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Thursday, May 21, 2015

So Many Resources, So Little Time 5-21-15

Like many others I work with, my days are filled with a wide array of tasks and responsibilities. While I could bore you to death with a list of the things I had to do this week, what is more important is for me to think about the fact that my work requires me to juggle a strange combination of personal interactions with sizable administrative tasks.

The problem comes in that when I am sitting at my desk trying to plow through a dizzying combination of emails to answer, articles to write, assignments to create, and research to read, I am thinking about all the people I need to meet with, either in person, on the phone or via video calls. And yet when I make those important face-to-face appointments happen, I feel the piles of to-do's stacking up in my inbox and on my desk!

This week's recommended resources speak to that tension that I find many of us experience. I'm hoping at least one of them is useful to you!

Want to Reduce Stress? Try Commuting by Bike. This month marks the twelfth year since I started being a bicycle commuter. It is a badge of pride that I wear loud and proud. In May 2003, I decided to ride my bike to one appointment per day rather than drive my car. I was motivated by the need to exercise, to reduce my carbon footprint ever so slightly, and to force myself to slow down and not try to cram so much into each day. This became a bit addictive (in that it was surprisingly easy in Southern CA and I loved getting my exercise in this way), and I started making entire days dedicated to bike riding... to the point where I actually sold my car in 2010. The article I've linked here describes what I have found to be the greatest benefit of bicycle commuting: it helps me manage my stress. Whenever I'm feeling that pinch between the to-do's on my desk and the appointments I need to have, I hop on my bike and work it out. It frees me up to think through some conversations and quandaries on my mind, maybe even pray a little bit, and generally focus my energy in a productive direction. TRY IT OUT! And contact me with questions... I can explain what I do when I have to travel further than 5-7 miles, what to do during inclement weather, how do I handle grocery shopping, etc.

How to Organize Your Entire Life. Some may read this article and feel utterly overwhelmed. Go slowly, and perhaps start with organizing your work life and then tackling the rest of life later...? I will tell you that app profiled in this article (Trello) has been a HUGE fave of mine in the last year. It operates with the simplicity of the Reminders app on iPhones, but on steroids! In other words, it's clean and easy to use, but also manages MUCH more complexity, but in a way that makes you feel sane. (PS If you haven't used Lifehacker before, it's pretty darn helpful.)

10 Questions to Consider When Negotiating Across Cultures. Part of my angst when juggling various personal and organizational projects is the fact that I have a rather narrow frame of reference as a white woman of a certain age. I do not want to drive toward just "getting things done" when I am with people who value building trust before working together. What do I mean by that? Just this week I have worked with people who are Puerto Rican, African-American, Hawaiian, Mexican, and Indian-American. Every culture has a different way of viewing work and relationships, and my desire to meet people in their world, on their terms, whenever possible. Thus making sure I grow in "cultural intelligence" is extremely important to me, and I can point to situations when I have made really insensitive remarks or acted out of ignorance. This article only touches on profound cultural complexities, but I have found David Livermore to be a reliable source when trying to be in a learning posture in this regard.


Invest in the future. This week I launched my fifth year with interns through the Center for Transformational Leadership, a strategic initiative of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California. In late June I will launch a new, but similar initiative for the Free Methodist Church in the Pacific Northwest. I love doing this! This is a photo of the interns for this summer's class, and I couldn't be more excited to work with them. I feel so committed to identifying and investing in young leaders, and pray that you are equally excited about this. Our jobs are to replace ourselves! I have been fortunate enough to have had 38 students since 2011 in this program, and am adding another 10 this summer. I'm sure I'll be writing more about these little minions in posts to come...

Ciao for now. May your work not be too hectic. Breathe.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

So Many Resources, So Little Time 5-7-15

At the end of 2008 my life was greatly impacted by a simple book titled Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. It was the first (only?) book in my then 27-year career of youth ministry that correctly described the stresses and successes of youth ministry, while also defining best practices in a
useful and accessible way.

One of the many key premises of the book is that youth workers really need to take "balcony time" on a consistent basis to pull back from the work on the ground and assess things. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, it's really valuable to keep climbing the ladder toward your goals, but occasionally you need to pull back to make sure you've leaned your ladder against the right wall! Balcony time allows you to reflect, renew, evaluate, change course, be creative and get perspective. It is crucial to long-term health and sustainability.

Why do I share that? Because nearly every person I work with tells me that they have so many plates spinning that it is difficult to imagine carving out the time to go to the figurative balcony with any regularity, unless they feel like jumping off one!

This post is not intended to guilt you into balcony time. Heavens, you have enough pressure in your life already. Perhaps I'm hoping to whet your appetite for taking some balcony time by giving you my top favorite resources from this week which helped me to step back and take a few minutes to think about the how's and why's of what I am currently immersed in. Step back for 7 minutes and read these. Here goes:

What are the Least Churched Cities in America? This one totally stirred the pot for me, especially because my own location was listed #2 in the "never-churched" category. This has prompted multiple conversations with others in my community this week about what it means to reach out to our neighbors in substantive ways. Don't just browse the article to see where your city lands; read through to understand a bit more about the changing landscape of church involvement in the US of A.

500 Clergy Marching for Peace and Justice in Baltimore. Come on, let's keep talking about, praying about, and grieving for the state of race relations in our country. And while we're at it, let's be praying about how faith leaders can speak directly and personally into this conversation, more than the media, bloggers and the politicians. I was moved by this brief clip, and reminded of how clergy and faith leaders have deeply moved the world on major issues of justice in the past (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Heschel, C.S. Lewis, Bishop Tutu, Dorothy Day.... hello!). May we not neglect our calling.

Best Alternatives to Power Point. From the utterly sublime to the painfully mundane... I have to put together presentations on a regular basis, and often spend more time on the appearance than the content, because I have sat through WAY too many horrible slides! I'm just digging into this one, and intrigued by a couple of them. Just want to pass this along... And even if you are already a Keynote user, like I am, keep reading the article. This is also a quick shout-out for the SlideShare newsletter, where I found this link. You will either love it or hate it.

How to Document a Performance Review. Yep, still swimming in the mundane. But this is really necessary if you supervise a team. Much of my work is spent working with churches on "the things we don't learn in seminary," and this is one of them: the supervision, training, hiring and firing of staff. This was a helpful and quick article.

"What is Your Purpose?" I'll end with something more meaningful. I profiled David Brooks' recent op-ed titled "The Moral Bucket List" a few weeks ago, and I found this equally thoughtful. You can be cynical and feel like Brooks is shilling his new book, The Road to Character, or you can smile at the attempt to bring some qualitative dialogue into daily conversation. I opt for the latter, at least today. This quote is one that we should be seeking after whenever and wherever we can:

"As I travel on a book tour, I find there is an amazing hunger to shift the conversation. People are ready to talk a little less about how to do things and to talk a little more about why ultimately they are doing them."

May these few moments on the balcony provide some rest and refreshing. Ciao!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Green Curry Stir-Fry with Cashews

When life is packed full with various commitments and responsibilities, I don't have the bandwidth to be creative in my cooking and go with the recipes I know and/or the path of least resistance (read: breakfast-for-dinner). However, when I come up for air, even a bit, I try to have some new recipes saved to be able to draw on them and build my repertoire.

Tonight's new recipe did not disappoint. It is moving immediately to the go-to list, not just because it was very tasty but it was also ridiculously easy. Enjoy!

GREEN CURRY STIR-FRY WITH CASHEWS
Serves 4
Thank you once again, Vegetarian Times!

30 minutes or fewer to prepare

Cashews are a classic in stir-fries. Here, they’re sprinkled over a medley of mushrooms and green beans.

INGREDIENTS
 1 Tbs. peanut oil
½ cup thinly sliced onion
1 12-oz. pkg. sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 lb. green beans, cut into thirds (I made my dish tonight with cauliflower and leeks -- it's what I had on hand)
½ cup golden raisins
2 Tbs. light coconut milk (I will confess I used half 'n half -- I didn't want to open a whole can for 2 tb of coconut milk. I also used a bit of almond milk)
1½ Tbs. green curry paste
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. low-sodium tamari sauce
½ cup roasted salted cashews, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS
 1. Prepare rice or quinoa ~ or eat it on its own. I happened to serve this over brown rice and it soaked up the sauce very nicely.

2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms (or leeks and zucchini!), and season with salt, if desired. Cover, and cook 6 minutes, or until mushrooms begin to brown.

2. Uncover pan, stir in garlic and ginger, and sauté 2 minutes. Add green beans (or cauliflower!) and raisins, and stir-fry 3 minutes.

3. Whisk together coconut milk, curry paste, lemon juice, and tamari in small bowl. Add curry mixture to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 2 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Garnish with cashews and cilantro.

VT April/May 2014 p.75

Monday, April 20, 2015

Stuff I Used This... Month! April 20, 2015

Dad gum it, I've let my schedule get the best of me again and have neglected posting on here. I will say that all the things I'm working on right now are pretty darn fun, so I'm certainly not complaining about how packed out my days have been.


I am committed to keeping these posts short and sweet, launching some tested resources out to my friends and clients. Here goes!

The Moral Bucket List by David Brooks. Sure, I read many of the op-ed columns in the NY Times, and ever so often I will reference a sentence or a thought from an article in a conversation. But rarely do I use an entire column to actually drive a conversation... That is what this column offers to you. He does a great job succinctly asking his readers to think about how the balance between success and character works, using the contrast of "résumé virtues" vs. "eulogy virtues." If you haven't read this one yet, you will be passing it along to others, or using it to prompt a deeper conversation or three. Apparently he has a book coming out on this theme soon, so stay tuned.

Letter from Birmingham Jail. I am in the midst of finishing up a capstone course that we titled "Theology of Leadership" for Religious Studies majors at Westmont College, and we are ending lectures with a class devoted to the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of the things we will be reading as a class will be this classic letter, which is archived at Stanford University. The link I gave to you is a facsimile of the original letter (hit "View Document"), which was very moving for me to read in that format. Sure, I read the letter in school once or twice, but it was a profound experience for me to take the time to really read it in preparation for class, especially in light of what is going on in our country of late. Reading this letter from 50 years ago is a big ol' plate of humble pie, so get ready. I shook my head reading it as I thought about Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and all the dialogue that is bubbling up over the state of civil rights in 2015. Take some time to see where we have come from and where we still need to go. Even better, before you read this letter, read the one from eight white clergy that prompted Dr. King to respond.

Thinking of a Major Career Change? By no means does this article sum things up, but it's an intriguing continuation to that daydream that might be wandering in and out of your head at times? I made my own major career transition in 2009, and I have had some form of the conversation captured in this article multiple times with people as they struggle through their own thoughts and experiences related to work, career, fulfillment and when or not to make the big leap into the unknown.

Recent reading...
Vacation allows me to dig even deeper in to reading, one of my favorite things in life to do. No commentary here, but I would highly recommend all of these books:
Last but not least...
One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, posted these words on her Facebook page as she approached her 61st birthday. They are equal parts hilarious, poignant, moving, profound and crazy. Enjoy!! 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Yummy in the Tummy Hummus

Apparently I have let my schedule get the best of me because I have not posted in six weeks. Not that any of you were sitting on the edge of your seats as you waited for another post, but nevertheless, this one was worth waiting for. Drumroll please.....

In the latest issue of Sunset Magazine (March 2015), they posted recipes for what I would venture to say was the best meal I had in 2014. And I plan on having it several times in 2015 and beyond!

There is a little gem of a restaurant in Los Alamos, of all places, called Bell Street Farm. I have driven up and down the 101 since I went to college in 1979 a long time ago, and Los Alamos was a potty-and-gas-up-the-car stop, at best. Usually I just passed it by. But glory hallelujah, it has become a delightful little mecca of foodie goodness. I won't try to describe it all, but go here if you are curious.

ALL THAT TO SAY... at Bell Street Farm they have many incredible little yummies, but I cannot get one of their specialties out of my memory: Roast Chicken Salad with White Bean Hummus. I am telling you, by the end of that meal you will probably be wearing chicken juices all over your face, fingers and shirt, but you are nearly intoxicated by how good it was, and you won't care!

Go to the link for the full recipe, but here is the hummus recipe. I have made it twice in the last 72 hours. It is... golly, there are no words. Just try it. It is simplest hummus recipe I've ever made, it's incredibly inexpensive, and looks beautiful when you're finished. Ta-DA!

WHITE BEAN HUMMUS
Serves 1 (kidding, but you will want to eat ALL OF IT)

1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper 

In a food processor, pulse garlic and rosemary until chopped, about 5 times. Add beans, oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Process until very smooth, adding 2 to 3 tbsp. water if necessary to make a nice dipping consistency.

P.S. Bell Street Farm is only open Friday through Monday. Plan accordingly.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Stuff I Used This Week 1-16-15

Even though it's already halfway through January, for some reason this felt like my first full week where I was really stepping into 2015. Up to this point, I've been scrambling to catch up from the time off between Christmas and New Year's, digging myself out of email, returning phone calls, set up new calendars and schedules, etc. But this week, several new projects kicked in. So here are three articles that spoke into those projects and processes in helpful ways.

The Mistake Most Managers Make in Cross-Cultural Training. This applies in so many settings, I don't know where to begin. But for my denomination in Southern California, we are finding so much of our efforts revolve around empowering and equipping our churches being led by Majority World leaders. For example, this week in one of courses we require for ordination, we had 24 leaders, only 9 of whom were Caucasian. In fact, 10 of the 24 were born outside of the US! As this article states, and as we keep experiencing, learning about cross-cultural differences is not just about information, but also about understanding

We Still Don't Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation. Again, I could apply this in multiple ways. But one of my main leadership roles is serving as the Director of Recruiting and Leadership Development for the Center for Transformational Leadership for the Free Methodist Church in Southern CA. And while as Wesleyans we deeply believe theologically and spiritually in the process of personal transformation, we also want the leaders we identify, train and release to be people who shape culture in the process of change and transformation organizationally and strategically. This article speaks to that and how we guide both change and transformation on a larger scale.

Toward a Theology of Leadership. This one is a bit more wonky, but SO GOOD. At Westmont College I usually teach RS190, the elective on internships for Religious Studies major, but through a lovely intersection of various things, I've been invited to co-teach the Religious Studies Senior Seminar capstone course this semester! Even better, my colleague and co-instructor was up for the challenge of setting the theme of the course as a study in the "theology of leadership." The link here defines more expansively what that phrase means, but if I only have 10 seconds with someone who asks me in passing what I am teaching, I tell them that this is focusing far more on the WHY of leadership and not the HOW. Everything I'm reading, from Gregory the Great's Book of Pastoral Care to Dallas Willard and Gary Black's The Divine Conspiracy Continued, are really sparking me to dig even deeper into how leadership has evolved and been defined and determined in church history, where it is today, and where we need to go. If you are a leader, take the time to read this article. It will challenge some of your assumptions.

Finally, I can't end without a thoughtful quote. I never tire of hearing from Henri Nouwen:

Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things-the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on-will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God's promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.

May 2015 be a year of HOPE for you!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Stuff I Used This Week in My Work 1-3-15

Happy New Year! This past week was lovely... not too many appointments, and some free time to step back and view everything from 30,000' as I mapped out some projects for the new year. I came across these three things that touched on things that I am directly dealing with. Perhaps they will be helpful to you....

4 Tips to Help Millennials Find Meaningful Work. What I like most about this post is that it perfectly reflects what I'm trying to accomplish in our Free Methodist Intern Program! As I posted it on various networks, it got repeated "likes," mostly from those in that 18-35 year old group. Sure, I get a little tired of "10 Best" this and "5 Ways" that, but this article is not quite so superficial. Here's a couple of sentences: "Seek opportunities that excite you and inspire you to wake up in the morning. Build a purposeful career by experimenting with opportunities you actually care about." Again, that is my goal in the intern programs that I have run and am currently running -- seeking to give chances for young people to feel the weight and experience of significant work, with all the responsibility that comes along with it. I find more and more that young adults lack work experience (for a whole host of reasons), and are often rather unrealistic about what they should be looking for.

The strong message that I took from this article (witnessed by the demographics of those who "liked" it) is that young adults are leaning more toward finding meaningful work than the mighty dollar. We can be cynical and call that a first-world problem ("Oh, that we all had those choices...") or we can simply note it and work with it. I'm choosing the latter.

How Do I EVER Conquer Email? I don't know about you, but email is the bane and blessing of my work life... sure, I love that I have far fewer phone calls to make, and time is less spent on sending an email than having a conversation. But after getting tangled in a convoluted email thread with a group, or missing an important message because my inbox was too full, or not hearing back from someone I really need to hear from "because I just don't do email" or perhaps worst of all, when my inbox has a little red bubble with 3 digits floating above it.... I just want to give up. But what are my options? Many email management apps promise they can get you to zero and do your groceries too, and I don't believe them. But I'm feeling a cautious optimism about Tipbit, which I read about recently in Fast Company magazine. Read a review on Tipbit, or just give it a spin. Others tell me that the new Google Inbox is wonderful, as is Mailbox, but they didn't grab me when I tried them. Tipbit felt different. Who knows?

How We Grieve ~ very poignant and personal podcast from Tom Ashbrook. As I have mentioned previously, I tend to listen to NPR like it's my job, given that I work from home a good part of the time. "On Point" from WBUR in Boston is a top favorite, and I was deeply moved as I listened to this 45-minute roundtable conversation led by Tom Ashbrook the host, who has recently returned after a 2-month absence that followed the loss of his wife to cancer. If you've dealt with grief yourself or are caring for someone who is, this was deep tonic. I'm saving this one for future use.


Joy and Sorrow. When it comes to Facebook, I mostly post quotes or passages that I find meaningful, rather than latest cat video (though I've been known to succumb to watching these rather quickly when they are placed in front of me!) Here is the quote I posted yesterday, and it echoes some of the lessons learned from grief that were touched upon in the On Point episode.

Joy and sorrow are never separated. When our hearts rejoice at a spectacular view, we may miss our friends who cannot see it, and when we are overwhelmed with grief, we may discover what true friendship is all about. Joy is hidden in sorrow and sorrow in joy. If we try to avoid sorrow at all costs, we may never taste joy, and if we are suspicious of ecstasy, agony can never reach us either. Joy and sorrow are the parents of our spiritual growth. 
Henri Nouwen