Spoiled examples…thanks Congress

Aspoiled brat2I'm not trying to be deliberately political.  That's not my role in life.  I know we all have a political side to our existence because we invariably deal with the complexities of relationships in organizations.  Even so, when it comes to national or local politics, I keep reminding myself that despite my personal feelings, I am in sole allegiance to a King and a Kingdom.  So, I'm ruggedly independent…I have 'conservative leanings' in certain issues and 'liberal leanings' in others.  Reason?  Because My King doesn't fall into one political ideaology or another…but that take is for another time and place.

Let me simply say in a non-partisan manner that what the Congress did the other day was just despicable given the examples our children and young people need in terms of responsible leadership. Yes, let's acknowledge that there are disagreements in politics…and what was going on with AG Holder is confusing at best.  NONE of us really know the whole story…I'll admit that right here and now.  But this tendency of some in politics simply to walk out of proceedings because of divisiveness is immature, irresponsible and a HUGELY bad example to the 1000's of kids in our culture who are watching their leader's examples.  So I say, "way to go" Dems…you demonstrated in vivid action what paralyzes all relationships – if you don't agree, you walk out (I also recall that GREAT example of responsible leadership when the same occurred in a broader scale in Wisconsin several months ago where members of their legislature "disappeared").  

OK, so what does that mean for our culture and children?  Massive implications…ok, you don't like what the teacher is saying, walk out.  You don't like what your parents are saying, walk out.  You don't like what your boss is telling you, walk out.  If you don't like what the professor is teaching, head for the door.  NO thought to standing your ground in your own convictions and embracing relationship and responsibility in the midst of that relationship.  You see, everyone knows (check out Scott Peck's writings sometimes) that responsible living happens in the midst of relationship.  A "tunnel of chaos" that is traveled in the midst of disagreement is necessary for anything that might be labeled "real" or "exemplary."  Anything less is what Peck calls, "pseudo relationship."  So, the only conclusion I can come to is that we have pseudo leaders in our countries hallowed halls.  They bicker for egotistic reasons…they walk out of procedures where real disagreements are present like spoiled babies.  As ususal the baby boomer generation shows its true colors…self-absorption and narcissism at the expense of true value and responsibility.  

Ok, maybe I'm a bit overreactionary…but it really disappoints me when I see leaders doing this…people are watching…civics classes are taking note…young leaders are are looking for mentors…so the babies of congress can't handle the heat?   Way to go…

Something that gets us in trouble ALL THE TIME…expectations!

AVenn-Diagram-of-Expectations-and-Reality-e1340392516910I bumped into this picture the other day…truthfully, now in hind sight, I can't remember where or how.  Probably a good thing because I would try to ignore it more intentionally if I did remember where I found it.  I've been trying to delete it off my desktop without thinking more about it or commenting on it…but it sticks around.  Again, I don't know why.  I control the desktop.  I can delete at will.  But there is something that gnaws at me everytime I look at it.  Maybe that's why it is still hanging around.  

Expectations are powerful things in our lives.  They "set us up" emotionally for a plethora of divergent feelings and reactions.  When I expect something to happen or someone to behave/feel/respond in a certain way I set myself up for anger, betrayal or disillusionment.  Why?  Because many times our expectations are fantasies.  They are fantasies because our expectations (when unrealistic) can NEVER be fully met.  Our expectations are driven by self-centeredness and a desire to control a person, outcome, etc.  That's why, when I was working my way through years of counseling (yep, that's happened, no surprise huh?) I kept being drawn back to facing REALITY and accepting it.  Reality is a wake up call…it brings us back to the facts not the dreams…it forces us to face truths that we wish would disappear…it gives us a snapshot of the way things are not the way we hope or pray they should be (for our benefit).  In reality, expectations create in us a desire to "caricature" life…in other words, without a dose of reality all we do is live a caricature of real life.  We relate to, work in, and feel in the midst of fantasy.  

I have to stare down expectations every day.  True story – I "victimize"  myself at the hands of unrealistic expectations all the time.  When I drive down to the building that houses our faith community every day, I have to own the expectations that I have of where God SHOULD have taken us after two years of life.  Of course, you can see that problem by simply looking at the words themselves…you never can SHOULD on God.  He operates differently and He doesn't cowtow to our expectations.  I open my eyes on a daily basis and expect to see a certain type of weather…of course, that type of weather is NOT a reality in our home state and town.  So, sometimes I walk around a bit angry that the weather isn't living up to my expectations…see what I mean?  I fall victim all the time to expectations as a way of avoiding reality.

So, you want a "real" health step to happen in your life?  Look at that picture again…the diagram is true.  Let's accept reality…have hopes and dreams but NOT unrealistic expectations.  I read a book years ago, Rapid Relief for Emotional Distress.  When I saw it at Barnes and Noble I thought, "how trite."  But then I scanned the opening chapter and was immediately hit with a truth that changed my life – Accept reality!  That's true on so many levels in your life and mine.  Accepting reality gives us an opportunity to THEN create a vision of how our life can grow in the midst of reality giving us a focus for personal action.  Otherwise, expectations only lead to being paralyzed in fear, bitterness, and defeatism ("this just isn't fair).  So think on that today…or, maybe not!  I have NO expectations.

Yep, I’m back…and here’s some stuff to consider

AI'mBack1Yep, you knew it would happen sooner or later.  After a few weeks of craziness, I thought we would kick the posts off again.  There are times that I miss it and other times where I'm simply glad that I don't have blog posts on my "to do" list.  Besides the point, after a much needed time away at a location in the world where cell phone and internet access is DENIED, here's some things to encourage you today:

I like Mike Breen…I don't know him personally but I have been encouraged by 3dm ministries, his books and his "tribe" (those who are involved in the 3dm world).  I have been blessed by his wisdom and the experiences that God has enabled him to reflect on for the exhortation of the broader Body of Jesus.  Faith communities everywhere can find some truths to be challenged by through Mike's ministry.  Here's some stuff that Mike wrote recently on faith communities that are "mission-driven"…key aspects that are "musts" in that lifestyle (I'll post some comments along the way in RED):

  1. Size of an extended family. A missional family is best understood in the range of 20-50 people, as it is small enough to care but large enough to dare. From much experience, I’d say it can be difficult to sustain long-term missional activity for a group smaller than this.  In our faith community here in Monroe, we are attempting to live this type of life as an ENTIRE community rather than atempting to build into our mission some type of "small group" or other "extended family" type of gathering.  In smaller faith communities it appears to me that it is necessary to see the DNA of being mission-driven affect and effect every relationship within the community in order to make disciple-making a key value.  To be an "extended family" that is challenged repeatedly through visioning, teaching, encouragement, modeling and coaching is what our faith community is attempting to actualize.
  2. UP/IN/OUT. Intentionally lives out the three dimensions of Jesus’ life. UPward dimension of life with the Father, INward dimension of life with the Body of Christ together, OUTward dimension of fully stepping into a broken world.  At Peace, this is the methodology that we adopted as a community.  We didn't start out by simply saying, "let's just borrow somebody else's articulation of ministry values/lifestyle commitments."  We spent over a year reading, praying, conversing and sharing some of how we perceived the Spirit's activity was alive and well in our midst.  Then, after kicking around a number of different words, we actually arrived at the same verbal destination as Mike articulates above…IN, OUT, UP…Growing in Jesus, Growing with each other, and Growing in mission/ministry…not only a snapshot of how a faith community is called to live but also how each disciple can "look" in actualizing the promise of God that "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Phil. 1:6)."
  3. Clear mission vision. Who is this Missional Community trying to bring the Kingdom of God to? The most successful MC’s have a very clear answer that could only be true of their group.  Peace does…our vision is only driven by our purpose – to make disciples…disciples discipling others…that's what we have embraced as our mission.
  4. Lighweight/Low maintenance. If the Missional Community can’t be led by people with normal 9-5  jobs who aren’t paid to do it, it’s not lightweight and low maintenance enough. It’s got to be simple and reproducible.  Every person HAS TO BE A "PLAYER" in how God's "economy" works…as a friend of mine says, "it is the POWER and NECESSITY of the WE."  Unless the mission is driven by every gifted and called and chosen disciple in the community, the church will continue to be personality driven and a place to "come to" exclusively at the expense of the call to "go and make disciples."  No person is exempted…all are called, gifted and chosen!
  5. Accountable leaders. The person(s) leading the Missional Community need to be accountable to others so there exists a dynamic of low control and high accountability. It’s one thing to say you hold people accountable, it’s another thing to do this well.  This too is important…leaders need to be visible, able to coach and mentor those in the community in faithful and mission-driven living and challenged to take their roles seriously in not only shaping but embedding the necessary DNA.

So there you go…post one after a couple of week's break!



Is this right? The extrovert “ideal”

AextrovertAttached is an article about extroverts and introverts.  I haven't read the book that is referenced…actually, it looks very interesting and is definitely on my "must list" for the summer.  But I've read it twice and it still makes me wonder, "is it right?"  Is "church" really about a cult of extroversion?  Frankly, for those of  you who know me, extroversion is my M.O.  It is how I'm wired up…it seems like the longer I operate within my spiritual gift mix and am with a group from which I can gain energy, I can be reved up for days.  Some of my friends tease me about being the "energizer" bunny or, as one pal says, "spit on a skillet."  Even so, there is something in me that asks the questions I believe this article is asking:  is ministry all about extroversion?  Can an introvert feel complete in a fellowship where it seems like the "quiet" people are seen as unfriendly and a group of quiet people are condemned as "cold?"  It's easy for me to be who I am…but if I wasn't an extrovert, would I be as effective of a leader?  Am I dependent upon my personality or the Lord?  Truthfully, as time goes on, I'm "feeling" less of the extrovert that I formally was…I  still thrive on crowds but I'm appreciating quiet time and "down" time more and more these days.  So, why don't you take a peek at the article and give it some thought…was Jesus an extrovert?  Does an effective leader or even a faithful Jesus follower have to be extroverted?  Where is there room and purpose for those who are wired up differently?  Are many people marginalized in the body of Christ because of the extrovert "ideal?"  You tell me… Download Do We Have an Extrovert Ideal_ (RJS)

Embracing the Tipping Point…

Aloadgame_tippingpoint_logoEmbracing the Tipping Point

As many of you know, I’m a student of the culture.  I read incessantly and breeze through numerous articles that analyze and debate what is occurring in our lives.  One of the books that caught my attention a few years back was Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Tipping Point.  I must admit, I didn’t give it serious time when it was published back in 2000.  But over the years, Gladwell’s concepts and thesis has proven true…and his overview of dynamics that bring about transformation and change have peeked my interest. 

Here’s a quick “summary” of the book – Gladwell asserts that most trends, styles, and phenomena are born and spread according to routes of transmission and conveyance that are strikingly similar.  In most of these scenarios, whether the event in question is the spread of syphilis in a major city in our country or the sudden spike in the popularity of a specific shoe that is being sold, there is a crucial juncture, which Gladwell terms the “tipping point,” that signals a key moment of crystallization that unifies isolated events into a significant trend.  Gladwell introduces three primary “rules” for how “epidemics” spread.

The three “rules of epidemics” that he identifies are: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. He concludes his writing by pointing out that a few “super infectors” are also personally responsible for dozens, or in some cases, hundreds of transmissions of key content, cultural transformation and community change. This role is a category of people that Gladwell identifies as “Connectors,” who play an inordinate role in helping new trends begin to “tip,” or spread rapidly.

The Law of the Few: Influential People

The attainment of the tipping point that transforms a phenomenon into an influential trend usually requires the intervention of a number of influential types of people.  First are the “Connectors”, individuals who have ties in many different groups and act as conduits between them, helping to engender connections, relationships, and “cross-fertilization” that otherwise might not have ever occurred. “Mavens” are people who have a strong compulsion to help others by helping them make informed decisions. “Salesmen” are people whose unusual charisma allows them to be extremely persuasive in inducing others’ decisions and behaviors. Gladwell identifies a number of examples of past trends and events that hinged on the influence and involvement of Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen at key moments in their development.

The Stickiness Factor: Ideas that influence behavior

Another crucial factor that plays a key role in determining whether a trend will attain exponential change is what Gladwell terms “the stickiness factor.” This refers to a unique quality that compels the phenomenon to “stick” in the minds of the community and influence their future behavior.  An interesting element of stickiness, as defined by Gladwell, is the fact that it is often counterintuitive, or contradictory to the prevailing conventional wisdom.

The Power of Context (Parts One and Two): How Context changes everything

Two other crucial aspects of the complex processes and mechanisms that cause trends to “tip” into mass popularity are what Gladwell terms the Power of Context. If the environment or historical moment in which a trend is introduced is not right, it is not as likely that the tipping point will be attained.   Clearly, in order for a trend to tip into massive popularity, large numbers of people need to embrace it. However, Gladwell points out that groups of certain sizes and certain types can often be uniquely conducive to achieving the tipping point. Gladwell remarks that groups of less than 150 members usually display a level of intimacy, interdependency, and efficiency that begins to dissipate markedly as soon as the group’s size increases over 150.

NOW, why all this?  As succinctly as I can state it, here’s the deal:

It was almost two years ago that Vicky and I joined our lives together with a faith community in Monroe, Washington.  At that time, I promised the people of that community that I would do everything in my power, using the gifts God has graciously given me to be able to inspire, motivate, train, equip and release them and their gifts for Kingdom ministry.  From my humble viewpoint, Peace was at a key “Tipping Point” in its history…the faith community was either going to be moving with the Spirit into the future following the empowerment and ministry of Jesus in our community or would be on a track toward community closure.  To use Gladwell’s comments, the Context was right…everyone was embracing the fact that life as they knew it as followers of Jesus had to change…in fact, the specific context as a faith community of under 150 (to use Gladwell’s paradigm) made them the PERFECT context from which change could occur.  What they needed was a new visitation from God…a renew “rekindling” of a spirit of love and dedication to the ministry of Jesus.  Together, we had to put a line in the sand in saying  that we were no longer concerned primarily about ourselves but about that which stirred the heart of God – people in our community who needed to experience God’s love, acceptance and grace (whether or not they EVER bought into our expression of faith and community living).  We needed to become “super infectors” with the love of God. 

As with many local churches (maybe even YOUR congregation) I believe Peace is again at that Tipping Point.  I have spent almost two years teaching, conversing, praying, and revisioning in partnership with my brothers and sisters in that community.  We have crafted statements and made promises before God and each other.  Our context is right…the “stickiness” factor of the message and presence of Jesus is continuing to change lives…now we need to encourage each other to RELEASE God’s gifts in and through each of our lives.  If any epidemic needs to spread it is the radical generosity of God’s love…person-to-person, relationship to relationship, heart to heart.  Would you pray with us?  Would you pray that we as a community can OWN this moment…the moments in His-story that are uniquely ours?  This is our time to do Kingdom work…for all of us no matter the context, this is our moment that God has given us to be faithful to His call!  

Some random thoughts…

Arandom[1]Sometimes I find things on the blogs and articles that I read that I copy and paste and stick within a “thinking bucket” on my MacBook Pro.  They percolate there…as I tell my biblical studies students, “any good intellectual and spiritual endeavor needs deliberate incubation periods in order for new learnings and new truths to sink their way into our souls.”  So, to tell you the truth, I don’t know where the thoughts below originate from…I know I take notes and write things down compulsively…so many of them may have originated with me.  Some may have been taken from books I’ve read.  I don’t know…but as I was looking through some of that stuff, I thought, “there’s a blog post.”  So, here goes:

It is time to re-imagine and take a huge risk – pursue a new reality. 

  1. I’m not interested in covetously holding our ground
  2. I’m not satisfied with us/them mentality
  3. I’m not giving up on one person who has come to Jesus or been a part of us building a faith community
  4. I’m not satisfied with singing bland songs but fierce songs that call/paint a picture of a new life/reality/world
  5. I deliberately join the Spirit in doing “creating all things new” on a transformed foundation

“Someone asked me a while ago, “What is the task of the Christian today?  Shall I answer, “faith, hope, and love”?  That sounds beautiful but I would say “courage”.  No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth.  Our task today is recklessness.  For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature.  We lack a holy rage.  The recklessness that comes from the knowledge of God and humanity.  The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets…and when the lie rages across the face of the earth – a holy anger about things that are wrong in the world.  To restlessly seek a recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms with the norms of the Kingdom of God.  And remember that the signs of the Christian church have always been the Lion, the Lamb, the Dove, and the Fish…but never the chameleon.”  Danish scholar, Kaj Munk

We have intellectualized the faith so much – we’ve pulled he true nature of the God/man we follow out of him:

  • We’ve adopted a tame/insipid Jesus
  • We’ve adopted a mission that is consistent with that picture instead of a Kingdom revealing, Kingdom actualizing, Kingdom initiating Jesus.
  • The story of Jesus is really a paradigm of life – as Jesus was on a mission so we too have a mission that defines our followership
  • We sanitize Jesus and tame him in our orthodoxy and in doing so – “Jesus has let us off the hook” of pursuing that for which he lived, died and rose as well as that in which He/God invested through the gift of the Spirit.

I’m at a point in my life where I just want to imitate Jesus:

  • Sharing life in service to others
  • Employing the language/thought/relationships of those who we seek to share Kingdom
  • Go to the people instead of them to us
  • Doing deeds that create words – where the Gospel is not only communicated in concepts and words but also communicated through ordinary means of love, servanthood, friendship, goodness, and kindness
  • For example, there may be more “Christian” importance in greeting someone at the grocery store than sitting in a class memorizing the theological doctrines
  • I want to be authentic, honest, genuine, and real
  • I desire to build a community of love/service
  • I want to be a part of a movement where everyone shares their gifts – in the common task of serving Jesus
  • I want to do everything I can to live the kingdom of God
  • I want to do everything I can to serve a cause greater than myself  – to be a community “on the prowl” in love

“If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs and organize the work; teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean”.  Antoine de Saint-exupery

We need to let Jesus be our reference point on the open ocean.  We need to push off from the shore and let the winds of the Spirit take us to where God wills.   We need to embrace a radical spirit of encouragement of each follower of Jesus  – to be inspired because God is already at work before we go into the places and relationships that He is sending us – all we have to do is cooperate – follow God into all places trusting in His mercy, grace and power.  

Enough said for today…