June 30, 2011

this week's round-up (june 30)

Donald Miller is working on a series of podcasts with Chase Reeves that look interesting. Information about the the podcasts can be found here.

Andrew Conrad asks an important question about clergy friendships with congregants. The comments are good there, as well. It's a complex issue, because it gets into areas of professionalism and boundaries, but also into the very nature of what it means to be in pastoral ministry. It is easy to make bad analogies - I don't expect to be friends with my lawyer, doctor, or mechanic, or therapist but (hopefully) pastoral ministry is something more than that; it is more intimate, more personal, and clergy should be able to be more fully themselves. At the same time, developing friendships has the potential to disrupt the nature of the work when a professional role needs to be asserted, can create at least the appearance of playing "favorites" with congregants (leading the jealousy, etc.), and impact the itinerant nature of pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church. I think it can be done, it just has to be carefully navigated; but this complexity is also a cause for supporting greater clergy-to-clergy interactions, relationships and friendships - so that needed network of support can happen in other systems; this is why I love things like Clergy Family Camp.

Speaking of friends from Clergy Family Camp - powerful poem from my friend, Jeff Nelson: Thanksgiving Ride.

Another friend, Bri Desotel, posted a great sermon on the Trinity. One of my favorite bits:

"See, whenever you think you’ve got the Trinity figured out,
  you need to stop and be very careful… 
 because, chances are, you just became a heretic. 
Whenever God makes sense, then we’ve made God far too small."

One more friend, from my days in the Wesley Foundation, Amy Valdez Baker provides a helpful analysis around the "vital congregation" discussion surrounding the UMC.

Really interesting post from Taylor Burton-Edwards on Ordination, Orders and Rule of Life - I think it was a couple years ago I was wondering to myself how monastic orders and rules might translate into the United Methodist Order of Elders as a way of developing identity, support and accountability. Burton-Edwards really develops this idea well beyond my initial questioning.

Church Warnock - Changing Demographics to Impact Small Churches. Just this evening, over dinner, I was reading the chapter in Generation Rising: A Future with Hope for the United Methodist Church on "Race: Grace and Unity in the Post-Civil Rights Era" that address the underlying issue in a United Methodist context, which talks about applying the means of grace to shape how congregations identify and be in ministry with our neighbors, with the challenge that we move from "multi-ethnic" (where we still expect "one size fits all") to truly "multi-cultural" (where we appreciate diversity as a sign of God's greatness).

David Fitch - STOP FUNDING CHURCH PLANTS, Start Funding Missionaries. This would require a major shift in thinking for United Methodists, but I think there are some really good points in there. I've wondered about how bi-vocational pastoral ministry might work before, and I think Fitch's post is part of the answer.

Seth Godin - Show me the meta-data.

Fred Clark - Cut waste, create jobs, save money. Seems like a simple, but beneficial idea to me. Also, check out Fred's post on the use and abuse of credit scores.

Prince won't record new music until internet piracy is under control. So in other words, Prince is done making music. While I understand the desire for greater copyright protection and how Prince might wish it was 1984 again, the reality is the world has changed. The system that helped make Prince famous - massive record labels, top-40 radio, and the youth culture hegemon of MTV - are no longer in place to help guarantee success, but the trade-off of financial guarantees is the very thing Prince said he wanted throughout the 1990s - creative control.

Prince now has the power to make any kind of music he wants, and he can distribute it, globally, without any kind of middle man to get in the way of how he might want to market it. Plus he is still in a far better position to do it than most artists still trying to make a living today - he still has name recognition AND the resources to create something people might be interested in. Yes, it means more work, with potentially greater risk, and lower returns, but if he is really interested in "the art" of music I'm sure he would still have enough of an audience wiling to pay that he could keep doing his thing.

The real problem, I suspect, isn't that people aren't stealing his music, but that no one really cares about his music anymore. He hasn't made anything that connects with a wide audience and gets people excited. I'm sure that's frustrating for him, but instead of being frustrated he has a choice - keep making music for that small group of fans that will always support him, or do something so good that it connects with a wide audience again. Until last Sunday I'd found myself feeling pretty burnt out around the music of U2 - I hadn't bought the last couple of albums, and wasn't really even listening to the old stuff anymore. Then I had a chance to see them live and they got me excited again. They knew how to play to the crowd, they kept their focus on their older music, slipping in only a couple of their more recent songs, but in was enough to get me interested in checking out those newer albums. I think there are still a significant number of people who would be interested in something new from Prince, he just has to connect with them and give them a reason to care. (Really I was thinking about Prince and changes in the music industry, but there is probably a lesson for the church somewhere in there as well).

Actually, Prince, should just check out this video with Seth Godin and Michael Hyatt, which pretty much explains what I was trying to say - the quote Seth Godin refers to "The enemy is not piracy, it's obscurity" really says it all:

Backstage with Seth Godin from Michael Hyatt on Vimeo.

From BikeHacks - How to Upholster your Bike Saddle - I actually need to do this on my old bike the old covering has become un-stapeled/un-glued... or I could probably save myself a lot of hassle and just buy a new one.

How $200 Million Changed Poetry (via Jordon Cooper)

Interesting infographic from Guy Kawasaki - How to Increase Your Likability:
Enchantment - Increase Likability

Might as well put up some U2 for today's music selection - this is from the 2000 album All That You Can't Leave Behind; I still want to learn bass guitar so I can seem as cool as Adam, and on Sunday, found myself wondering if I could ever pull off the "black stocking cap and goatee" look, like the Edge.

June 22, 2011

this week's round-up (june 22)

Donald Miller - Be Secretly Incredible.

Interesting comments on Scot McKnight's post The New Mission Field: The Rural Church - I don't think it's quite a simple telling people to come and open a doctor's office or a grocery store; there are significant economic and cultural factors that have led the the situation rural communities currently find themselves in, but I do agree with the overall spirit of the piece. Just like he need to remember the "places abandoned by the empire" like Detroit, we also need to recognize that rural communities aren't without their own set of challenges.

Preaching Hell Without Fire and Brimstone.

A Court Ordered Letter from Dora the Explorer's Mother. (A couple objectionable words in there for the sensitive, but still a pretty funny article).

Dan Dick reflects on his Annual Conference in The Unforgiving, but I imagine his comments apply to most Annual Conferences. It wasn't quite this bad in Detroit, but there were hints of the "everyone's a victim" mentality - and there is a definite need for grace and forgiveness on both sides.

Related: Great quote from Henri Nouwen on Forgiveness.

Lifehacker's guide to Maintaining Facebook Privacy.

Andrew Conrad outlines 6 Options for Church Online. Option 4 is the one I find myself most interested in at the moment - especially in terms of how the larger, regional churches can help resource rural congregations through things like streaming sermons (or full worship experiences). This has the option to provide solid preaching at low cost to congregations that are struggling to pay a full-time salary in a denomination that is experiencing a dramatic wave of retiring clergy. Of course, when I consider it in the context of the Scot McKnight post above, it makes that consideration a little more difficult - it's a temporary solution to a problem caused by a larger cultural shift, but I could also see how it could be interpreted as "giving up" on the smaller rural churches. I suspect there is a "third way" in all this that is more akin to our Methodist roots of itinerant preachers and congregations that were primarily lay led while the elder served the other churches of the circuit, but I still don't have a clear idea of what that might look like.

Teresa Cho - 10 Ways Pastors Muck it Up. Powerful, honest accounting of the mistakes we make in pastoral leadership.

Interesting video on a church that uses texting as an interactive tool in worship to ask questions & get feedback. It was also interesting when I saw this same video posted on facebook, and the initial wave of responses to it were very negative - how this is just one more distraction, and preaching shouldn't involve answering questions, etc. I get that there is a potential downside to this, but overall I see it as a creative way to engage the congregation.

I've really enjoyed Fred Clark's Slactivist blog since I discovered it a couple years ago, and my thoughts and prayers go out to him now that he's been laid off in Gannett's recent cutbacks.

Warning: This will raise your blood pressure: Draw a circle around the one God loves the most. (I'd choose the cat).

In terms of the song itself, I like Matt & Kim's "Cameras" better, but this is a great video - "Block After Block":

June 21, 2011

#Trust30 Prompt 21 - You Know

The Prompt:

You Know by Jen Louden

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

We live in a society of advice columns, experts and make-over shows. Without even knowing it, you can begin to believe someone knows better than you how to live your life. Someone might know a particular something better – like how to bake a three-layer molten coconut chocolate cake or how to build a website – but nobody else on the planet knows how to live your life better than you. (Although one or two people may think they do.) For today, trying asking yourself often, especially before you make a choice, “What do I know about this?”

(Author: Jen Louden)

The Post:
I've sort of fallen off the #Trust30 bandwagon, in part because several of the questions and prompts, I didn't feel I could answer well in a public space like this blog, and in part because I simply haven't taken the time to write. But I was especially interested by this one, because I received it via e-mail, right next to another e-mail (Ginghamsburg Church's daily Transformation Journal) that hit right on the same theme.

The Transformation Journal devotional piece for the day was the Scripture reading from 1 Samuel 17:12-58, the story of David defeating Goliath. Rather than focusing on the conflict at the end, I found myself paying attention to the arc leading up to it: a culture paralyzed by fear; David being dismissed and mocked by his brothers; a King without vision or insight into the problem; an attempt to put David into King Saul's armor to fight this battle. How often does our story parallel David's, speaks to that quote above from Emerson, and the question Jen Louden raises? How often do we already have the skills we already need, that will translate into new situations even when no one else believes us (and sometimes we don't trust them ourselves)? How often will we face questions by those who can't or won't see the possibilities before us? Are we ready and willing to challenge the old paradigms or do we just silently submit to the status quo?

Too often my attention is on the skills I lack; attempts to put on another's ill-fitting armor that hinders movement and holds me back, instead of trusting the gifts and talents most natural to me. Too often I fail to consider the "small victories" against lions and bears, that prepare me for the giants in my midst.

May we let go of the fears and unhelpful comparisons, and trust in the Spirit already at work within us to accomplish the task before us.

June 16, 2011

this week's round-up (june 15)

Another extended look back (which turns out to be a really long posting for me), covering the past couple weeks...

Dan Dick on clergy self-care:
 "We live in an interactive culture where people are attending not just to what they see and hear, but to the meta-messages of behavior and values.  What is our witness as church leaders if we are constantly sick, tired, stressed, depressed, or dealing with less significant details?  What happens to our capacity to lead in a visionary and creative way when we are constantly engaged in the management aspects of leadership?  Where is our authenticity and credibility when we ask people to do things we do not do ourselves — like pray, give, serve, play, rest, exercise, and learn?  The “average” pastor in The United Methodist Church reads 2-5 books A YEAR, only three of them related to their faith or profession...  Only 1-in-3 of our ordained clergy read the Bible apart from sermon, class, or small group preparation.  Only 2-in-4 have a regular prayer/devotional discipline, and only 1-in-7 have a regular exercise routine.  7-out-of-9 report that they do not eat as well as they should.  8-in-10 say they do not get enough rest, and a similar number report that they do not take all their allotted vacation and personal days each year.  What we do speaks more loudly than what we say.  We are communicating to those we lead that these things aren’t very important.  Is that the message we truly wish to send?
I'm doing okay with regular reading, prayer, study of Scripture (although there is always room for improvement), vacation and sleep, but am pretty bad in terms of eating and exercise. Definitely disciplines to work on.

(Make sure you also check out Dan's post on Failing to Succeed = Succeeding to Fail).

Back to the topic of healthy living - Losing Weight with Gratitude - maybe there is something to be said to being intentional about praying and counting your blessings before every meal. Also Saddleback Loses 200,000 Pounds.

Rob Rynders highlights an important issue: Should Annual Conference Require You to Let Them Monitor Your Social Media Activity? The question arises out of a recent move by the Board of Ordained Ministry in the Kentucky Annual Conference that candidates for ministry and provisional members will "friend" the Annual Conference on Facebook, and likewise give them permissions on Twitter, blogs, etc. to review postings. Even though I am already "Facebook friends" with several District Superintendents, and both my Twitter feed and this blog and publicly accessible, the idea of a person (or group) actively monitoring posts makes me nervous.

The Chad Holtz case and now this one, really force us into a position where we have to be clear around what is "public space" and "private space" and where one is a "representative of the church" and one is simply an ordinary individual venting the same frustrations, and opinions as anyone else. Certainly there is a need for accountability, and a measure of discretion among what clergy post, knowing the "fishbowl" is always there; but at the same time there needs to be room for "safe spaces" where I can offer up a idea or link to a page or post a video that might not fit the Social Principles or Doctrinal Standards of the United Methodist Church, and know that charges won't be brought against me for it.

For the past couple of months I've been dreaming of an event/conference/discussion that can be both a basic training exercise in social media etiquette (for there have been situations in this conference where clergy (and clergy spouses) haven't always kept the best boundaries around Facebook posts), but also to have a more general discussion, ideally with UM bloggers from across the denomination, where we can figure out some of these basic guiding principles around maintaining a social media presence that allows free expression, but also recognizes our mutual obligation in covenant relationship with each other. So it would be both a "how to" primer on using social media, but also an academic and philosophical event (maybe with seminary support?) to help guide a "big picture" around tools and appropriate expression; which could then be brought to Cabinets and Boards of Ordained Ministry to help guide their work given that this stuff is still foreign to a large number of their members. Naturally, because I'm lazy, I'd love for this to happen in or near Detroit. Anyone with the $$ or skills to pull something like this off?? (Yes I'm looking at you, Methodist Union; also ye' olde stomping grounds, GETS, and friends down in Ohio - United and MTSO).

Chad Holtz on being a Crappy Dad.

Julie Clawson on Acedia and the Church.

Shane Claiborne on Pentecost Living.

Really interesting video and discussion around Jim Gilliam's recent talk at the Personal Democracy Forum, on "The Internet is my Religion" here. Really struck by is last comment: "I have faith in people, I believe in God, and the internet is my religion." In its very best moments, the internet, as a tool for connection can "out church" the church - as a place to bring people together, but at the same time, we must be mindful that vital relationships aren't virtual relationships, I believe there still has to be an incarnational aspect to ministry, of flesh and bone, hugs, laughter and tears that is a fundamental human need and the place where a real-world gathering of believers is still necessary.

Related: Andrew Conrad on the Pros and Cons of Web-casting a Funeral. As Andrew notes, I like the idea of making the funeral accessible to people who can't be physically present, but I can see how it could promote people to disengage from that incarnational community at a time when it is especially needed. (As a practical matter, I'd also assume that you'd want to put a funeral webcast of a private link, limited to specific people, but then it becomes one more thing that has to be planned and communicated in the midst of everything else the grieving family is dealing with in that short 3 or 4 day span).

Great video about ministry happening in Hull, England. I spent a year living in Hull, so a lot of the sights resonate with me, although part of the university community I was also sheltered from much of what is depicted here. Still would love to go back for a visit sometime.

Jeremy Smith on Tampa UMC: First casualty of 'vital congregations'? On a less serious note, via Jeremy Smith, Calvinists confuse God with Megatron.

I'd love to try something like this for my office at church. Also from Lifehacker - How to Photograph Star Trails - I remember my Earth Science teacher in High School did this and brought the photos in to class one time, which I thought was the coolest thing ever.

Interesting article on Moving from Church Membership to Mission Partnership - switching over isn't quite that easy in a UMC context, but I think there are some really good points in that "membership" language is problematic, and we need to rethink our very conception and understanding of what we are really about as a body of believers.

Fred Clark on immigration - For you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Related: Wil Willimon addresses immigration legislation in Alabama.

Also from Fred Clark - Use Words if Necessary - thoughts on evangelism.

Seth Godin on Organization vs. Movement vs. Philosophy - once you've changed from movement to organization, can you go back again? As Godin says, "The trouble kicks in when you think you have one and you actually have the other."

Teresa Cho - 10 Problems of a Dying Church & How to Fix Them - for United Methodists, #2 need to be tweaked a little bit to simply address anxiety with the SPRC, and a renewed commitment to work with the DS/Cabinet and newly appointed pastors. Otherwise, some good points to consider.

Don't necessarily agree with it, but still an interesting article - Why We Don't Allow Children in Worship. I can get on board with offering excellence in children's programming, and giving adults space to worship without distraction, but when the two come together, seemingly to exclude, I've uncomfortable.

Once again Jen Lemen's writing is beautiful, powerful and speaks to the heart. Please check this one out: Absolutely Seen and Loved.

Why You Can't Win that Argument on the Internet.

This made the rounds a couple weeks ago, but in case you missed it, George Lucas strikes back...

Music this week from long-time favorites, Belle & Sebastian:

June 7, 2011

#Trust30 Prompt 5 - Travel

Travel by Chris Guillebeau

If we live truly, we shall see truly. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?

(Author: Chris Guillebeau)

I've been having trouble identifying only one place, and most of the places I can think of are places I've already been... I'm not sure what that says about me, other than a current, more general desire to revisit and reconnect, to discover what I've forgotten, even though I know those places wouldn't be the same as I remembered/experienced them the first time.

Places to revisit:
Hull, England (northern England - Yorkshire/Manchester/etc., more generally)
Northern Ireland (Belfast, Derry, Giant's Causeway)
Florence, Italy
New York

 Places I haven't already been:

 I feel like I should have Russia on the "haven't been" list (I studied Russian in high school & college), and Japan on the "revisit" list (I was an exchange student there in 1984), but really neither one seems all that appealing at the moment; partly I think because of the language barrier (not that there wouldn't be language or cultural issues with Italy, Liberia, or Israel).

 What will I do to make sure I get there? Actually, my church work opens the possibility of traveling to most of these places - I'd love to do a British Methodist pastor exchange at some point, we have strong missions involvement with Liberia (which is why it is even on my radar), and church trips to Israel are fairly easy to come by, if you have the time and money.

#Trust30 Prompt 8 - Five Years

The Prompt:
Five Years by Corbett Barr

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What would you say to the person you were five years ago? What will you say to the person you’ll be in five years?

(Author: Corbett Barr)

The Post:
To my past self: 
"The winning lottery numbers for June 17 are 10 20 22 39 48 and the Powerball is 25, you'll have to split the pot with someone in Oklahoma, but $50,000,000 is still a good sum."

The more serious message to the past:
"Do more to appreciate where you are and what you are doing. Make sure to soak up every moment you have with your children (the one you have the the one still on his way)."

To my future self:
"Stay strong in the battle against the robot overlords. Humanity WILL NOT be enslaved! You know their weakness, don't be afraid to exploit it at every opportunity."

The more serious message to the future:
"Keep dreaming. Keep trying new things. Don't fall into complacency or cynicism." 

June 1, 2011

#Trust30 Prompt 1 - 15 Minutes to Live

This one seems kind of dark, but I'll give it a try...


Gwen Bell – 15 Minutes to Live

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.

(Author: Gwen Bell)


 I've had many fears in life, but I not so sure I'm afraid of death; I've preached too many Easter Sunday sermons to know that this is not the end.

 And yet, as I approach this end, as I consider the end of this life there is a powerful mixture of celebration and sorrow.

 Sorrow for all the things left undone, unsaid, unexpressed. Sorrow for the risks not taken, the joy not shared. Sorrow for all those times I caved into fear - the fear of what others might think or might say; the fear that lurks inside the deepest, darkest recesses of one's own soul which silently whispers, "Not good enough", "Not worthy", and "Not possible." As I enter into the light of eternity may this darkness be forever cast away.

 But, as I consider these last few moments, I choose not to dwell in the darkness, instead I celebrate the precious gift of life that I have been given. I give thanks for the love of Amy, Allison and Ben - for the joy and for the laughter, for the trips we've taken and for the simple meals we've shared around the dinner table. I give thanks for my parents and brothers, for helping to shape me and support me over all these years, for the countless blessings revealed in ordinary moments. I give thanks for all the companions on this journey, for those who I've walked and wrestled with; for those whom I've kept in close contact with and those whom I've lost contact but not forgotten. To all these, so often I've failed to thank, failed to adequately express myself for all that you've done and all that you mean to me; I'm sorry and I hope you can offer your forgiveness.

 At last my 15 minutes are nearly up (I type really slowly)... I wish I had some great bit of wisdom. Just enjoy life, soak up every minute that you can - take long bike rides though the Iowa countryside, swim in the cold saltwater of the oceans, and stare up on a warm summer's night and count the stars. Take risks. Live without fear. Keep it simple - in the words of Micah, "Seek justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God."

 See you soon.

#Trust30 Prompt 2 - Today

Liz Danzico – Today
Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

(Author: Liz Danzico)


Taking time to listen, love, create and be grateful.