Sunday, August 31, 2008

HCS Class of 1988

This is a gathering of members of Heritage Christian School's Class of 1988 taken this weekend on the school's campus in Indianapolis. 

When they were juniors, I was their American Literature teacher -- it was my first year teaching.  

Thanks to Facebook, I not only knew about the reunion ahead of time, but I could see some of the photos (as posted there by Aileen Lukowiak Mullett) not long after the event. How cool is that?!!

Yeah, so now you want to know how  many faces I recognize many names I can remember?  I wish I could say "I recognized all of them, every one, right away." 

I can't. 

All the faces looked familiar -- and I came up with first names of almost everyone (and last names of more than I expected) before I turned to the yearbook. Once through the grad photos and I had them all identified.  

Over the past year or so I've reconnected to a number of former students via Facebook and I'm finding that I have an easier time with last names when a student came from a family from which I had more than one student. Logical, I guess. 

I'm also finding that the women are often easier to recognize because they were more grown up at 18 than the men were. The men who were particularly young at 18 are really hard to recognize now that they are in their 30's. The women become more difficult to recognize when they have dramatically changed hair -- and from the 80's when hair was really, really big, well, most of them have made some dramatic changes. 

Fun times. 

Saturday, August 30, 2008

felis concolor coryi

Did you know that Florida has a "panther"? According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the Florida panther is ENDANGERED.

(From the USFW website:) The Florida panther is a large, long-tailed cat with a great deal of color variation: pale brown or rusty upper parts, dull white or buffy under parts; tail tip, back of ears, and sides of nose are dark brown or blackish. Mature male panthers examined in the wild in Florida since 1978 have weighed from 1O2 to 154 pounds (Roelke 1990, Roelke and Glass 1992) and measured nearly 7 feet from nose to tip of tail. Females were considerably smaller, with a weight range of 50 to 1O8 pounds (Roelke 1990) and measuring about 6 feet (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1987).

So, you're wondering if I just got up this morning and thought it was time for a lesson on the wildlife in Florida, perhaps? No, though that's not a bad idea -- we have cool wildlife here.

Yesterday our Homeowner's Association sent out a second e.mail bulletin of the summer letting us know that a Florida panther has been seen in my neighborhood. The first time was at 5 am a couple weeks ago and the second time (yesterday) was mid-morning. I'm not afraid for myself -- this cat won't bother humans unless we bother it, and I have no intention of bothering it.

I'm more afraid for the panther. Or maybe it's really just a little sad. There is so much construction around here, I'm sure it's home was destroyed and it's looking for new digs and as nice as my neighborhood is, it isn't really a place for a big cat.

I admit that I do keep my eye out in the morning when I ride my bike or walk -- a little hopeful of getting a glimpse of this magnificent creature before it moves on.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Henri Nouwen on Discipline

Discipline is "...the effort to create some space in which God can act. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you're not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned or counted on." ~ Henri Nouwen

For the past few years, my rather consistent response to "how are you? (that is, when it was really a question and not a greeting) has been "Busy, but...." The "but" has been followed by every imaginable thing. Sometimes, when the thing that followed the "but" (which was also sometimes and "and") reflected a sense of being overwhelmed by all off it or an exhaustion of sorts. In those times it is too easy to see the "busy" as the issue.

Now, you're thinking that I'm working at contradicting Nouwen -- trying to convince myself and you that being really busy and living without margin are inevitable and good. No, that's not it.

What I mean to say is that "busy" is not the problem. Busy -- when we have capacity for it -- is fine in  moderation. I really do think a person can be busy in moderation. The clue is capacity. Discipline matches busyness with capacity and then leaves margin. 

I can increase my capacity and therefore take on more without jeopardizing the margin that is very important -- but I have to know the signs of decreasing capacity so I can back off when I need to or push through when necessary. There are things in our living that decrease our capacity for a season. There are also things that take more out of us than would seem logical or reasonable. 

All of this requires me to pay attention AND, for me, it requires me to have a few people in my life who also pay attention and are willing to hold up signs of warning on my behalf on occasion. That kind of accountability is critical for me. 

So, now that I've rambled in circles for a few paragraphs, I think I'll try to say what I intended to say all along. This definition of discipline is helping me put handles on an issue that I'm trying to navigate these days. I've often been heard talking about needing to rediscover or redefine balance in my living. I think that "discipline" is more what I was needing, as it is defined here.

I want to create space where God can act in my life and where I see Him, embrace Him, celebrate Him. 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Donald Miller's Prayer @ DNC

I have long been a fan of the way Donald Miller strings words together to say eloquently and simply what I've thought or felt. This prayer...I'm going to use it in my own praying for our nation and for this political process in which we are engaged.

I found the text (below) on his website. The video is from YouTube (as you can see).

Father God,

This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.

We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.

We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.

Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.

Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.

Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.

Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.

Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.

Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.

We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.

Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.

A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.

Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.

Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.

Lastly, father, unify us.

Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.

And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.

God we know that you are good.

Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.

I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.

Let Him be our example.


Happy Birthday, Charlene

I met Charlene at church -- in the choir, as I remember it -- a bunch of years ago.

We didn't begin to build a friendship until the summer we went to Vinnitsa, Ukraine on a short term mission trip (I believe she recruited me to that trip and I, in turn, recruited Beth Gabrielson).

Then she recruited me to sing in a women's trio and that venture lasted for a year or so -- with a memorable (for me) "gig" at the FMC women's retreat (the first of many times I've gone on that retreat). Memories of rehearsing in the bathroom of our room at the State Park (Spring Mill, was it?) -- that conjurs up a giggle or two.

Over the past decade plus, I've grown to love and respect and value and admire and delight in this woman. (And in this same time, I've been recruited by her to a number of other ventures. There seems to be a pattern here.) I could ramble on for far too many words with stories of NYE parties and Canadian Cafes, a Captiva Island vacation and a Pittsburgh weekend escape, DIY decorating projects and HCS softball games, house hunts and email marathons, Einstein's mornings and brownie waffle nights. My memory bank is quite full.

However, today I want to focus on this one thing. Charlene sets an example for me (and by that example, she both inspires and encourages me to follow her example) of what it looks like to embrace & enjoy the diverse expressions of God's creativity. She loves people well -- all sorts of people. She takes delight in the variety offered in nature, in design, in foods, in music, in a multi-cultured world full of people and things that reflect the character of God himself. In that, she herself reflects the character of God.

I love how God reveals himself through his creation -- and especially love how he reveals himself through those who choose to follow him, who choose to submit to his mission.

Happy Birthday, Charlene.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Joel Hunter is going to pray and it's making people crazy

Christianity Today reported that Joel Hunter will be praying at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday following Obama's nomination acceptance speech.

Apparently some conservative evangelicals are appalled by this decision, using "guilt by association" as the reason that this is horrible. One comment on the CT article essentially says that the ONLY thing Obama stands for is is partial birth abortion and that because Joel will be praying on the same stage as Obama, Joel is therefore taking a stand in support of partial birth abortion.


It all makes me want to argue and defend. I'm trying to not do so much of that as pray myself...for Joel, for us.

I do understand those who are concerned about the possibility that the DNC is using Joel to try to improve their own reputation among Evangelicals for the sake of winning the election. But think aobut it. Isn't that why everyone who is on the platform at the DNC is on the platform? Isn't the DNC (like the RNC next week will also be) just one giant commercial?

But just because politicians and pr folk are "using" Joel, does that mean Joel should not do what Pastors do? Speak truth and point people to God? Pray? Shine light in darkness?

Monday, August 25, 2008

like pulling teeth

Dad had a tooth ache over the weekend -- one that started on Thursday even though I only heard about it on Saturday. It was pretty miserable -- a sleep-thieving, flu-symptom inducing nasty tooth ache. 

By Sunday morning it was bad enough to influence a choice to worship online (yes, I love that we have that option) rather than make the drive across town to attend church in a building with hundreds of others. Usually the drive is worth it -- but it would not have been yesterday.

Today we went to the dentist who has recently opened just down the street. Good dentist. Good staff at the office too. We left the office about 4 hours after arriving there. Dad had 5 teeth extracted (somehow that sounds more dramatic, but in a grows-up way than saying "pulled"). 

We filled prescriptions (antibiotics and pain meds) and I got him settled at home before heading into the office for a very busy afternoon. This evening he is feeling pretty good (all things considered). He has eaten mashed potatoes and frozen yogurt. He has avoided the pain meds so far.  In a few days he'll look normal (as in "not swollen") again. 

In a few weeks, he'll go get fitted for a partial. I expect he'll have a mouth full of teeth by his 80th birthday late in October for sure. 

I'm grateful that the dentist who we chose for the sake of convenience turned out to be a really good dentist (from all we can tell). God is good.

(If you live in Orlando and are looking for a dentist, we recommend Dr. Oslund.) 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Witnesses - a musical

Tonight Dad and I went to see the musical The Witnesses at the Plaza Theater in Orlando. We'd seen The Rock and The Rabbi (the first in this musical trilogy) there a few years ago and both really liked it. When we had a chance to get discounted tickets for this preformance, we jumped at it. Really, how often to you get a chance at professional live musical theater for $10 a seat?

I'm not sure if I liked it over all as much as The Rock & The Rabbi, but there were a few songs that were really, really good. I'm absolutely glad we went.

Live Link to Guatemala

Yesterday the North American Forum of Bible Agencies met for their annual meeting at the Wycliffe Mobilization Center in Orlando. I've been participating in the Forum's work for the past few years.

One of the events at this gathering was a live-link interview with two men serving with two of the Forum organizations in Guatemala. I had the privilege of conducting the interview.

Decades ago, two single women serving with Wycliffe went to Guatemala and served within the Q'eqchi language community, translating the Scriptures into Q'eqchi. The whole Bible has been completed and printed. In partnerships with the Southern Baptist denomination working there and other organizaitons, Bibles have been distributed through churches and is being used.

That is the good news. But, as in many language communities around the world, there is also bad news. Many Q'eqchi speakers are not literate so the printed Scritures don't have great value for them. Education and literacy strategies have increased the literacy rate to some degree, but it's not enough.

In recent years, the JESUS Film has been produced (based on Luke's Gospel) and Faith Comes By Hearing has done a dramatic audio recording of the New Testament in the Q'eqchi language.

Yesterday I interviewed Abdiel Lopez, the Latin American Coordinator for FCBH (and pastor of a large church just outside of Guatemala City) and Anibal Duarte, the National Director for the JESUS Film Project for Guatemama. They told stories of the ways this oral stragegy is impacting hundreds of Q'echi speakers -- of how churches are being planted and new brothers and sisters discipled through intentional engagement with the Word of God in the language and form they understand best.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Aileen!!

"...Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God. Believing, then, is directing the hearts' attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to 'behold the Lamb of God,' and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives." -- A.W. Tozer

This quote is on Aileen's Blog.

I share it because it reflects something I've seen in her living -- a steadfast commitment to a life of worship and obedience of the one true God. 

Aileen moved to Orlando just a few weeks after I did back in 2002. We worked in the same department, but it took us a few months to begin having real conversations. As we each grew into the roles we held and, eventually, into roles of greater responsibility, I had the privilege of working more and more often with her. 

I don't mean to give the impression that we were merely colleagues -- while all that working was going on, we became friends.

A few of my favorite memories of times we have spent together over these six years include hanging out at the Folk Art Festival at Downtown Disney, putting up my Christmas tree, and some unstructured and unhurried time on my patio.

I've learned a lot from Aileen. 

She listens to God. She seeks to grow and learn and stretch. She own her fumbles while easily extending grace to others in the midst of their own floundering. She's done it for me.

She has the heart of a servant and is always paying attention to the details in people's lives and caring for them in ways that most of us would miss because we don't pay such careful attention.

Last August when Aileen moved away from Orlando, we thought she'd be spending this birthday in the Philippines. Her mom's leukemia diagnosis 7 months ago changed that timeline. My faith has been expanded and my courage increased through Aileen's example as she has navigated the uncertain waters of her mom's ongoing treatment and the disappointment of changed plans. I've benefitted from her honest self-disclosure through this season as it has given me a way to see God's hand more clearly than ever in her life. 

So, Aileen Agoncillo, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! 


I spent the past two days with Wycliffe's Recruitment Ministries leaders. While others were hiding from the hurricane/tropical storm/Fay, we gathered in the activity center and worked.


I loved engaging with this group of deeply committed and broadly experienced team -- they certainly  made facilitating this training session a joy for me.

I was encouraged that the curriculum we have developed does work. I also took lots of notes about some details that can be tweaked to make it work better in the future. Next week I will solicit input through an electronic survey from all participants that will give me more information that I anticipate will impact the further development of this training.

This "diversity training" is being developed and rolled out to Wycliffe staff as part of a long-term strategy to "build a multi-ethnic workforce and become a biblically inclusive community." 

It has been a while since I was in this kind of role for more than a short session and it was energizing. Oh, my feet are tired and my voice is a bit weary, but mostly I'm wound up in all the best ways. Funny how different things do that for different people. 

As I was reveling in the goodness of this time, I remembered back to the year or so that Dave Baldwin and I facilitated the Network training at FMC together -- and my experience of coming to the realization that I love to "facilitate the ah hah moment" for people. 

In case anyone is wondering...I still do love that. 

Photos from the "Vacation"

Friday night - waiting in line outside SAK's theater in the Centroplex downtown Orlando.

Sandy with a pair of dolphins. She would like to have been in the water WITH them, but we didn't buy that ticket.

A baby seal having lunch while momma seal napped on the rocks. This little guy made a LOT of noise. 

The displays at Sea World are really quite fascinating. This thing (plant? animal?) was constantly moving. Really beautiful and kind of creepy all at the same time. 

After church and lunch on Sunday, we made a quick stop at the M&M Store. Yeah, they sell M&M's and M&M merchandise. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The March of the Penguines

Smack dab in the middle of a very busy few weeks, God provided a vacation of sorts. A break. A point of restoration.

If you looked at all that was going on in my life these days -- the meetings and workshops and forums and gatherings and seminars -- and then saw my to do list and my overflowing INBOX -- and then remembered with me the other things that I'm striving to make priority in my living, well, you'd understand why I think it's really crazy that I took 24 hours off. The answer "should have been" that "I don't have time."
My friend Sandy and I planned for her to come over to Orlando for a weekend and we picked this one because it was open for both of us and that's not an easy thing to find. It appeared to be a wise choice. Then I had some calendar mishaps (long story) and a few things beyond my control invaded my space. Suddenly, on paper, it looked like we'd picked a bad weekend for her to be here. In some ways it wasn't idea. I did have to "work" more than I would normally consider doing with company in town.

However, truth is -- the timing was just right.

On Friday night we went (with two others -- Jane and Cindy) to the SAK Comedy Club in Orlando and then on Saturday we went to Sea World. Between those two events (which were just the kinds of things that help me de-stress and refocus and rebalance, I slept like a rock. Ahhhh. And, even with having to work around the edges while Sandy was here, it was fun (and good) to have her around to talk around the edges of the edges.
I love when God does stuff like this.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wycliffe Still Needs Teachers

In April I wrote about participating in the commissioning of boxes of promotional materials in my blog. Click here to jump back to that posting if you need context for this update.

(This photo is of Jamie Farr and his family. Jamie gives leadership to the CHED team -- recruiting teachers is part of his job.)

This week we recieved a Take 59 email (sent daily by request -- it is a prayer request written in such a way that a person can take 59 seconds and pray for specific needs and rejoice at specific ways that God has worked) with an update on this strategy. I share it below without further comment.
Take 59 - 08/18/00: Answer! Mission:Teach Mailings
“The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock! May the God of my salvation be exalted!” (Psalm 18:46, NLT).

On Monday, March 31, Recruitment Ministries in Orlando, Florida mailed boxes of promotional materials to more than 1,000 universities and educational departments across the USA. The materials were intended to help spread the word about Mission:Teach, an internationally recognized recruitment tool that works to connect teachers with overseas service opportunities. Mission:Teach is a partnership formed by the Association of Christian Schools International, Finishers Project, and Wycliffe Bible Translators. The mailing proved to be highly effective. Let’s praise God!

  • Praise God for 47 teachers who, over the last five months, have displayed interest in filling one of Wycliffe’s open positions around the world.

  • Thank Him for more than 290 teachers who have submitted their application to the Mission:Teach website.

  • Ask God to allow more teachers to follow suit, moving in their hearts and giving them a passion to become involved in Wycliffe’s work.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Translation Tiff

This discussion about the Bible translation work in Jamaica has been "roaring" in some media outlets for the past couple of months. Christianity Today covered it in their recent posting (click on the title to be linked there). For those of you who know me...keep reading and you'll eventually see that I served as a source for the journalist.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Georgia O'Keeffe

I can't remember the first time I saw a print of one of Georgia O'Keeffe's works, but I do remember coming around the corner at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and seeing one of her original paintings hung in one of the galleries there.

It took my breath away.

This is that image - Jimson Weed. It's lovely in this digital version, but you should see it full sized (70 x 83 1/2 inches).

This is O'Keeffe's largest and most ambitious floral work, with her signature emphasis on size and contour.

In 1936 Elizabeth Arden commissioned O'Keeffe to paint Jimson Weed for the exercise room of her New York spa.

Catherine Rohr - UTube "pre-summit" Video

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Summit: Catherine Rohr

Okay, this 31-year old woman is a rock star. To understand what she founded and leads, you should check out the Prision Entrepreneurship Program website.

This interview was absolutely a highlight in a very well lighted summit. I suspect some of the power came from the energetic enthusiams of Catherine herself. But more than that, this was one of those Summit deals where thousands of us were simultaneiously introduced to a fantastic idea fueled by an extraordinary passion that is demonstrating the core values of the Kingdom of grace and restoration in ways we rarely see so tangibly and clearly. It was, therefore, nearly pure inspiration.

Yeah, I'm smitten. Smitten by creativity and committment and courage. Smitten by our Father who has expressed himself through this woman and those who have joined her in a great adventure.

She is a leader of prayer, but her prayer is a little unconventional: "Bring it on!"

One of the things I saw in her is the POWER of faith that is un-calloused enough to not tell God why following Him in to the fray is impossible. It reminded me of other young leaders who don't yet know what can't be done, so they do the impossible because they expect that God is still in that business.

I found this blogger who did a very thorough job of sharing what Rohr shared at the Summit. If you are you go (click here).

Summit: Chuck Coleson

Coleson was the seasoned veteran on the Summit roster. I remember that he spoke at my college graduation. His message was fairly simple: we must know the truth and teach the truth and raise up a next generation of leadership who also know the truth and can teach and defend it.

I didn't take copious notes on Coleson's talk - but did make some notes that I find helpful. One early statement he made is that God will bless us ONLY so His holiness can be revealed to the world. I greatly appreciate this reminder of the supremecy of our holy and mighty God.

One other thing that I appreciated was a simple statement he made that ff you are a leader, your job is not to pander to your people, it is to LEAD them.

Coleson is one of the people who has deeply impacted a generation with his clear and bold teaching. He's not as warm and engaging in his style as some others, but he speaks the truth with clarity and great passion. What a gift he has been to the Church.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Summit: Craig Groeschel on IT

Craig Groeschel talked about IT. He has just published a book titled "IT" in fact.

Essentially he shared that IT is the something special of God that is only possible by the SpirIT of God Himself. And if IT is present, there is life and power and spiritual movement – and deep relationships – relationships in which people are personally and corporately moving forward in Christ, building Kingdom. He says that God gives IT and takes IT…that IT is connected to the Holy Spirit…but what is IT exactly? Craig's answer: "I don’t know."

But he has these theories about IT:

  • God makes IT happen
  • IT is from him, by him, and for his glory
  • We can’t create, reproduce, or manufacture IT
  • IT is rare that one person will bring IT but commonly one person can kill it
  • IT an’t be taught, but it is often taught
  • IT is not a system or a model, it is not seeker-sensitive, purpose driven, emergent, or submergent (but it can be found there, or not)
  • IT has an upside – wherever you see IT, there are transformed lives
  • IT has a down side -- if you have IT, people will criticize, throw stones, and shoot at you
  • IT HAPPENS (but often IT doesn’t)
  • Bad news: You may have IT now, but you may not keep IT forever
  • Good News: if you don’t have IT, you may still find IT one day
  • God wants to give IT to you

With that context set, Groeschel shared that he has observed/experienced that there are certain qualities that are there when IT is present:

Ministries or Organizations that have IT have a laser FOCUS

If you want to reach people that no one is reaching, you’ll have to do things that no one is doing (and stop doing what everybody else is doing)

What are you doing that you need to stop doing?

Ministries or Organizations that have IT see opportunities where others see obstacles

You have everything you need for life and godliness – so if you don’t have what you think you need, God must be thinking that you don’t need it

We see opportunities when we feel the urgency for the work.

Craig asked, "What would you do if I told you that you needed to go out and raise $100,000 this week?" He assumed (correctly, I think) that most in the rooms would be overwhelmed with the task and would claim that we could not do it. Then he asked us to imagine that someone we love dearly and deeply had a fatal disease, but if we could raise that amount of money in one week, we could purchase a "magic pill" that would restore that person to full health. Could we do it then? There seemed to be a sense in the room that we'd figure it out.

I am still mulling this one over personally.

What is God trying to show you through your greatest limitations?

Ministries or Organizations that have IT are willing to fail

Those without IT tend to play it safe. They say that "failure is not an option." Craig said that he is not an option, rather it is a necessity. Why? Simple. Failure is often the first step into seeing God Only in failure do we KNOW grace. (Consider Peter…walking on water, denying Christ, and in time, he preached and 3000 were saved in one day.)

Craig shared the story here of the donkey fallen in the deep well and the people who could not get it out. so they decided to be merciful and bury it. A shovel full of dirt - the donkey shook it off. Another shovel full and more shaking. And on it went. As the dirt accumulated, the donkey stepped up until he was finally out of the well. His invitation to leaders who face failure and eel like they are being buried alive by it, is to shake it off and step up. Rise again.
Just because you fail at something, does not make you a failure.

What has God called you to do that you are afraid to do? When will you do it?

Ministries or Organizations that have IT are lead by people who have IT

YOU need to have IT in order for your ministry to get IT. This is complicated by the reality that “ministry” can kill ITwhen building the kingdom becomes building the ministry

I tried to be Bill Hybles, but I’m just not Dutch; I tried to be Rick Warren, but I’m accidental; I tried to be Joel Olsteen, but I’m just not that happy.

A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Summit: Efrem Smith on Leadership Priorities

Efrem Smith. Wow. Okay, this preacher is annointed. He also has a delicious sense of humor.

He began by setting a context for his teaching by reminding us that the world in which we live and serve, is diverse. He said that this soil is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial. He then suggested that the strange thing is, the more diverse we get, the more divided we become. Without hesitation, Smith contends that we need leaders who will navigate this world to bring about healing, peace, empowerment, true biblical prosperity.

His call to those of us who beleive we are gifted and called (whatever order that came into ourlives) as leasers is that must lead – be prophetic, be professional. And in order to do that well, we must be willing to be invaded by a force that will equip and empower of us to lead multi-culturally no matter where we are in the world – not as experts, not as the qualified. We need to be willing to have things within ourselves crucified…

How can we do this? How can we lead within our current context? Smith turned to the Word.

We must become a beloved leader

Efram reminded us that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the term “the beloved community” – and then stated that he is convinced that there have to be beloved leaders first. Beloved leaders who lead people into beloved communities.

How? Smith says that you become a beloved leader when you allow a force of God to come upon you, work in you, and express itself through you. Within the context of the world in which we live today (check the demographics), he stated quite strongly that if you can’t love across race and class, across urban and suburban, you can’t lead today.

We must be an abiding leader

IF we love one another, God abides in us. That is biblical. But to love one another, this is impossible for us to do. And that's good. Smith expressed his conviction that we’ve got to abide in something (someONE) beyond us. But he quicly pointed out that what we often do is use an excuse that we are not qualified, but it is not about qualification. It is about the force beyond our self that picks us up and moves us into God’s work.

(Smith wanted us to understand this as an aside: God loves to call unqualified people into his work.)

As the Church and in order to be socially innovative and creatively transformative, we must be DIVERSE. We must stop being the thing to which the world points to prove that there are still issues of RACE, CLASS and PLACE.

We must be confessing leaders

Confess truth = confessing both what I’ve got right and what I’ve got wrong. This means that effective leaders say “my bad.” (Jonah did this.) Confessing leaders says “I don’t know what to do.”

What if we could see ourselves BEYOND our cultural and racial identities.

Now a little editorial commentary and gushing. If you get a chance to hear this session on the DVD sometime...DO IT! It is more than worth the time you'll invest. For those around the Wycliffe USA world, don't be surprised if you find this session working it's way into some part of our ongoing diversity training because Smith addresses issues that are critical to our understanding.

Summit: John Burke on Maintaining the Soil

John talked about the messiness of a life of ministry. We are all broken people, some of whom have been redeemed and some who may one day be so. But along the way of life, we are messy.

He talked about developing and maintaining the "soil" so that healthy people can grow up out of it. Creating a church culture where people can encounter the God of the universe and grow up into Him.

I want to share some highlights of some of his points:

We must cultivate the soil with grace-giving acceptance.

The world doesn’t do grace, it does law. We must be communities of grace.

Here's a great illustration that really worked for me. John asked, "If you found a priceless Rembrandt painting covered in mud, would you treat it like mud? Of course not. Would you even consider tring to hose it off yourself? No, you’d treat it according to its true value and would take it to a master to do the cleaning."

Grace makes beauty out of messy, ugly things.

Yet the reality in our world is that church people can make it difficult to find and experience God’s grace for those who need it most. For example, the perception of the church's hatred toward gays is a huge barrier to grace for many in our culture today. Hatred toward gays smacks of LAW and PHARISEEISM. In every culture there are culturally barriers to grace. John suggest that as leaders, we must be wise as serpents and gentle as doves as we identify and tear down these barriers. He is convinced that we can removed these barriers to grace without compromising biblical truth -- and I agree.

We must cultivate the soil with authentic caring

People are longing for loving relationships – for reconciliation. Our churches need to be marked by people who walk together, pray together, and confess to one another – becoming healing agents for one another.

No longer arrogant, but authentic. Calling out the masterpiece under the mud for others.

Our Deepest Fear (Poem by Marianne Williamson)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Note: This inspiring quote is taken from Marianne Williamson's book A Return to Love. Though often quoted as part of Nelson Mandela's moving inaugural speech, "Our Deepest Fear" does not appear in the speech. Marianne Williamson herself has commented on this mistaken attribution. For Marianne's website, click here.

Summit: Wendy Kopp

Bill Hybles interviewed Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of TEACH FOR AMERICA. This was terribly enjoyable (she was so not intimidated by Bill and that's always fun to watch) and challenging. As a "teacher" at heart and also by profession for some years in my life, I was thrilled to hear how a vision to fix the issues in our education system is working, bit by bit.
The solution? Take the best and brightest YOUNG LEADERS and put them into the classrooms of the most challenging schools for 2 years and cast a vision for them to BE THE SOLUTION.
Read about TEACH FOR AMERICA in a recent article published in US News.

Summit: Bill George on 21st Century Leadership

Bill George spoke engagingly and with great authority. I love when I listen to a Harvard professor and acutally have some clue as to what they are saying. I have chosen to share some highlights from George's teaching that I found helpful:

20th Century Leaders were Command and Control.

Things have changed.

1. People must be given the opportunity to step up and lead while they are YOUNG.
2. People are looking for meaning and significance in their work. That is a good thing.

21st Century Leadership will...

Align people around the vision, mission and purpose of the organization.

Empower people to step up and lead (rather than working so frenetically to get people to follow you).


Collaborate with others. Collaborate between organizations.

Understand what motivates leaders to lead? It is about their life stories – transformation experiences that become the voice of our calling. (Examples: Howard Schultz – Starbucks; Oprah Winfrey – Oprah)

Summit: Haugen on Courageous Decision Making

Jesus did not come to make us safe; Jesus came to make us brave. (Gary Haugen, founder and president of International Justice Mission @ Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2008)

My response to Gary's teaching (which you probably won't understand unless you were there or you take the time to read my LONG blog that follows):

Lord, I do not want to spend so much time in the visitor's center, placidly walking around the cul de sac, and opening jam jars.

This was an extraordinary session. I won't share all of my notes -- or all of the stories that Gary shared as he so artfully taught us about decision making and then used his life experience and ministry experience with IJM to illustrate that teaching. Powerful, powerful stuff.

I was glad that early on he defined INJUSTICE from a biblical perspective: INJUSTICE is about the abuse of power to take from other people the good things that God intended for them : life, liberty, dignity, fruit of their love and labor (Eccl. 4.1) – and it is SIN

Then he asked: What is God’s plan for bringing JUSTICE to the world? WE ARE. (Isaiah 1.17)

This is classic Summit theology -- and, I believe biblical theology -- that the local church is the hope of the world. It is another way to say what Joel Hunter frequently reminds us of at Northland: we are hear for those not yet included in the Kingdom.

So, with these thoughts and many examples, Gary set up a context that suggests clearly that our leadership must align with what God is about -- that we can lead with enthusiasm and people may follow with great energy, but if we are not leading people in the things that God is passionate about, then it's a waste.

Then he offered some basic principles about leading when it seems hopeless, scary and hard. This was the meat of his teaching.

What have we learned about leading when the task seems hopeless?

When the task before us seems hopeless, we must re-center the basis of our hope – despair comes from focusing our eyes on what we can do. Hope comes when we focus on who God is and what God can do. This is one of the reasons I love Northland's consistent focus, week after week, on worshipping God for who he is and what he has done. For me, that is a place where I am re-centered.

Gary reminded us that if God is passionate about getting it done, then he is responsible for getting it done. He reminded us of the story of when Jesus fed the 5000. He told his disciples to do this thing and then they started tallying what resources they had and what expertise and the size of the task Jesus didn’t ask the disciples for what is needed, he asked them for what they had.

Yeah, did I hear that? Jesus is not asking me to do what only HE can do, he is asking me to bring myself to him and let him do what he wants to do WITH me, through me.

What have we learned about leading when the task seems scary?

In seeking justice, we may be attacked in every way – but in exchange, we will experience God. Worth it? Yes. Besides, we must remember that Jesus did not come to make us safe; Jesus came to make us brave. (Yes, my internal iPod began to play Nicole Nordeman's song Brave when Gary made this statement.)

Gary suggested that we must consider "If my life of following Jesus doesn’t feel dangerous, I might check to see that it is Jesus I am following." Wow.

This is where Gary told a story about a trip he took with his dad and older brothers when he was 10 years old. They'd been wandering around in the very tourist-friendly area filled with paved paths and a visitor's center at Mount Rainier National Park. They came together to the place where the pavement ended and a posted sign warned would-be hikers of the dangers between themselves and the base camp and ultimately, the summit of Mt. Rainier. Gary, certain that the sign was understating the danger and lacking confidence in his ability to make it to the base camp (their declared destination), he convinced his father to let him go back and spend the afternoon at the Visitor's Center while his father and brothers moved forward. Long story short...Gary had a rather boring afternoon -- even though he worked hard to convince himself otherwise. His dad and brothers had a grand adventure.

The point he made with this story? We do not want to wake up one day to find that we have gone on the trip but we’ve missed the adventure that is following Christ.

It is Jesus himself to says to me: Follow me! Follow me BEYOND where you can go and what you can do–beyond where your competencies and strengths can take you.

What have we learned about leading when the task seems hard?

Choose not to be safe. Rather, choose to lead people into places of kingdom endeavor where you and they will NEED God. How will you know if you're there? It will show first in your PRAYER LIFE. Mother Theresa said that she couldn’t imagine doing her life’s work for more than 30 minutes without prayer. In addition, we must not let ourselves be motivated (to do or not to do) by FEAR.

Somewhere in this section, Gary talked about how safe we may feel wandering around our suburban neighborhoods -- on our cul de sacs. But really, is that the best we can do? And it was apparent to me that he was not speaking only or even primarily literally.

Choose to seek deep spiritual health. The transformational power of the steep climb is that is develops deep spiritual health in us as it requires it of us. We must not slip into the routine where our devotional life becomes a checklist. If you want to ignite passion and purpose in those whom you lead – lead them in a difficult climb.

Choose to pursue excellence. American Christians in general have moved far from this in our modern culture. We have spiritualized mediocrity. It is bad for our witness. It is bad for our soul. Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Is this just about making nice or is this also about doing our best?

Choose to seize the joy. Doug quoted Dallas Willard who said, “The first thing to disappear when spiritual health departs is laughter.” If nothing else, we should be thrown into great laughter in the fact that God is making his appeal to the world THROUGH US. We must remember the deep and eternal truth that "The JOY of the Lord is my strength!!" This is the unique power of the redeemed – truly for us, ALL IS WELL.

The power we carry within us -- the joy of the Lord -- is extraordinary. We are too often like body builders with extraordinary strength which we only use for flexing in front of mirrors. We only put it practical use to open jam jars. Again, is that the best we can do.

Summit: Hybles on Decision Making

About the Word of God :

I love this book. I love the clarity it brings to all of my decisions.”

(Bill Hybles @ Leadership Summit 2008)

Summit - Beginning to Gather

We are beginning to gather at the 2008 Summit site @ Discovery Church in Orlando. There is a growing group from Wycliffe who are congregating in the Cafe (rather than then main auditorium) where tables and WiFi make it almost as good as being on Bob's Lanai.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Leadership Summit 2008

Yes, going again. 

Orlando site. Will be thinking about my friends Bill & Terri in Boston and Dave & Louise in Maryland. Who knows how many friends I'll have in Indianapolis. I think I heard that Mandy will be in Chicago -- and I wonder if she went to the deal today for women. Hmmm. I'll have to find her on Facebook tomorrow and find out.

Expect blogging. (And know that you may be disappointed if you expect much.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Shrums in Orlando, TAKE TWO

Shrums in Orlando!!

Today I got to participate in one of my favorite "perk" activities -- connecting with Wycliffe folk on furlough when they attend what we call a Wycliffe Connection event. I love these events. This particular Connection event is being held in Orlando, so I got to attend in person rather than by phone -- and that was a double bonus.

The triple bonus came when I read through the list of those who would be attending and discovered Jeff, Peg, and Maggie Jo's names. Woooo hoooooo!! So, we had lunch together and then the kids headed to the pool while the rest of us had some update and Q&A time.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Happy Birthday, Senator Obama

Obviously I'm just not paying attention or I would have known early in the day that today is Mr. Obama's 47th birthday. 

My celebration of this event is really a whole lot more about the fact that this means he and I share a birth year than anything political. And, well, you're all going to find out soon enough: I love the number 47.

Without enough time left in the day for any more celebrating than this...a blog with nearly zero content will have to suffice.  Happy Birthday, Mr. Senator. 

Skip Rope, Not Lunch

I often carry my lunch to the office (and then eat it at the appropriate time, of course) and when I do, I almost always carry it in my lunch box. I got this FREE at Einstein's many years ago (while living in Indianapolis, so you know it's been at least 7 years).

Today I'm enjoying a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, carrots and celery, a really delcious apple and some lemonade. I have some mixed nuts in the box (and a Diet Coke) for later in the afternoon when I need a boost.

I don't always eat at my desk -- but sometimes it's restful for me to do so and catch up on FaceBook and such. Today my 11 am meeting went a little late and I want to take some time to mentally prepare for my 1 pm meeting -- so it was going to be a short lunch already.

Aren't you glad you asked? (Oh, wait. You didnt' ask. Apparently that doesn't stop me. Did it ever, really?)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

How we Define Ourselves and Others

I have been a fan of the show Monk for a number of seasons. I tend to like mystery shows in general and am attracted to quirky characters. 

Some would say that Adrian Monk--a failed police detective who is a brilliant investigator not in spite of but because of his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)--has served to normalize people with this disorder within the minds of the culture. He's made it okay to be OCD. In fact, he's made it "cool" to be OCD.


I frequently hear people identify themselves as having OCD. Another label people put on themselves with amazing regularity is ADHD.  From the talk around the water cooler (are there really water coolers in offices any more?) you'd think that half the population of the US has one or both of these disorders. 

I know that all of us have parts to our personalities and wiring that leans more one way than other. But does a leaning make a disorder? Even a strong leaning? 

I tend to organize my world in a certain way and really do like it when everything is in its place according to my definition of "organized." (And trust my, I define organized differently than many other people do.) This does not make me OCD. Even the fact that I have been known to get up in a meeting and straighten blinds or framed art on the wall does now make me OCD -- though it does get me labeled that by colleagues at the time.

I also occasionally have a hard time focusing or sitting still. Does that mean I have attention deficit? No, not any more than the fact that I sometimes have a sense of what someone is thinking makes me psychic.

But that's not my point. What I'm really wondering about is what is it about us that makes us want to label ourselves with these kinds labels?  Maybe it's just that after a couple of decades of modifying our vocabularies to be politically correct, we've had to turn our creative name-calling and labeling on ourselves and we've had to come up with new labels. Or, maybe it grows out of our need to be noticed & known combined with our fear of being noticed & rejected. 

I really don't know. This is just something that has been noodling around in my head for a while.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Some dogs don't need Romper Room

The chocolate lab in the photo is Ubi. Ubi used to live in Florida, but now lives in California. Gloria Ryan (Ubi's human) posted this photo on Facebook and I grabbed it from there to share here.

Dogs. I like them for all sorts of reasons. They aren't all as admirable as one another -- some dogs are certainly superior. Cootie is one such canine (but, as usual, I digress).

I do like how these puppies are working together to rescue this stick from the lake. Did someone have to teach them how to share? Probably not.

Me, on the other hand, I have to be taught. Over and over again. I'm so grateful that God gives us second chances and skilled tutors.