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

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.