're not careful, but so far I find myself motivated by my friends who tell me about what they're reading, and I do the same. Let's do this and prevent our brains from turning into mush!

(PS Those three books I have read so far have been The Road to Character by David Brooks, Longing for Spring by Elaine Heath and Scott Kisker, and To Know as We are Known by Parker Palmer)

How to Establish a Meeting-Free Day Each Week Maybe your work life is like mine: a strange balance of focused deskwork, endless (ENDLESS) emails, and face-to-face meetings. The emails are always screaming at me, the meetings come and go, but I sometimes stumble in really carving out that ever-elusive "balcony time" for big-picture, strategic thinking. This article helps jump start that process if you feel stuck.

5 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking All the Time I also heard this guy interviewed on this topic, and I liked the simplicity and clarity of his approach. Leadership is not always about leading the charge -- often it's the mundane but utterly necessary task of getting everyone on the same page and working together. To be a good leader is to be a good listener... These questions help to take the conversation in that regard.

6 Things Every Mentor Should Do Last numbered list for today, I promise! One of my main gigs is directing intern programs. I have had interns since 1986 (gulp!) and have formally run intern programs since the mid-nineties. In all of that time, one thing has become very clear for me: the internship experience is only as good as the excellence of the MENTOR who trains the intern. All too often I have had supervisors who treat their interns as indentured servants, or merely want them around to observe rather than actually do anything. Though a little simplistic, this article helps clarify priorities and puts the responsibility where it should be. I plan on using this to set expectations with my next round of intern mentors.

Final thoughts...
I'm slowly working through a book of quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr as a way to maintain a long-term vision for justice and healing of the deep divisions in our world. This quote really hit me the other day:

“The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage they did not know they had.” 

(Martin Luther King, Jr)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Diversity, Deals and Diet... 12-20-16

Gahhh!! I have not been on my blog game this fall. Too much interesting work has kept me hoppin'... It won't make up for my neglect, but I'm giving some extras on this one.

But before I share these Latest Links that I have Lingered over and Loved, I want to share a photo from my day. Sort of bringing Instagram to my blog...

Caught this shot on my scooter (don't worry, I was safely parked) on the way home from Trader Joe's.   I had some chicken and green chile tamales and a stalk of brussels sprouts strapped on the front basket, and this glory unfolded in front of me. #nevergetsold

Onward and upward... here are what I am guessing are my final recommendations for 2016:

New Yorker magazine documentary on Rob Bell As Relevant Magazine states, "the film is a fascinating -- and extremely emotional -- look at Bell's life, legacy and influence." It doesn't capture everything (heck, it's only 13 minutes long), but certainly describes some of Bell's unique trajectory. And I am equally fascinated by the fact that the New Yorker is fascinated by him...

Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World I just read this book with two college interns who both serve as worship leaders for their campus chapels. We didn't have enough time to really dig into it, but I keep thinking about it. It's as much about leadership as it is about worship. You may not agree with every word, but I think it will get you thinking, big time.

Thrifty Christian Reader OK, so maybe the dude who compiles this should consult with some marketing people regarding the title, but I have found serious deals that I would have missed out on. I think I've mentioned this one here before, but it bears repeating. And it's not just Christian books. I just got 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories for $3.99 thanks to this site. That is plane reading GOLD right there!

NutritionStripped.com This one might get your head scratching (it's not in line with what I normally recommend here...) but I just got home from camp last weekend and had a humbling reminder of how I ate during 30 years of youth ministry... I won't go into details, but I'm having to deal with years of poor nutrition NOW and this is a website that is proving quite reliable, creative and even inspiring? If words like "inflammation" or "gluten-free" or "joint pain" or "digestive issues" are passing your lips at times, this site is for you.

3 Foundational Tips for Senior and Youth Pastors... And now for a tiny bit of self-promotion. Here's my latest article for Seedbed.com. They are the bomb in my world.

25 Truisms This fall my denomination invited us to attend an "Emotionally Healthy Leaders" seminar by Peter Scazzero. This list of 25 truisms for pastors are a valuable place to start in terms of reflecting on personal and spiritual health. Number One hits you right between the eyes: It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. There you have it.

My President was Black I won't venture into election fatigue territory, though I'm tempted... but I finally finished this remarkable article today. Regardless of how you voted, I deeply recommend this one. Listen to the voice of Ta-Nehisi Coates as he reflects on these past 8 years and where things seem to be now. 

May it be so...

Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.

Jane Kenyon, poet

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Inspiration, Innovation and Intercultural Dialogue

It's November 1. I am momentarily stunned as I think of how 2016 seems to have just flown by. So much has happened this year, both in my own life but also far more importantly, in our world: Zika, presidential debates, horrifying attacks in Ankara and Brussels and Orlando and Nice and New York, refugees from everywhere, the agony of Syria, Brexit, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Dallas police killings, Keith Scott... And how can we ever forget this dreadful presidential election. Who knows what the news will be in these last two months, especially after Nov. 8!

Before I fall into a spiral of anxiety and dread, I want to share some resources that gave me insight, inspiration, and a surprising amount of hope.

Sinfulness, Hopefulness, and the Possibility of Politics. IF you only have time to view one of these links, make it this one: This is the most lucid, hopeful but also realistic conversation I've heard about religion and politics, ever. One little tidbit: "We are over-politicized and under-moralized." Do not skip this one... share it with friends, perhaps even listen to it with a bible study, small group, family, whomever you can gather. Profound discussion that really moved me.

Clayton Christensen on Disruptive Innovation So much of what I work on with people is how to bring their workplaces, systems, cultures, and organizations into the 21st century. This podcast speaks to that process in some thought-provoking ways. It might be interesting to listen to this with some colleagues. I got very energized as I considered the ways I have not gone outside the box in terms of structures, assumptions and goals in planning ahead.

Intercultural Discussion at the Catalyst Conference So much of the turmoil in our country and certainly in our world revolves around identity and isolation, racism and reconciliation, fear and faith. The panel assembled for this discussion was very well done, and again, this civil discourse on the role of the church regarding love for our neighbor again gave me the strength to be expectant of what might be ahead. The next link might add a bit more to the conversation too...

Multicultural, Cross-Cultural and InterCultural What do these terms mean? I just guest-lectured in a college course designed to assist students entering the health care field to engage in population health. I started off with a discussion of these terms and their meanings, and this article does a good job of defining them. I continue to look for ways to foster genuine dialogue and relationship, not just short-term projects and items to check off a list. This article comes from LinkedIn.

Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2020 Just when you think you're starting to figure out Millennials, you better slam on the brakes! Because we are now dealing with "Generation Z," the first true digital natives. And I already see some differences between these two groups. To wade into the cultural waters of "kids these days," I have often used this resource from Beloit College. Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released their Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students about to enter college. Here are a couple of tidbits for this year's class of first-year college students: In their lifetimes, the United States has always been at war.
Also, they have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time. But perhaps this says it all: “They’re an impatient generation learning how to be patient.” Full List: https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2020/

Final thoughts

An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. 

Martin Luther King, Jr

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bees, Blueprints and Balance

Somehow September came and went, and I didn't post anything. It could be because I was on the road at least two days each week that month... I loved every adventure as I traveled from Greenville, Illinois to Seattle, WA to Pasadena / Azusa / Rancho Cucamonga... phew. All super interesting projects, but I am glad to be sleeping in my own bed for a few days.

During all those trips I've saved up so many good links that I will have to pace myself and not knock you over all at once! Let's get started.

Be the Bee: The Beehive as a Metaphor for Life in Christian Community. This 5 minute video is so beautiful and lyrical, I don't want to say very much. Just watch it. I will bet that you will use it in a staff meeting, Bible study or sermon very soon.

Five Fundamentals for an Evangelical Future. I start getting hives when I read any sentence with the word "fundamental" in it, but if you can resist the temptation to blow over this one, I think it's worth a read. Please do not think these are five MORE things to add to your never-ending to-do list... instead, I would recommend this list as a filter for you and other leaders in your Christian organization (church, non-profit, school, etc.) to use to think about your strategic planning. There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint that will work for everyone as we plan for the future, especially not in this season of "discontinuous change." I am currently working with three different organizations who are trying to adjust long-successful systems and programs in face of the new challenges of the 21st century. I think article provided some good points to jumpstart the conversation.

Work/Life Balance Strategies. In all of my conversations with friends, colleagues and client, this topic nearly always comes up at some point. There are WAY too many quick-fix solutions and platitudes. I thought this article took a unique approach, and may strike a chord with you.

This 100 Year-Old To Do List Hack Still Works. If the work/life balance issue applies to you, you might find this article of interest as well... I just passed it along to a maxed-out pastor friend of mine. I'm interested to see if it is helpful. We all have the "could-you-help-me-figure-out-how-to-get-everything-done-AND-somehow-keep-all-of-my-projects-organized?" problem at various points, right?? This article is an effective short answer to the question.

What #firstsevenjobs says about Today's Young Adults and the Job Market This quote caught my attention: "The number of teenagers who have some sort of job while in school has dropped from nearly 40 percent in 1990 to just 20 percent today, an all-time low since the United States started keeping track in 1948." I am stunned at how different life is for today's teenagers. To illustrate, you can also read this article on the decline of the driver's license among teens. I bet you'll never guess how many 16 year-olds get their drivers' licenses...

ENOUGH for now! I'll post again in a few days. Meanwhile, I'll end with this:

In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing
vessels is likely to be more productive than energy
devoted to patching leaks.
Warren Buffett

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dating, Discipleship, Drop the Mic... 8-30-16


I normally post 4 or 5 good things I have come across in the past week or two, but I hit the jackpot this past week. I found every single one of these little gems fascinating... hope they are half as interesting to you!

Hello Goodbye? Catch up with Josh Harris and I Kissed Dating Goodbye. As my friends in Minnesota say, "Uff da!" As a youth pastor who worked in the 90's, I can verify that this was the IT book of the era for Christians. I don't know the origin story for purity ceremonies, but this book sure contributed to the whole nutty phenomenon. Almost 20 years after the book first came out, this article in Slate.com includes an interview with the infamous author himself, and he discusses the fallout that came a-tumblin' down for years afterward. MUST READ.

3 Tips for Aspiring Women Leaders. OK, this isn't quite on the "must-read" level of the first article... especially since I wrote it! Published on the 96th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, this is a revision/update of an article I first had published in 2014. I list it here because I really appreciate the good people at Seedbed.com, which is becoming my #1 go-to theological / ministry resource site. CHECK IT.

How God as Trinity Dissolves Racism. If you're in a hurry and only have time to read one article from the bounty of this week's post, read this one. This is a masterful and prophetic essay by one of my heroes, Richard Rohr, on how racism has risen in our country, and offers a substantive solution. #dropthemic.

Don't Let Future Shock Happen to Your Non-Profit. Regardless of whether you are part of a non-profit, a church, or an educational/government institution, I think this article asks some excellent questions to reflect upon. I have worked in the non-profit arena for over 30 years, and I feel like the rules have changed since the financial crash in 2009, the advent of globalization, and and and... This article comes from a new newsletter generated by SmartBrief (all their newsletters are here: http://smartbrief.com/subscribe The article about Future Shock comes from there "BoardSource SmartBrief" on non-profit governance.

Daily Text. I know, we all have favorite go-to's in terms of daily readings and devotions. Here's a new one that I'm finding challenging, thoughtful and creative. This is also from Seedbed.com -- have I mentioned I like them? I recommend this particular daily devotion because it is delivering new insights on passages I've read (and taught on!) multiple times already, and I find that very refreshing. They are currently beta-testing a new online group devotional platform that I am trying out, where a group you meet with can remain in touch in between meetings through this devotional. I will post about it in the future if they go big with it.

Thrifty Christian Reader. This website generates a daily email during the week on deals they find online for books... not just Christian books, but maybe... books that might be interesting to Christians? This little newsletter seems to find all the big discount days on books I want to read and talk myself out of because of the cost. But regularly they find the days where books like Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is on sale for $5.99 on Kindle, or The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne for $1.99. My Kindle library has exploded due to this little website... #ilovetoread

Teens' Online Church Draws Young People from Around the World. Perhaps the trippiest of all the links I have on this post. One part amazing and a few parts weird... Read the entire article. Pretty darn fascinating. As I read this I could not help but recall the infamous line given by Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball: "Adapt or die."
Final thought.

That is the true perfection of man, to find out his imperfections.
St. Augustine, philosopher and theologian

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Quote-a-Day... 8-18-16

This is a rich passage from Annie Dillard, whom I also quoted on Monday...

Thomas Merton wrote, “There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.
Ezekiel excoriates false prophets as those who have “not gone up into the gaps.” The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first time like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the cliffs in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fjords splitting the cliffs of mystery. 
Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the solid, turn, and unlock— more than a maple— a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.

Dillard, Annie (2016-03-15). The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New (pp. 184-185). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

The truth and power in Dillard's writing is often not evident at first glance. But on vacation I have the luxury of lingering over what she writes... so as I dug a bit deeper, I discovered what she was referencing from Ezekiel. It comes from 13:5, where Ezekiel says,
Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord. (KJV)
This didn't help! So I read some of the surrounding context, and looked into a commentary or two for this passage. The Oxford Annotated Bible says this:
True prophets would care enough about their people to go up into the breaches (like Moses, Ps 106.23), i.e., to risk their lives by arguing with God on the people’s behalf (9.8; 11.13).
Ah, now I'm getting somewhere. This is about that well-used (but perhaps little understood) phrase, "stand in the gap." Building on that, I see that Dillard is calling us to dig deeper into life, to not settle for less, to speak the truth to power when necessary, to squeeze the last drop out of life, even if it means facing deep and intimidating confrontation. This reminds me of C.S. Lewis' counsel in his sermon, The Weight of Glory:
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Where are those "gaps" in my life? In your life? Where do I need to go, stalk, squeak and spend?

On this vacation, when I'm not reading, resting, or enjoying the outdoors, I am watching the Olympics! Today I heard a quote used by one of the USA track women as motivation, taped to her bathroom mirror, that captures all of this succinctly:
"You do not wake up today to be mediocre."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Quote-a-Day... 8-17-16

Today I'm recommending an entire article today, not just a pithy quote. As I nerd out on vacation by reading to my heart's content, today's adventure takes me to exploring the realm of spirituality in California's history. As someone who seeks to develop leaders for the Free Methodist Church in Southern CA for the 21st century, I want to be a constant student of my context. Despite being born and raised in California and having lived both in Northern and Southern California, I still have a lot to learn about my state.

Through some lovely serendipity, I have come upon an interesting journal published by University of California press titled, appropriately, BOOM. It's subtitle is "A Journal of California," and that fits. Perusing the last couple of years of issues, I see some fascinating articles on various aspects of CA culture, past / present / future.

The article I recommend from it today is titled, A Golden State of Grace? by Lois Ann Lorentzen. Here are the opening lines that hopefully motivate you to read further...
Making sense of religion in California is a daunting task. California’s religious extravagance is fascinating—Heaven’s Gate, the Crystal Cathedral, Synanon, Starhawk, Harold Camping’s end-of-world predictions, Aimee Semple McPherson, Esalen, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Grateful Dead. Everything is here, it seems, and then some.

Keep in mind what isn't mentioned in this quote: the California Missions, Calvary Chapel and the Jesus Movement, the Vineyard, Scientology and Saddleback... and these days, Bethel Church is leaving its mark. What a fascinating, spiritually eclectic place that California is!

Given the breadth of this topic, the author only touches on several examples in the article -- and makes me want to learn more. At the outset, she gives a quick recounting of earlier CA history, and I found this powerful:
The point of this abbreviated history is to note how populations and religions change dramatically in very short windows of time. California went from indigenous in 1769 to Catholic by 1833 and to predominantly Protestant by 1860. The mix of religions in California doesn’t look the same as other states.

Check out these stats:
Forty percent of all US Buddhists live in California, as do most Hindus and most Muslims—70,000 Muslims in Los Angeles County alone. California is 28 percent Catholic, 20 percent Evangelical Protestant, and 10 percent mainline Protestant. This is in contrast to the United States as a whole, where 70 percent of Christians are Protestant. To study religion in California is to study the world’s religions.

This grabs me the most:

As goes California, so goes the nation. 
California’s present is the nation’s future.

Though I sound like an impassioned representative of the Tourism Bureau at this point, I would say that none of us can ignore this. History seems to bear out this theory, so it's worth studying in depth.
The article concludes with these thoughts:
Is there anything special about religion in California? As a teenager in northern Minnesota, I fantasized about California a lot; I knew it was special. I wanted it, the mountains, the oceans, the freedom, the diversity, the tolerance, the experimenting. Did I romanticize and essentialize? You bet! But now I am a Californian, with an ongoing love/hate relationship with this place. An academic, I’m still unsure about the answers to the questions I posed at the beginning of this essay. I have concluded, however, that California matters a great deal when we think about religion. 
Forgive me if you are not a Californian reading this. But as I vacation throughout the state this week, it still intrigues me greatly.