Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pride & Glory, Truth & Beauty

Phil's new album is out TODAY! It's great and it's free! As usual, he can speak about it better than anyone. He sent this note about the ep:

I'm writing to let you know that my new album, Pride & Glory, Truth &
Beauty, is now available online @ any of the following websites:


Recently, I was at a prayer and fasting retreat where the speaker
pointed out that one of the constant themes of the New Testament is
the Apostle Paul's prayer for more light, both for himself and for
those he had led to Christ.

This album is a prayer for light. The songs on it were written as
far back as almost 10 years, and as recently as just a few months
ago. They're held together by the theme of sight. It is a prayer
that I am still praying, a prayer that all of us are called to pray
as Christians. It is a prayer put in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
It is the prayer for more light from the Lord.

Light for our pride. Because God resists the proud but gives grace
to the humble.
Light to see His glory. Because the glory of God is all around us
and yet our sin hides Him from us.
Light to know His truth. Because even our best reasoning cannot
bring us to the revelation of God.
Light to see His beauty. Because even the faintest glimpse will
awaken our senses and set us in our right minds.

I hope you enjoy the album. I hope that you are blessed as you
listen and that it encourages you to press in even further in your
quest to know Him.

"May God give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation" so that you
can see His glory, know His truth and experience His beauty.

Grace and more grace to you,


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Get out the Vote!

Be sure you get out and vote today! And don't give any lame excuses like, "I'm only only 4 years old!" Check out this YouTube feature.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sally Morganthaler

Several months back, my brother told me that his church was going to have Sally Morganthaler as their guest for their parrish retreat. I was very impressed and told him so. A couple of weeks later, he told me he had a crazy idea and wondered if we would want to join them at the retreat. The timing was good as the retreat was at the end of September and our new nephew was due in late August. We took them up on the invitation to hear Sally and to see our new nephew, Teddy.

For those who don't know, Sally Morganthaler is one of the leaders in the Emergent movement, an author, a worship leader and speaker. I have read some of her stuff, but had never heard her speak. There's a lot to share from the visit to Pittsburgh, which I will do, but wanted to start with some of the thoughts I scratched down from Sally's talks.

I should start with the church. Jeff and Paige attend Church of the Ascension, an Episcopal Parrish in Pittsburgh. About 400 people attend and it's an urban church. About 85% of those who attend don't live in the immediate neighborhood, but travel anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes to get there.

Sally's primary point in her talks was that top down systems don't get the job done, particularly in emergency situations. She encouraged us to think of the huge numbers of lost people that we know personally as an emergency, an urgent situation. I guess I should say right here, that I don't think I heard anything earth shattering this weekend. It wasn't necessarily anything new, but she does a good job of telling the story, saying known things in interesting ways. What she wanted most for the congregation to grab hold of is the fact that they shouldn't wait until there's a program or a set direction from the Priest or the church leaders to go out and do something about the emergency situation that the lost all around us find themselves in. Salt and light in the area where you are, not even worrying particularly about how close that is to the church building. She encouraged people not to get hung up on the fact that they might live in one section of the city or the suburbs and commute to church. So what. Wherever you live, work or play, make an impact there.

Here are some quotes from her talks:

Worship (in the near future) will look more like a hand reaching out to touch another hand (than a hand raised or a given type of music)

The default in the Church is so much organization that you can't get anything done.

A lot of churches are like JC Penny. It's all inside. Congregations are consumers of ministry products, with a very centralized ministry.

Jesus didn't spend a whole lot of time in the Temple.

She referred several times to this quote from William James: "I am done with big things and great things, and I am for those tiny, invisible, molecular forces that creep from individual to individual like so many rootlets, or like the capillary action of water, yet which, if you give them time, will rend the hardest monument of man's pride."

Dirt calls us.

It's hard to be a leader and it's hard to be led.

A lot of leaders have a problem with people having dreams. They're hard to control.

"No problem can be solved wit hteh same level of thinking that created it." Albert Einstein

So it was a good time. I'll post on the family part of the trip some other time. Just wanted to get some of these thoughts down before they were destined to sit forever on paper in my Bible.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Joe Noland on you.

I get a regular email from Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders. I get it because I bought something once or signed up for something or was randomly selected by The Committee to Send Emails. Anyway, I like to read them sometimes to remind myself that I'm in church leadership, not simply in property management, architectural design, community politics, traffic engineering or any of the other aspects of my current iteration of church leadership.

I got this one recently which contains a reprint of a Bill Hybels article on leadership. The whole thing is good and I have some thoughts on my personal style below, but I think reposting the whole article here would be plagiarism or might get me kicked off the email list. If you want to read the whole thing and I recommend it, go here. Here's an excert:

Leadership Journal, Winter 1998
Finding Your Leadership StyleTen different ways to lead God's people. by Bill Hybels

"A few years ago, I began to notice major differences in the ways gifted leaders led their teams. They all had the spiritual gift of leadership referred to in Romans 12:8, but they approached the challenges of leadership differently.
1. Visionary leader
2. Directional leader
3. Strategic leader
4. Managing leader
5. Motivational leader
6. Shepherding leader
9. Re-engineering leader"

So there are 9 of them. The other 3 are the ones I'm thinking about these days in conjunction with what I'm doing. I think I see myself possessing and using numbers 7 and 8, Team-building and Entrepeneurial leadership. I think I need to possess and use number 10 Bridge-building leadership. I'd appreciate any insights those of you who know me well might be able to share about whether you agree with my self-assessment and how to get there on the areas in which I need to grow.

I should be careful as Hybels ends the article with this encouragement:

"It concerns me that there is a certain amount of "gift envy" among church leaders these days. God gave each of us our gift mix for a reason. When leaders adopt someone else's style, they miss the unique opportunities God has given them.I celebrate when I look around the world and see flourishing churches of all kinds, with many different types of leaders, because it's going to take a variety of churches led by a variety of leaders to reach our world with the love of Christ.Whatever your style, recognize it, celebrate it, and step up to the plate and lead."

7. Team-building leader
Team-building leaders have supernatural insight into people. They find or develop leaders with the right abilities, character, and chemistry with other team members. They place people in the right positions for the right reasons who will then produce the right results.
When the team-building leader gets everyone in place, he or she then says to the team, "You know what we're trying to do. You know what part of the mission you're responsible for. You know what part of the vision the rest of us are responsible for. So head out. Work hard. Achieve your objectives. Communicate with your co-laborers, but lead."
The team-building leader might not nurture or manage people well. He or she reasons that shouldn't be necessary. If the right people are in the right slots doing the right things for the right reasons, they'll get the work done without the leader looking over their shoulder. Few things are as exciting to me as drawing together the right people, putting them in the right positions, then letting that team play hard and have fun.

8. Entrepreneurial leader
These leaders possess vision, boundless energy, and a risk-taking spirit. Their distinguishing characteristic is they function best in a start-up operation. They love being told it cannot be done.
But once the effort requires steady, ongoing leadership—once things get complex and there are endless discussions about policies, systems, controls, and databases—the entrepreneurial leader loses energy and may even lose focus and confidence. He or she starts to peek over the fence and wonder if there's another start-up project out there.
Entrepreneurs often feel guilty at the thought of leaving something they gave birth to. But if they think, I can't give birth to something every few years, something inside them starts to die. That's their style. It's important in the kingdom.
The apostle Paul was an entrepreneurial leader. He wanted to build churches where Christ had not been named. He wanted to pioneer them, then let someone else run them so he could move on. He made no apologies for his leadership style.

10. Bridge-building leader
This leader brings a wide variety of constituencies together under a single umbrella of leadership so that a complex organization can achieve its mission.
This feat requires enormous flexibility in a leader—the ability to compromise and negotiate, to listen, understand, and think outside of the box. It requires not only the ability to be diplomatic; it requires also the gift of being able to relate to diverse people.
In a start-up venture, a leader is surrounded by those who share his or her vision. Contrast that with a church or parachurch organization made up of scores of well-defined constituencies, many of whom care little about the overall vision of the ministry anymore. They just want to make sure their interests are served.
I talked to a pastor who said, "I'm dying. The choir wants new designer robes. The youth want a new gymnasium. The missions department wants to give more money away. The Sunday school department wants more classrooms. The production people want more equipment. The seniors want large-print hymnals, and the Gen Xers want to turn the board room into a cappuccino bar."
The variety and velocity of those requests had him imagining each of those subministries as the enemy. But that situation fires up a bridge-building leader. A bridge builder becomes the best friend and advocate of all the constituent groups. He or she seeks to unite them and focus their efforts.

Bill Hybels is pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.

Friday, September 22, 2006

33 Things I've Learned

Birthdays are times to take stock, to evaluate where we stand, where we've been, where our lives are going. I thought it might be appropriate to mark my 33rd birthday by sharing 33 things I've learned over those years. This list should not be construed as connecting to each year of life--number 7 is not the thing I learned the year that I was 7. Nor is it a ranked list. Number 1 should not be considered as more important than number 33, but both of those are probably more importnat than number 3. Some of it might be considered deep or thoughtful. Much of it is halfway to foolish and I make no apologies for that. Some of the items may be immediately applicable to your life. Some of them will make so little sense to you that it will annoy you the rest of the day.

If you recognize some of this wisdom, please be flattered, not offended in the case that it came from you personally. That means you've instructed me or played a significant role in my life. I'm not stealing from you (this time, see number 15). I'm acknowledging what you've given to me with gratitude. Where I am using quotations from others, I've tried to attribute them as best I can.

1. A happy wife is a happy life
2. "Time will heal all wounds but until then you will bleed profusely." Julius Caye
3. Don't drink grape juice with tomato soup.
4. A lot of the time, I speak more loudly than I think I am.
5. "What mommies and daddies think is warm, kids think is HOT!" - Riley Forster
6. Even the most thoughtful, beautiful, wonderful, loving women in the world are sometimes incapable of putting jelly on toast or a bagel without making a complete mess.
7. The Enemy likes to use our areas of greatest giftedness as the most effective avenue to great temptation.
8. I am not six minutes older than everyone else my age (a rude awakening I experienced around the age of 8).
9. Wearing a "Caveman in a Bag" costume while barefoot and walking around on flagstone in New Haven, CT on Halloween night is NOT a good idea.
10. Ten years later, you will always look back at yourself and realize how little you knew.
11. Cheesecake never tastes quite as good as it sounds or looks.
12. Vacation truly means having no idea what time of day it is and not caring.
13. Like all other forms of intolerance, Lactose Intolerance is a disease of denial.
14. We are far more selfish than any of us likes to admit.
15. Wisdom borrows. Genius steals.
16. No event in life has meaning more fleeting than taking the SAT
17. No email is clever enough in its content to justify forwarding it to Tim Miller.
18. Sledding down a grassy hill on a cardboard box after all the snow has melted almost always leads to your home being burglarized.
19. Family traditions are easily created and hard to break.
20. ."The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." - a great quote attributed to many people, so I'm not sure of the original author of this one.
21. Birthdays drop significantly in their importance after 21. After 25, the only ones that really matter for the rest of your life are 50 and 100.
22. If you have the choice of buying a child a sleek and expensive toy or simply handing them a cardboard box and asking what can be done with it that would be fun, go with the cardboard box every time, but only if you're prepared to stick around for whatever is fun.
23. I do my best work when under pressure.
24. Rarely do people or institutions conspire nearly as much as we give them credit for.
25. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." -Jesus
26. The greatest movies and TV shows ever produced during your childhood were full of bad acting, predictable dialog and completely weak special effects. For me, this list includes but is not limited to: the Star Wars Trilogy, the Dukes of Hazzard, Chips, and the Dark Crystal.
27. A favorite shirt is like a truly good friend. They should not be taken for granted and there's nothing quite as comfortable as being close to them.
28. The story of Lance Phondjo could quite possibly represent the single most ingenious use of one of those felt letter boards in the history of humanity.
29. One of the requirements of deep friendship may be hearing the words "I hate you" at 7 o'clock in the morning.
30. Happiness can be found at many tables provided three things are present: Crab Rangoon, Boneless Spare Ribs and my friend, General Tsao.
31. Writing a witty birthday list on very little sleep is harder than you think.
32. Sharing any gift that's been given to you is far more rewarding than hoarding it for yourself.
33. "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." --God

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Signs of Life

Funny how My Computer is a good indication of My Life.

Monday, September 11, 2006

One Nation Under God

There will be many moments of silence on this solemn day as we pause to remember. My prayer for today is that God will be manifest in those moments. I don't know what people say (silently) or do during moments of silence if prayer is not a regular event in their lives. I just pray that while the nation is silent that
God's presence is incarnated
God's power is in effect
God's plan is enacted.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Props to Atari Nation

Ok, lovers of the Big 80s, you have to check out this great stop-animation video on YouTube. It starts with a tribute to the most under-appreciated Atari game of them all: Centipede.

Got to love guys who live in their mother's basements and have way too much time on their hands. I'm gonna guess this guy was sporting parachuete pants and his Member's Only jacket while he edited this video.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Riley Forster: Kindergartner

So, today the world changed. Riley started (full-day) kindergarten at the Cottage Street School. She's in Ms. Sullivan's class with 21 of her new closest friends. It was a sunny day, more like summer than fall. I never bargained for what it would be like to send our first off to kindergarten, even after 2 years of pre-school. Jen was the strong one. I was a mess from the moment I stepped into the living room and saw her dressed in her first day outfi. Let's just say I ducked behind several corners and kept my comments to a minimum. Riley was excited to get going and Sydney would not be left behind with Auntie Jodi and Uncle Phil who were in town visiting. Getting Syd out of the classroom when it was time to go was a great challenge.

Dinner was an event as Riley ran down the day's events, starting with gym, but they didn't do gym, they just read a book about a boy in a class with a fat gym teacher that told them what they would be doing in gym. 2 recesses. Lunch in the cafeteria. She didn't eat her banana. The teachers didn't know the rules, so the kids had to make them up. Riley's addition to the rules was "no pushing." Sand table, drawing table and home again in one piece. Jen was beside herself because she was 10 minutes late to pick Riley up and all of the halls were empty when she arrived...because she was 10 minutes early and everyone was still in class.

So tomorrow is day 2 and maybe it will become easier to believe that this is all happening.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ministry in the City

So, I have this weird feeling sometimes like I shouldn't blog about a subject that is too deep or heavy after not posting for a long time. (Phil, you noticed. How sweet.) But I've got nothing else and this has been on my mind a lot lately. I guess I haven't blogged a lot about life in the Kroc world. If you don't know anything about Salvation Army Kroc Centers go here. Who am I kidding? No strangers read this blog.

Anyway, I've been dragging this article home in my bag every night intending to read it after everyone goes to bed or something. It's by Tim Keller, pastor of the vibrant Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the City. In my estimation, he is one of the most important voices on the church today in urban areas worldwide. In a presentation at the Redeemer Global Network Conference, Tim presented on ministry along five fronts necessary in major city-centers. You can read the whole thing here.

This is what he recommends: "City-center churches should have as equal as possible emphases on: a) welcoming, attracting, and engaging secular/non-Christian people; b) character change through deep community and small groups; c) holistically serving the city (and especially the poor) in both word and deed; d) producing cultural leaders who integrate faith and work in society; and e) routinely multiplying itself into new churches with the same vision." He then goes on to say that many churches do one or two of these things with a high level of effectiveness, but fall short, outright fail or completely ignore others. His argument is that we need to be doing all five in a balanced way.

As I contemplate the opportunity in front of us with the Kroc Centers, and specifically ours in Uphams Corner, I know there's a lot to talk about and many have. Many have spoken about
the gift and whether we should have accepted it, the changes it will bring about in the larger Army world, whether it's possible to keep the Salvation in The Salvation Army (the argument about where the C went in YMCA), about whether it's right or wrong to lure people closer to Christ by attracting them to a pool with a waterslide.

For me, I guess, I feel like we're building a new corps in the city. We're building CHRUCH AND, not "swim and gym and oh, by the way, a little Jesus", not Gold's Gym with a cross or shield on it. If the Kroc Center we're building truly is and will be church first and everything else second, yes, it will look different from the churches we grew up in, but hey, no corps I ever attended had a coffee bar either and we all want to be like Willow Creek. If the Kroc really is church first, then I feel like we are ideally placed to succeed in almost all of these areas, perhaps going five for five.

a) welcoming, attracting, and engaging secular/non-Christian people -- Hello! If we can't attract people to this incredible place, we're in big trouble. The big challenge I see here is the engaging of non-Christian people. The question everyone asks is whether they truly will come to swim or dance or get tutoring and cross over to the chapel. I don't get the fear here. It seems like we do this with all kind of Army programming (and generally the Church does this too). In the past, it seems like we felt comfortable that the ceramics class was nice, but it was easy to get people away from the kiln and move them toward the altar? Is the fear that the "fun elements" of a Kroc center will be too much fun and people won't want to move to the quieter side of the bulding where the chapel is? Begs the question, why can't they get saved in the pool or the computer room. Overall, though, we've got this one well pegged.

b) character change through deep community and small groups -- can only speak for Kroc Boston, but we have a deep community already on Vernon Street (Roxbury Corps which will move in to Krocsbury) and a deep community, though secular in its organization, on Dudley Street. It's there waiting. All we need to do is layer the small groups over the top and do them well. The big question here is can we put the Kingdom over the Congregation, Salvation over Statistics?

c) holistically serving the city (and especially the poor) in both word and deed -- be The Salvation Army. Perhaps the simplest of all of them for us as a movement.

d) producing cultural leaders who integrate faith and work in society -- the challenge for all churches. Kroc has a unique advantage though in that we hope those who come through our doors are spending a lot of time there--kids in daycare and afterschool programs, seniors in a daily program, sports leagues, cultural clubs, workforce development programs. The theory is that we will be touching many aspects of people's lives so that we should be able to have a large impact in those multiple areas, helping people to learn to "think Christianly" (Keller's words)

e) routinely multiplying itself into new churches with the same vision -- at once the biggest and not the biggest challenge. The Army makes people jump through too many hoops to plant a corps and yet doesn't provide adequate structure to sustain plants, ironic. That's why this is a challenge. We're not going to plant more corps in cities with Kroc centers because of resources we're already pouring into those cities for Kroc. But, what if new fellowship groups started to spring up within and around the area where Kroc centers are going? What if people understood that they could come to Kroc as a primary gathering point and for life enrichment activities, but could get tied in to the existing corps down the street from them as their worshipping community. Kroc should not steal soldiers from area corps, but should serve as a conduit for new contacts at South End, Jubilee House, Dorchester Hispanic, etc. Again, provided we can have a larger view than we usually possess.

This is way too long for a blog. But I guess I've just spilled out lots of stuff I've been wrestling with. I think my observations are over-simplified and optimistic, but how else can I be when I'm working on the most complicated thing I've ever been a part of and the one that holds the greatest opportunity for the Kingdom? Keeping it simple is a survival tactic. Being hopeful that God will accomplish what He wants to do there is exactly what I want to do.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I know this is a bit of a lame way to rejoin the ranks of the bloggers, but hey, it's something, right? I don't know if you've heard of GoodSearch. It works just like any other search engine you use, but you can set it up to help a non-profit. Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) is our partner on the Kroc Project, so I've set them up to benefit every time I use GoodSearch. For every search I do, they get a penny. I know it doesn't sound like much and at present, it's only raising a minimal amount for them (you can check how much they've raised right on the search page by clicking on "Amount Raised"). But if more people use it, they'll make more money.

So if you're inclined, set GoodSearch as your home page and select Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative to support or choose your own non-profit to support. Doesn't cost you anything and it's helping someone else. That's a pretty easy commitment.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Potent Quotables 2 or Do you need to do more than being holy?

Ok, so this was going to be a reply to a comment made by Tim. It became so long it turned into a new post.

"Showing up and being Holy makes you faithful, but it doesn’t necessarily make you effective."

I recognize the widespread copout that can occur with regard to officer recruitment and evaluation, but I think there has to be some discussion about what effectiveness looks like. I love the Sandra Ryans and Chick Yiulls of the world who are doing effective ministry and can communicate in a terrific way and who are rock stars. For that matter and for the same reasons, I love the Steve & Sharon Busseys and Russell Rooks and Tim and Jamie Millers.

Here's the thing, though, I know that it's not all about the rock stars. It's also about these people who aren't that well spoken but have hearts to love their people, it's about people who may go about the business of Corps Officering very differently from the way I would, it's about people society would not tap to be leaders. But they are effective as Salvation Army officers because people see what they have and want some of it. I can't tell you their names and you won't know them anyway.

My concern is with the angle that seems to say that it's possible that some hypothetical set of officers could be holy and could be showing up and that God would not bring fruit due to lack of training or expertise. I just don't buy that. I quote this all the time, because it's so dead on. Turn it around to be about excuses why others can't be effective:

In his book The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren writes, "If you're not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses."

The caveat is that if you are a holy person and have a heart for people, you will be driven to minister more effectively by being trained, by using best practices, by checking your approach with peers who share your passion. Holy people who show up aren't static in minstry. They find paths to greater effectiveness, and they already know the most important one--being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and keeping in tune to what God is doing in and around them.

Friday, June 30, 2006

You can't spell gangsta without TSA.

So, I know I haven't blogged about the Kroc project in a while. I have this great story to share about a community meeting the other night. We were presenting to one of the many neighborhood associations that make up the Uphams/Dudley community. After a short presentation, we opened the floor for questions. We had several and then, right at the end, a woman stepped up with this question: (and this is as direct a quote as I can give)

"I don't want this to sound crass, but I've been hearing some little rumors, some whispers out there in the community and I need to ask. There's a feeling that The Salvation Army is coming in here, kind of like (I'm sorry), like a gangsta, that you say you're coming in to build this great community center, but you have your eye on this building over here to do some housing and that spot over there to do something else..."

That was pretty much the question: is The Salvation Army the next developer in the neighborhood, coming in "like a gangsta" promising one very good thing in order to get more for itself down the road.

Personally, I just think it's hilarious that the word gangsta was used to describe the Army, but then when you scratch the surface a little bit, you see one of the great challenges of the Kroc gift. It mandates that we come into an underserved community and provide something beyond their wildest dreams. The people in this neighborhood have been put down and swindled for so long that it is difficult for them to trust that we intend to bring community benefit and not expect something more. The Kingdom is counterintuitive to human nature and to what past experience has taught this community. We have a lot of work to do in continuing to live out the Kingdom with integrity amongst our neighbors.

I guess this means I can't drive the Shieldmobile with my gangsta lean on anymore.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Potent Quotables

Since March 4th of this year, I've done something I hadn't done in a long, long time: look forward to the new War Cry coming out. I think most of you know why, but in case you don't, a guy named Ed Forster is the new editor of the War Cry and I have to say he's doing a pretty good job with the Army's national magazine.

Anyway, one of the sections I turn to first (because I have the attention span of a bag of pretzels) is the quotes page. There are generally half a dozen or so quotes from various sources. I found this one in the June 24 issue.

"The two keys to Salvation Army officership are:
1. Be Holy
2. Show up for work."

Colonel James Knaggs, May 20, 2006

Now this quote may run contrary to some people's opinion and specifically to some of the thoughts in Tim's recent blog, but I think he's quite right. I like that there are 2 parts and I don't think you can separate the two. They're in the right order, but one without the other is really pointless. I'm convinced that if the early Army wasn't too polished and wasn't nearly as professional as we are today, that they bested us by a fair margin on these 2 points.

So props to the War Cry for being an engaging publication again. Props to Colonel Knaggs for nailing it in two sentences (a true gift of his). And props to those officers that are managing to hit the mark on points 1 and 2.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Talk v. Power

"For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power."
1 Corinthians 4:20

Sometimes, I think if the Church could only take this verse on as a life verse, a lot of the problems we have would fade away. Ironically, a lot of churches seem to be more about talk than about power. We talk about the way things should be done, we talk about each other, we talk about the car the pastor drives or the house the corps officer lives in. But how often can we really say we are about the business of experiencing the power of the Kingdom of God when we are at church?

It's always a little funny to take a shot at blogging within the confines of a blog post, but even this medium can serve to encourage us to talk and not to tap into the power of the Kingdom of God.

Event Christianity comes into play here as well. Lots of people love to go to conferences and retreats and talk about how life will be different when they return. Those of us who plan such events often struggle to be sure that anything ever truly comes out the mountaintop times.

I think the challenge is that it's so easy to talk, but it takes a lot more work to be disciplined enough to experience the power of God regularly. Some of that is about noticing the power of God in the small things of life. Part of it is about being in the spiritual disciplines enough to position ourselves to experience power. A lot of it is about being Kingdom-minded rather than concentrating on the small things in front of us on a daily basis. David Crowder has a song about it. Wanna hear it? Hear it go...

How Great from Illuminate

I'm so bored of little gods while
standing on the edge of something large
Standing here so close to You
We could be consumed. What a glorious day

I give up. I lay down. Rest my face upon the ground
Lift my eyes to your sky. Rid my heart of all I hide
So sweet this surrender

How great Your love for us
How great our love for You
That grace would cover us
How great Your love

How marvelous. How brilliantly.
How luminous You shine in me
And who can fail to give You awe?
To fear You God so sovereign and strong?

How great your love.

Friday, June 02, 2006

One of a Kind

So I was at the grocery store the other day when I saw something I'd never seen before: a Subaru limousine.

I met the chauffeur inside the store getting coffee. Turns out this Forester limo is the only one of its kind in the world.

He wanted something special to show off, I guess.

It is ridiculous. A true stretch limo. Of course it's all wheel drive. I have to wonder how it does in snow, though.

The chauffeur says that they're now creating a B9 Tribeca stretch limo as well. Just glad to see that money is being wisely spent on working toward the greater good of humanity.
It is fun to look at, though.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dance Dance Evolution

So a friend of mine just emailed me a link to this guy's YouTube video. Apparently, his name is Judson Laipply. He dances through the second half of the 20th century from Elvis to the Brady Bunch to MJ to the Backstreet Boys.

Here's the thing, her email said, "I saw this and immediately thought of you." You'll have to watch it to work out whether that is a complement or an insult. I have to hand it to the guy, though. He doesn't look like much of a dancer and he starts off kind of slowly, but he is pretty schmoove. And he has an incredible amount of energy to keep the act moving for a full 6 minutes. It's well worth it if you've got the time.

Click on the pic to go to the video.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Breathe in, breathe out

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has put together a couple of commercials promoting, yep, you guessed it, carbon dioxide.

It ends with the classic line: "Carbon dioxide, they call it pollution, we call it life."

Click on the picture. If you haven't seen it yet, you're definitely missing out.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Generous Orthodoxy

Like the movie Garden State and the band Linkin Park before it, I'm coming late to the Generous Orthodoxy party. Most of you have probably already read it (twice). Larry's probably wrestling with some questions about it. Tim has it printed on his church clothes. It's been on my current reading list for a while, but as of today, I'm in Chapter 1.

Actually I just finished Chapter 0, the disclaimer in which McLaren says the words generous and orthodoxy roughly 257 times each. But then, right at the end of Chapter 0, he gives this great explanation of why he wrote the book:

"The people I'm primarily writing for are the Christians (or former Christians) - evangelical, liberal, Catholic, whatever - who are about to leave (or have just left) the whole business because of the kinds of issues I raise in this book. And equally, I'm writing for the spiritual seekers who are attracted to Jesus, but they don't feel there's room for them in what is commonly called Christianity unless they swallow a lot of additional stuff - NOT essential orthodoxy (as reflected in the creeds and as I try to explore here), but rather doctrinal distinctives - the fine print added to the contract of orthodoxy - that are fine to explore and discuss, but threaten to become far more important than the gospel warrants.

Perhaps I'm trying to tell them, "Don't leave! Don't give up! There's room for you!" But maybe I'm just wrong, overly idealistic, naive. Maybe it's not right to tell these people there is room for them in most Christian circles - because there's not.

If that thought breaks your heart, you should read this book.

Many, no, most are happy with their orthodoxy and unbothered about the people who are about to leave or the outsiders who feel unwelcome. I have no wish to disturb them in any way, just as one doesn't want to disturb a hornet's nest (unless, say, it's hanging right in front of your front door and its inhabitants keeps stinging your kids and scaring away your guests). Enough. On to Chapter 1, and why I am a Christian."

The rest of the book may be complete rubbish, but now I have to read the rest. And even if it is rubbish, it may still be worth it just for those few paragraphs, particularly the picture of the problems with the Church being akin to a bunch of hornets that sting your kids and scare away your guests. I'll keep you posted on the book you've all already read.

Friday, May 05, 2006

"I don't want to over-spritualize or anything..."

I have heard this comment made numerous times about not wanting to "over-spiritualize" a given decision or world happening. Usually people say it when they are concerned that they might sound foolish thinking that God might be involved in their life decisions or in world happenings, natural or otherwise. Primarily, the phrase is used for situations that seem too minor or too obscure for God to be involved. "I don't mean to over-spiritualize or anything, but do you think it was God's will for Doug Mirabelli to catch Tim Wakefield in the first Sox-Yankees game of 2006?"

But it has me thinking. Is that possible? I mean, can we over-spiritualize anything? Are there aspects of our lives in which we need to cut back on our interaction with God, both in terms of understanding and expectation? Where do we draw the line, then? Where do we cut God out and where do we keep Him in the mix? Does God care what you eat for lunch today? Does he have an impact on the traffic you'll sit in on the way to work today? Does He have an impact on where you'll work today, what job you'll have next year? How much is He a macro God in charge of all the big stuff and how much is He a butterfly effect God?

Donald Miller says in Blue Like Jazz Chapter 17 Worship: The Mystical Wonder
"It comforts me to think that if we are created beings, the thing that created us would have to be greater than us, so much greater, in fact, that we would not be able to understand it. It would have to be greater than the facts of our reality, and so it would seem to us, looking out from within our reality, that it would contradict reason. But reason itself would suggest it would have to be greater than reality, or it would not be reasonable.

When we worship God we worship a Being our life experience does not give us the tools with which to understand. If we could, God would not inspire awe.

You cannot be a Christian without being a mystic. " For larger excerpt go here.

I guess my point is this: isn't it a slippery slope to de-emphasize the spiritual, mystical aspect that God brings to our lives? Aren't we then on the road to "under spiritualizing" our decisions, choices and world events?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Line Painting

"What do I hope to gain from this endeavor?"
you might ask yourself
Don’t know if I ever had direction or purpose,
or singleness of heart
--Phil Laeger, Blame

Ok, so this song Blame appears in my Quote of the Moment too. It's from an obscure early recording of the great American artist Phil Laeger entitled Live...and Far from Perfect. I was there the night it was recorded, but I digress.

Up until 3 months ago, I was very content with a job that had a very defined purpose--a relatively easy to measure set of results. I was working to see successful implementation of a specific course in discipleship training in Salvation Army congregations in Massachusetts. Lot of work to do, but a pinpoint focus. The only question was how to best accomplish the goal of more corps (churches) implementing the course.

One of the great challenges in the new job in which I find myself is the issue of focus, which brings us to the line painting truck. It's a pretty standard issue dumptruck I saw on the way to work last week. But on the back is tacked an orange sign that says "Line Painting." This truck may have many purposes but for this day, its purpose was singular and decisive. It was going to protect the vehicle that actually paints the lines from being interfered with by traffic. That's all it had to do that day. By fulfilling its purpose of announcing the line painter, it would play a small but significant role in ensuring straight lines on Boston highways for generations.

In the position in which I currently find myself, (which you can read more about in "...a new thing" here, if you don't know what I'm doing), I have great challenge when it comes to singleness of purpose. We have this tremendous macro, universe-sized single focus: to bring men, women and children into a deeper relationship with Christ and His Kingdom by whatever means availalble to us. There are many methods we could choose to accomplish that, many of them wrong, very few of them right. Keeping a straight line from the gift of $85 million to the end result of a more crowded Kingdom of Heaven is extraordinarily complicated.

Then there's the task itself, the job. On a given day, I may be in touch with our excellent architect, our gifted design firm, staff from the City of Boston, members of the Roxbury Corps, dedicated and tenacious members of The Salvation Army Greater Boston Advisory Board, members of the diverse pool that is the Upham's Corner community, etc. On that day, I might be working on a powerpoint for one of the various presentations we make weekly, strategizing a meeting to accomplish some portion of the project, writing for the Salvation Army's internal process related to the Kroc Center, writing for some local Army publication to keep them up to date, finding out what various words and abbreviations mean, thinking about what materials we should use in the construction of the center, trying to understand what the staffing might look like in a place this big, etc.

Then there's my life. Jen's job is cranking up right now to its usual early May fever pitch. She's working harder than I've ever seen her work because she only has two days a week to ensure over the phone and through email that the 85 people who will be at camp are chosen by God for the express purpose of changing children's lives with the love of Jesus. Riley is such an interesting person I would just like to spend all day every day watching and listening to her (until she utters the words, "Let's play family. I'll be the mommy, you be the baby.") Sydney is a different person every time I come home, learning new words, stretching her world, tackling new challenges and all that with her bangs in her eyes all the time (we're trying to get her hair all one length).

So, at the moment, I'm challenged, excited, humbled, amazed, but I gotta say, I'm a little jealous of the line painting truck. It has one purpose, stay behind the line painter and help it to make straight lines. The thought of such singleness of purpose on a minute-by-minute basis is enticing. And I bet the truck doesn't wake up in the middle of the night hoping it's doing the right thing with each precious moment of the day.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Marrying Up

Larry recently commented on my Easter post and said that he and I had both married out of our league. He's right. We both did. This picture was taken on the last day of the summer of 1995, when Jen and I began dating. It sits in my office as a constant reminder of the mess that rolled into camp that summer (me) and the gem that he rolled into (Jen) and the incredible grace it took on her part to reach down and date, let alone marry, the little boy lost that was Drew Forster at that time in my life.

But that comment gives rise to a theory that I've held for a while and what better place to float theories for acceptance or severe public humiliation than my (sometimes sleeping) blog.

So here goes -- Drew's Theory on Marriage & Gender.

It is impossible for a man to marry down. A man always marries up, always gets more in a wife than he deserves. If this is true, the reverse must also be true, that it is the rare occurrence, if ever that a woman marries up. If the theory is true, a woman always stoops, always marries down.

So to Larry's comment, it is not possible to make the statement: "She married out of her league" because social status and physical appearance and all of the superficial elements aside, we as guys never deserve the woman we get to spend the rest of our lives with. That's what the rest of our life is about, trying to live up to the standard of the woman we proposed to. Why do you think we kneel down to do it?

So the theory's out there. Look forward to your comments on it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Little girls in Easter dresses

Ok, so I know it's not exactly a full-fledged post and that I've been derilect with my posting lately, but come on, who can resist little girls in Easter dresses? Not to mention the knockout in the middle.

This pic was taken in my parents' backyard in Alexandria, VA where we spent a fantastic Easter weekend. We had a great time. Sydney is quite the intrepid egg hunter, it turns out.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Honda Oddity

I never really get this. This Honda Odyssey has been parked near my office lately. I don't get it how people choose to drive a family vehicle and then decide to go with the body kit, rims and a spoiler on it. I guess if you're a boy racer who all of a sudden finds himself a boy's father, you might have to make this kind of compromise, but it just cracks me up anyway. What's the message, "Hey, soccer mom, I could pick up groceries in this whip or I could blow you off the line."?

Wonder what the stroller looks like that they pull out of the back of this thing.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Come on Ride the Train

So we were at Riley's school's Spring fundraiser the other day. It was a luau and auction. We had a lot of fun and if we'd had about $300 extra dollars just lying around, could have had box seats for an upcoming Sox-Yankees game.

There was food and dancing for the kids. One of the moms, who we've known in town for a while, was playing DJ. She did a great job and really got the kids engaged all night long. At the end of the night, she announced "Ok, kids, we have one more song we're going to do. How many of you know how to do the Pahty Train?" With her hardcore Massachusetts accent, she had unwittingly turned the word party into potty. And if she said it once, she said it a dozen times. A lot of the parents picked up on it and were looking around smiling and chuckling to ourselves. You'd think as the parent of a 5-year old and a 3-year old, she might have realized what it sounded like she was saying, but she never did. So she turned on the song and the kids dutifully lined up and made a train around the room. It was as disorganized as you'd expect a bunch of pre-schoolers to be, but it was cute and they're learning much needed party skills for later in life.

As we walked out to the car, Riley was commenting on what a fun night it was (I think the direct quote was "the funnest night of my whole life"). We asked her, "Riley, what was your favorite part of the night?" To which Riley answered completely straightfaced, "The train part, you know with the toilet thing."

Instant classic.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Krocabulary Update

Ok, so iterative is this week's new word in my Krocabulary. Basically, what it means is we'll come back and have multiple meetings that will cost you more money as we determine exactly what it is you wanted us to do in the first place.

As is the case with a lot of these words, I'd never heard it until Wednesday. But since then, I've heard it at least 2 dozen times. Curtis, you'll be happy to know, I've resisted the temptation to say it. At least at the point of writing. But as you know, the process is very ... (resisting...urge...to...speak...new...language...)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

Brave New Words

I think any time we start something new, start interacting with a new group of people, we go through changes. Not sure what this new venture will produce in terms of deep changes in who I am, but I'm well aware of a kind of surface change that's already well under way--in my vocabulary. A month ago, I never said any of these words, or at least didn't use them the way I do now. Now I use them every day roughly 100 times each. So in honor of being in this job just about a month now, I present to you a top ten list of words and phrases from my new vocabulary:

1. collaborate/collaborative
2. engage -- of course I used this one before, but only when I was talking about Jen
3. community process
4. community partner
5. stakeholder
6. capacity
7. sustainable
8. $85 million
9. program development
10. around -- again, I've said this word before, but not with the reckless abandon I do now. See below.

Here is an example of a sentence that might use this new language:

In light of the $85 million from the Kroc gift, The Salvation Army seeks to engage community partners and other stakeholders in a community process around program development forming a sustainable collaborative that will increase the capacity of existing and planned programs.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Unlikely Collaboration

Ok, so I had never heard of this publication until a copy of it showed up in my inbox with the following announcement:

The People's Voice is proud to announce that it now has subscribers in Canada, Australia, England and USA. We are also thrilled to have the ability to take on-line subscribers through www.sacollectables.com, which has allowed us to make the publication more available round the world.

Other exciting news is that film maker Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine, The Awful Truth) has agreed to write for the People's Voice on an ongoing basis. His views of social justice will add good weight to the world's only 'newspaper for the homeless' - as described in the AGE newspaper recently.

If you are not already a subscriber get onto it (it only costs the same as 4 coffees for a whole year's subscription).

-- --
Timothy McPherson
Territorial Director - Major Gifts
The Salvation Army Australia

Michael Moore offering his views on social justice is a good addition to an Army publication? Call me crazy, but I think Moore's politics would at least give pause in this circumstance if not rule out a collaboration with the Army. Maybe life is that different in Australia.

Unfortunately, you can't really read the whole edition of The People's Voice online anywhere, but a small taste is available. It's designed as a newspaper for the homeless, so I guess they are trying to make some money with it for ministry. Which is why they included an ad for Bernard's Magic Shop. (They couldn't sell any ads to anyone else?) Had to read this thing closely thinking it was a joke, but as far as I can tell, Tim McPherson and others think this is a good idea for 614 Melbourne to be putting out. I think I'm generally pretty open-minded about collaboration and think the Army should do more of it, but I don't think this is the kind of collaboration we need--Michael Moore and a Magic Shop.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gilligan's Island Beatbox

I thought Matisyahu was the coolest beatboxer to come along in a while.

Then I saw this guy.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Don't Wait Till We're Dead

There was an excellent piece in the Globe last Thursday about a meeting in which 100 young people from Boston met with city councillors to discuss the rash of gun-related violence plaguing the city and endangering many teens on the street.

Read it here if you like.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

...a new thing

Just a quick note to share some news. Over the course of 2 weeks of prayer and listening, Jen and I have come to a decision about an opportunity placed in front of me.

Without such luxuries as a title or a job description (who needs 'em?), I have accepted a position with the program development of the Kroc Center that was awarded to and will be built in Upham's Corner on the borders of Dorchester & Roxbury in Boston. The project is massive ($85-100 million and 85,000 sq ft) and a team is quickly coming together to tackle phase 2 of the development process. I will be a member of that team which includes advisory board members, our development staff, community members and organizations, and other people soon to be named.

For those who might be interested in a little bit about the area into which the center is going: (from the RFP)

There are currently approximately 24,000 residents in the immediate Dudley Street neighborhood; approximately 58,000 within a one-mile radius. Nearly half of Boston’s children live in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, with the largest number of youth in Roxbury and the second largest in Dorchester. The proposed site is on the Dorchester/Roxbury line. 37% of Dudley residents (approximately 8500) are age 19 or under. 89% of Dudley residents identify as minorities, 25 % of the population is Cape Verdean. This cultural diversity adds an incredible flavor to the area, but also creates challenges in providing services across cultural and sometimes language barriers.

The proposed site for the center is a true exercise in urban development, presenting many challenges of land assembly, traffic flow, and parking yet creating an exciting, vibrant center of activity that has the potential to influence and change for the better a forsaken cityscape along a main commercial thoroughfare. Characterized for years by abandoned buildings in desperate need of repair and vacant land serving to attract littering as well as drug trafficking, the arrival of a Kroc Center has an opportunity to greatly improve a neighborhood simply by occupying currently desolate space, to say nothing of the impact that the programs within the center will have on the youth and families for years to come.

I was over there just last week and if there were ever a place where the Army and the Church need to be, it's there. The possiblities for the Kingdom are breathtaking, the challenges almost equally as imposing. As a friend of mine said of it the other day, "The opportunity is massive and terrifying, not unlike the God we serve."

I will maintain a small sliver of what I'm currently doing with Discipleship Training. It will be good to continue in one area of direct, hands-on ministry throughout this phase of the position with the Kroc as it will involve a very different range of activities.

So it's another leap into the deep end of the unknown, but we know who our God is and we trust Him for all that's needed.

We covet your prayers for this transition and again thank those who prayed, counseled and listened through the decision-making process.

Isaiah 43:18-19
19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

If you have no idea what a Kroc Center is, go here

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Old Skool Camp Reunion

Last Friday night, Jen and I got (some of) the old skool Wonderland gang together since Steve Guest was in town from Miami.

Here's a little note about what everyone's up to these days.

(right to left)
Nakia's work will soon be published in O magazine.

Cole is in jail.

Hong cleans a white man's underwear for a living.

Steve is spending a lot of time with drug runners in South Beach.

At the time of writing, Bryan is traveling to Guatemala for an unspecified period of time with no clear purpose for his visit.

Delano is spending a lot of time in juke joints and not getting much sleep.

So as you can see, the gang has all turned out well!

It was really great to see everyone. We watched one of the classics from Happy Summer Studios -- The Missing Heir. Always brings a chuckle and a tear. The chuckle for Dee, the tear for Hongle.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I feel vindicated: Kanye West is an idiot

"Cocky rap star Kanye West is calling for a revised edition of the Bible, because he thinks he should be a character in it.

The Jesus Walks hitmaker, who picked up three Grammy Awards, feels sure he'd be "a griot" (West African storyteller) in a modern Bible.

He says, "I bring up historical subjects in a way that makes kids want to learn about them. I'm an inspirational speaker.

'I changed the sound of music more than one time... For all those reasons, I'd be a part of the Bible. I'm definitely in the history books already.'"

Don't feel the need to comment beyond his own words, really.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pressing in

STANDARD PARENTAL STORY DISCLAIMER: For those readers who are not parents, the following post will involve a story of a child-parent relationship related to larger issues of life. It's the kind of analogy parents are always making that can become extremely annoying particularly to those who do not have children. I do, however, have children and so I will tell the story anyway. Deal or stop reading now.

It doesn't happen too much these days, but a little while ago, especially during the year in which Riley was 2 and a half to 3 and a half years old, she would occasionally get very clingy. Not in the usual sort of "I need you Mommy or Daddy" way that kids get into, but in an excited, "I just need to be close to you all the time" kind of way. This would manifest itself often at restaurants when either Jen or I would be sharing one side of a booth with her. Though there was plenty of space for an adult and a toddler to occupy comfortably, she would press herself up against us, not allowing us to move or eat or speak without being aware of Riley's presence on our elbow, in our ribcage, pushing against our shoulder. She didn't need us to do anything but let her be that close, wasn't looking for comfort in a specific way. She just needed extreme proximity.

When a newborn or an infant wants to be close, we tend to put up with it and truly to enjoy it most of the time. When a toddler does it, at least to me, I can take it for a bit, but then I feel so encumbered, so weighed down by her pressing on me, annoyed, distracted, not at ease. I am itching for her to find some other distraction and just give me some space.

Lately, I've really been pressing into God. Depending on Him in a way that I haven't for a long time. It's just occured to me that this is another one of those similarity/difference situations in God the Father's relationship with us. We do sometimes exactly what Riley did to us: we press in to God, needing comfort, excited to be in His presence, depending on the weight of who He is to hold us up. There's the similarity. Here's the difference: He doesn't get weighed down. He is not annoyed. He is still high and lofty and loving and compassionate and so trustworthy. He is more at ease when we press into Him. He is ill at ease when we ignore Him, patronize Him or humor Him with our affection. And because there is no end to Him, we can press in and press in and press in and find no resistance, at least from Him. There's always more of Him for us to experience, to depend on.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Theology of Johnny Cash

I know Johnny Cash didn't write this song with a Christian walk in mind, but that doesn't mean we can't read it, hum it, sing along with our Christian walk in mind. Hey, maybe we could even add it to a worship set some day soon.

I Walk the Line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I've known proves that it's right
Because you're mine, I walk the line

You've got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can't hide
For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

Monday, January 30, 2006

And the bolt of lightning goes to....

This is the cover of the latest Rolling Stone. I read the excerpt of the article that the magazine will let you read on its website. For better or worse, the excerpt at least makes no reference to West's Messianic aspirations. They refer to him as a genius. Though I will admit to whistling, quoting and generally liking "Gold Digger," I have to respectfully ask, "Is it possible to be a genius and an idiot at the same time?" For more on that question, check out the podcast that comes with the article. He makes no sense.

West seems to be like others before him (P Diddy, Dr. "You better say my name in every song I produce" Dre) like an incorrigible egomaniac. The most clear sign of his arrogance seems to be his willingness to compare himself to Jesus for no apparent reason other than controversy. We don't talk much about blasphemy these days, but I'm pretty sure doing a magazine cover shoot in a crown of thorns qualifies. I don't see how he's a martyr. I actually respect the sentiment behind what he attempted to say at the Katrina Disaster relief disaster, if not the complete content. It's right that he should speak out about the fact that it might just be time for another civil rights movement, but he seems incapable of making 2 good decisions in a row. If he says or does something thoughtful or thought provoking, he seems to do something equally stupid and just plain provocative the next moment.

If there's no difference between good and bad press, Kanye sure seems gifted at creating some pub.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I'll have a grande discipleship, no whipped cream

So I was preparing a seminar last week. I had the elements that I wanted to cover in this day-long seminar, but was struggling to put it all in order and create a presentation that would use all of the elements in the right order and make it all work. Attempting to do this at home was not proving very fruitful, so I had the treat of going to Starbucks for a couple of hours to synthesize everything. It worked and I was able to pull the pieces together. But I was not entirely distraction-free even while sitting on comfortable furniture in the window of the Seattle coffee giant.
At the next table over, a new "partner" was having what I learned is known as his "first impression" meeting with the manager. The manager was one of those 20 something young women who give off kind of a 12-year old vibe because, for whatever reason, her parents put off the braces during her adolescence. She was not the most well-spoken person (maybe it was the braces) and at times, seemed way more nervous than the 20 something tight Tshirt wearing hipster that she was training. But even given that, she was presenting him with the wealth of information required for anyone training to make lattes and doing a decent job of it because of her apparent passion for Starbucks and because of the curriculum she was given to teach.

This indoctrination lasted the entire 2 hours that I was there. I kept expecting it to end, but on and on it went. Here are some tidbits from the exchange.

During this time, tight T hipster received no less than a dozen books, some of them short, pamphlet type things and some quite long pieces of literature. I would estimate that he had at least 3 hours of reading to complete.

One of the books was entitled: "The Little Green Book: Ways of Being." This, despite, being called little was one of the longer books he would need to read. It includes apparently, standards for behavior and the overarching principles that all "partners" assent to.

Another book was "The Green Pages." It's full of nuts and bolts, the manager said.

Something else was from the founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, who she described as "not only the founder, but that in his position as chairman and chief global strategist was still guiding the company to be what it ought to be."

At some point, they left their table and went into the back, I guess so the new barista could see some of what he would be reading about. They came back out and then she instructed him that while he was in the store reading (and I assume being paid for his training), he should just wear street clothes. Following this reading portion and only when he felt ready to do so should he don the black apron. Here's a quote from the manager: "When you put on the apron, you are communicating to customers and to other partners that you are ready to serve."

Not long before I left, a couple of regulars went up to the table and the husband said, "One of your first tasks is to remember customers’ names. I’m Bob, this is Pat. We’ll be back to check on you later.”

The manager told him he would be assigned a learning coach, a current partner or maybe more than one, who would show him the ropes and answer questions big and small during his first few weeks.

In fact, Starbucks is really into education. I grabbed this off their website:

Training & Education
We guide all new partners through an extensive orientation and fundamental training program to provide a solid foundation for career advancement at Starbucks. Some of our educational programs are:
Coffee Education – A course focusing on the Starbucks passion for coffee and understanding our core product.
Learning to Lead – A three level program for baristas to develop leadership skills. The program also includes store operational and effective management practice training.
Business and Communication – The Starbucks Support Center (SSC) offers a variety of classes ranging from basic computer skills to conflict resolution, to management training.

Leadership development? Communication classes? Hello. It's a coffee store.

Ok, so what's the point? Sadly, as I sat there, I realized that what was happening in Starbuck's should be what happens in the church and too often does not occur. Someone sits down with a new person and disciples them, giving them some strong pointers about what to read and how to learn about the place and its mission and their part of accomplishing that mission. I saw a non-threatening approach to including a new person, calling him partner immediately, instead of trainee. (See Larry's blog for more on this topic). I saw natural community operating in customers reaching out to the newbie barista and intentional community in him receiving a learning coach. I saw the ability for growth and a close benchmark in terms of putting on the apron (for the Salvos reading this, how about it? Don't put on your uniform until you're ready to communicate, "I'm ready to serve.")

Now the church didn't invent the concept of discipleship or apprenticeship or whatever you call it, but we sure ought to be doing it better than a coffee bar is. Isn't it interesting how the place people associate with relaxed cool has such a systematic way of ensuring that they continue to be known for just that? Sometimes when the church tries to do laid back, it turns into chaos because we don't want any system in place to make it work.

So how did it come about that the church became a place associated with judgment and an untter lack of "cool" and one people stay away from for fear that they will be rejected or worse yet, ignored while a coffee bar became the place that knows how to bring someone into the fold in a straightforward and sensible way in order to grow its empire and build up the individual? Here's a hint, it has nothing to do with furniture or music selection or their logo or apparel options.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rites of Passage

Wasn't able to get this post together last week. Not sure why. But here it is after some delay. Still fresh enough though.

On Wednesday night, Jen and I went to Kindergarten orientation. Wow. Could tell lots of stories of crazy suburban parents and their questions with regard to the benefits/costs of full day v. half day kindergarten, but really more significant than that for Jen and me is that we are at a point in our lives where we're going to this event. It just doesn't seem possible. Riley is certainly ready for kindergarten and will thrive in that environment. I'm just not sure we're ready for that yet. No wonder my grandmother kept my father out of kindergarten when the time came. It all goes too fast. it doesn't seem possible that June 14, 2001 was 4 and a half years ago.

And then Sydney, not to be outdone, chose last week to finally say the word "Daddy" and look at me at the same time. This is impossible to explain fully to parents what this moment means in the life of a parent's relationship with their child. It is electric to walk through the door and have her look up with those eyes and that smiling face and scream out daddy and jump up and down. It's so much better than so many of the things we chase after in life as to not even be in the same league. And as predicted, Syd has now begun to add words to her vocabulary on a daily basis. It's just too good.

I don't want to fail to mention another important rite of passage in our family as well. Last Friday (Jan 20) my parents celebrated 38 years of marriage. In this day and age, that's an inspiration and deserves more pomp and circumstance than it got.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Clive & Sam, sharing a brain.

Just got back from Cincinnati, with some great people from SWONEKY. Sadly, the Bengals were not able to pull it off, but we had a great time at their young adult retreat.

In my preparation for the weekend which was around the theme passion and looked at Deuteronomy 6, I was reminded of two of my favorite quotes from two my favorite people to describe the human condition.

First from CS Lewis (Clive, as his mom called him) in the Weight of Glory:
"If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mudpies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

And then (eerily similar) from Samuel Logan Brengle on his favorite topic of holiness:
“How infinitely and hopelessly foolish shall we be if we are so selfish or tearful or unbelieving as to refuse! It is as though a king should offer a poor beggar garments of velvet and gold in exchange for rags, diamonds in exchange for dirt, and a glorious palace in place of a cellar or garret. How foolish would the beggar be who should insist on keeping a few of his rags, a little handful of his dirt, and the privilege of going back to his cellar now and again. until the king finally withdrew all the splendid things he had offered! And yet so foolish, and more so, are they who try to get this blessing from God, while refusing to consecrate their all and obey Him fully.”

How many times have I found myself grasping handfuls of dirt and hiding in the corner of the cellar? We must remember what God has offered us free and clear. It's so within our grasp if we only reach out for it.

If you want to read the whole chapter from The Way of Holiness, it's available online here. In fact, several of his books are available online at raptureready.com.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Is there a doctor in the house?

Jen and Riley were playing doctor the other day. Riley would check Jen’s symptoms and then go into the other room to “check the computer.” She had just checked Jen’s symptoms and then returned to inform her that it appeared she had pecrodality. Jen asked her, “what do I have?” And Ri repeated “pecrodality.” Sensing the patient's concern, Riley calmly explained. “It means you have a cold.”

The doctor pictured of course is Libby, not Riley, sporting the toy stethoscope from the kids' doctor kit.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Chronic of Narnia

This is one of the funniest things I've seen come out of SNL in a long time. It the Chonic-les of Narnia Rap. If you have a lot of bandwith and about 5 minutes to spare, it's worth the trip. One word of warning: apparently they didn't feel like they could parody Dr. Dre without including one cuss word that gets bleeped. So be forewarned if you're easily offended by such. It's the really bad cuss word. Other than that, it's hysterical.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Warning Labels

Oh how I love the warning labels. So this is a 50 cent ride in our little pathetic mall close to us. And here is the warning label that shows through the windshield of this Safari jeep ride. What cracks me up is the word "whilst." Who is writing these labels? Who still says whilst? I did hear a voice on one of the other rides that sounded distinctly British, so I guess it's possible that the Walpole Mall has imported 50 cent rides, all the way from the British "Empire." Impressive.

And then here's another one I saw on the road the other day. It's a bit hard to read what it says on the back of this tanker truck, but here it is: "TECHNICAL ANIMAL FAT. NOT INTENDED FOR HUMAN FOOD." I'm just so grateful that the MOPAC company puts this on the back of their trucks, because if you're anything like me when I'm on the road, there is nothing that hits the spot like some technical animal fat directly from the ol' tanker truck. Who is this warning for? Do they really think someone's hooking a hose up to this thing in order to funnel animal fat?

Well, I've gotten hungry whilst writing this blog. Gonna go grab some fat from the fridge. Remember to be forewarned is to be forearmed. But to be forearmed can be painful, particularly to the head.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Years in Philly

We spent New Years at the Pioneer Corps in Philadelphia. John Copeland and his Generation Next bunch of crazies puts on an all-night worship sevice from 7pm to 7am including the midnight mass choir, mass drum corps, mass dance troupe Days of Elijah Jubilee Jamboree. That was pretty incredible. The whole night was really amazing. Some serious seekers after God in that room.

Right away the Spirit was present. I wrote this description of what happened early on, thinking somehow, I would take "live notes" as the night went along, but when you're in the Spirit like that, you'd just rather be there, in that moment than trying to record it. Those who were with us know what it was like. Those who were not are only going to get a small hint of the flavor through reading. So these are my only "live notes" that I ended up writing. It was important to be there. I'm glad I was able to be a part of it.

Philadelphia New Years 06 8:30pm
The Spirit just fell in a major way, the kind of thing you want to capture for other people to experience, but know you can't. Frankly it's been a long time since I've experienced Holy Spirit like that. And I've never experienced this prophetic worship where no one in the room knows the next lyrics but the worship goes on ubinhibited as each one just worships in their way, some singing, some dancing, some prostrating themselves.
And I wonder to myself when I want so much to be there and nowhere else, but in the presence of God, "why don't I practice the presence of God more often?" Why don't I seek this of God every day? It cannot be that He doesn't want me to experience what I am experiencing right now. We've settled for this stupid idea that God only wants us to experience His Glory from time to time. He wants us to live and breathe and walk His Glory everywhere at all times. In the basement, while we commute, while we do what we do. We define ourselves by where we live and what we do with ourselves between 9 and 4 every day. He wants us to be defined by His glory, to be constant seekers of His presence. And we sit back discontentedly accepting that He only wants to speak on certain days, or at a given event. He wants us to be there with Him all the time.
Your Glory. You're Glory. Your Glory is our Glory. From Glory to Glory.