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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!

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

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Stuff I've Used in the Past 2 Weeks 12-28-14

Admittedly, the subject line for this post could be smoother, but it's the truth. I've used every single one of these resources in a coaching, consulting, shepherding or training conversation in the past two weeks. Sometimes more than once. There are so many issues on so many fronts that each one of us faces in a regular week of care and ministry to those around us. See if any of these scratch where you (or someone you know) itch.

200 Years of African-American Prayer - OnPoint Radio. So I jokingly tell people that I listen to NPR like it's my job. Interviews like this one explain why... in the midst of tragic news like Michael Brown, Eric Garner and die-ins, this story gave me some legs to stand on in terms of how to press on in the long journey toward dignity and equality for all. Listen to it on the edge of your seat.

College for Grown-Ups - NYTimes Now that the majority of my work life is spent pursuing leadership development with college students and young adults, I try to read everything I can find on the current trends in higher education, which appear to be changing about every 3.7 seconds! Here's a fascinating article on re-thinking the trajectory of college, from gap years to bootcamps to lifelong learning to MOOCs. Get the skinny here. For the next 3.7 seconds at least.

Yeah Yeah, Another Link about Millennials. Yes, I'm hitting repeat on this topic because it just keeps. coming. up. Many of the training and coaching conversations I have with pastors revolve around how to reach younger adults (roughly ages 18-34) which is understandable, given that the average age of church worshipers in the US is 54 (as of 2009), which is 10 years older than the average American.

There is certainly no quick fix, but here is a link with a GRIP of articles. Not everything will be applicable to every church, but what I appreciate about this link is that it is built on experience and data, not just guessing, hunches, or the opinion of one or two people. In my work with our Center for Transformational Leadership interns over the past 4 years, I have found many of the conclusions from this website to ring true. Students and young adults do not just look for more upbeat music -- they are looking for authenticity, intergenerational relationships, and consistent intentionality with their age group. They want to be given a voice in every aspect of church life, and taken seriously.

Dr. Kent Brantly -- Lessons Learned from Fighting Ebola. If you told me last year that a missionary working for an organization founded by Billy Graham's son Franklin would be profiled on NPR, I would have smirked at you with a "yeah, RIGHT" look. But here it is, front and center, and friends, it is one AMAZING interview. Dr. Brantly preaches the gospel in every way, shape and form in this 8-minute interview, and his final words about loving your neighbor will bring you to tears. I have recommended this interview to two clients already as an object lesson in teaching others how to be God's person in the marketplace. Yes please.

Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll. OK, not totally, but I did just receive an email from a parent asking how to talk about sex and dating with her 16 year-old son. I let her know that was not a book out there that I really trusted -- or more importantly I guess, that a student would be willing to read with his or her parent! But I found this series recently on Fuller Youth Institute that has some solid input: http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/viamedia-x1. There are 5 discussions on this link that can get the conversation going, at least.

Healing Words: Final thoughts as we finish up the year. How I hope you (and I!) will come up for air this week and get your bearings for 2015... Shalom. Come Lord Jesus.

I have come to believe that the true mystics are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self…. If they are wise, they treasure the rare moments of solitude and silence that come their way, and use them not to escape, to distract themselves with television and the like. Instead, they listen for a sign of God’s presence and they open their hearts toward prayer. 
Kathleen Norris

Monday, December 15, 2014

Simple Resources for Ministry 12-15-14

I will assume you are "busier than a one-armed paper hanger" (to use an old family saying) these days. So I will not clutter this post with complex theological conundrums. Here are three fundamentals for ministry that I found so valuable in the past week. 

My experience over many years has been that this season has been anything but relaxing. Between Christmas concerts, parties, special services, end-of-year budgets and last-minute shopping, it has been NUTS for me. So I hope and pray that this holiday season not be so full of work that you are not able to enjoy Jesus Himself. May the Spirit be deeply present in your midst. 

Idea from a client for involving more people in worship: One of the pastors I meet with weekly for coaching told me this: "I figured out an idea of having people read scripture in their language of origin, because I want to have different voices in worship. Jesus came for the world, and the world extends far beyond our experience, to remind us who the gospel is actually for. This past weekend, I had a women from India read in her native dialect, and halfway through, most of the congregation was weeping."

That'll preach! I receive daily devotional emails from Inward/Outward. Here is a pithy thought:

This is the mystery of the Christian life, to receive a new self, which depends not on what we can achieve but on what we are willing to receive.
Esther de Waal

Building blocks of ministry: I am in the thick of an eighteen-month journey with about 20 others, where we are doing our best to build a missional community in a Latino neighborhood. Most of our friends are poor and undocumented. For as many joys as we experience, we are also facing tremendous roadblocks and outright disappointment. These words really addressed some of my anxieties and were a healing balm to my discouragement:

There are, I should say, four elements in a redemptive community. It is personal, with things happening between people as well as to and in them individually; it is compassionate, always eager to help, observant but nonjudgmental toward others, breathing out hope and concern; it is creative, with imagination about each one in the group and its work as a whole, watching for authentic new vision coming from any of them; and it is expectant, always seeking to offer to God open and believing hearts and minds through which He can work out His will, either in the sometimes startling miracles He gives or in steady purpose through long stretches where there is no special "opening." It may fairly be said that unless one enmeshes himself in this "redemptive fellowship" of the church, he lessens his chances of steady growth and effectiveness, in his Christian life and experience. 
Samuel M. Shoemaker

May your work in the kingdom seek after these four things, for they are tremendous good news for all who experience them.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Peace, Prayer and Presence 11-29-14

The Thanksgiving holiday has allowed for some deep and lovely rest, but it has also provided the opportunity to catch up on world news. In the midst of heated debates over race and justice, seemingly constant news of gun violence, and horrifying reports from abroad describing civil unrest, kidnappings, menacing threats and religious strife, I seek to find peace and perspective from God and His people.

As I write this, I have just heard the report of Pope Francis standing in silent prayer today in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, aiming to show respect for Islam and clearly reaching out to build shalom wherever he goes. These words below are from past and present Christian leaders and were each poignant to me this week regarding our own call to be peacemakers and bridgebuilders like the pope. May we be people who listen, pray, love, learn, speak up, and sometimes remain silent as we "depend on him from hour to hour."

If [God] wants you to do something, he'll make it possible
for you to do it, but the grace he provides comes only with the
task and cannot be stockpiled beforehand. We are dependent on
him from hour to hour, and the greater our awareness of this
fact, the less likely we are to faint or fail in a crisis.
    Louis Cassels (1922-1974)

The grammar commonly used to refer to or ask about the
church still carries heavy baggage of being a "place where
certain things happen." We ask, for instance, "Where do you go
to church?" "Where is your church?" "Did you go to church last
Sunday?" Indeed, even when not referring to a tangible
building, we tend to relate "church" to a meeting or activity,
a set of programs, or an organizational structure. Only with
awkwardness would one talk about being "part of a church."
    In North America, this "place where" orientation manifests
itself in a particular form. Both members and those outside the
church expect the church to be a vendor of religious services
and goods.
    Darrell L. Guder, Missional Church

Powerful response from Christena Cleveland on the
Ferguson grand jury decision

What does non-violence look like for us? It is certainly not the passivity of the victim. It entails resisting rather than colluding with abusive power. It does mean, however, accepting suffering rather than passing it on. It refuses to shame, blame, threaten or demonize. In fact, non-violence requires that we befriend our own darkness and brokenness rather than projecting it onto another. This, in turn, connects us with our fundamental oneness with each other, even in conflict.
Pat Farrell OSF

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.
Victor Hugo

When faith came to be in writings rather than in hearts, contention grew hot and love grew cold. That which is forced cannot be sincere, and that which is not voluntary cannot please Christ.
Erasmus of Rotterdam, sixteenth-century priest and church reformer