Makin’ Change

Yet another postcard photo from Mo-Ranch.

Lots of great nuggets of inspiration here at CREDO. Way too much (and to new) to blog, but here’s one from a fellow participant that inspired a lot of us when it comes to dissatisfaction with the way things are:

You can be angry, you can be patient, or you can be creative.

Doesn’t matter what the issue is… that is something I can work with.

What’s inspiring you today?

Friday Link Love: No More Random Than Usual Edition

This post was originally “perhaps more random than usual” but I thought better of one of my links. *I* found it amusing, but it was off-color and had the potential to offend, so away it went.

Onward:

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Rest: Breathing Space and Sabbath Work — Mihee Kim-Kort

Mihee is a fellow pastor and Chalice Press author. She was with the board of the Young Clergy Women last week and talked about how it was a Sabbath experience, even though she was working:

…a mixed-up experience of Sabbath from daily living, i.e. from the babies. It was a Sabbath-work. It was space to breathe, without being stifled and smothered by my extremely loving babies. It was a space to be, and be not only a mom but a pastor, a sister, a leader, a thinker, a writer. It was a space to receive, and give in a different way.

A space she found restful and Sabbath-y.

I love this. One of the things I do in the book is explore different ways of thinking about Sabbath other than simply “not working.” For example, one section talks about Sabbath as a time to cultivate novelty. By moving into a different creative space, we are able to find rest and renewal.

She’s also got a great link to a TED talk called “The Art of Possibility.” How can you not lean in to that?

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Lamp Made from Sawmill Waste and LEDs — Colossal

A perfect illustration of that old preaching saw about how the cracks are important because that’s where the light shines through:

Genius.

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The Greatest Films of All Time — Roger Ebert

And he would know, eh? The reasoning behind his choices is enjoyable to read, as is everything Ebert writes:

The two [new] candidates, for me, are Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” (2008) and Terrene Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011). Like the Herzog, the Kubrick and the Coppola, they are films of almost foolhardy ambition. Like many of the films on my list, they were directed by the artist who wrote them. Like several of them, it attempts no less than to tell the story of an entire life.

In “Synecdoche,” Kaufman does this with one of the most audacious sets ever constructed: An ever-expanding series of boxes or compartments within which the protagonist attempts to deal with the categories of his life. The film has the insight that we all deal with life in separate segments, defined by choice or compulsion, desire or fear, past or present. It is no less than a film about life.

In “The Tree of Life,” Malick boldly begins with the Big Bang and ends in an unspecified state of attenuated consciousness after death. The central section is the story of birth and raising a family.

I could choose either film. I will choose “The Tree of Life” because it is more affirmative and hopeful. I realize that isn’t a defensible reasons for choosing one film over the other, but it is my reason, and making this list is essentially impossible, anyway.

Have you seen Tree of Life? We’ve had it sitting on our coffee table from Netflix for oh, two months or so. I will watch it!

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Panoramic Picture from Mars — NASA

Click on the link above for a 360-degree view of the Red Planet. Stunning, although I do love our pretty blue one.

(Note that this is NOT from Curiosity. In fact this may not even be a new picture. But it was new to me—maybe it’s new for you too.)

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Why Great Ideas Get Rejected — 99U

Creativity requires an element of novelty, but novelty provokes uncertainty:

We now know that regardless of how open-minded people are, or claim to be, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. This isn’t merely a preference for the familiar or a desire to maintain the status quo. Most of us sincerely claim that we want the positive changes creativity provides. What the bias affects is our ability to recognize the creative ideas that we claim we desire. Thus, when you’re pitching your creative idea, it may not be the idea itself that is being rejected. The more likely culprit could be the uncertainty your audience is feeling, which in turn is overriding their ability to recognize the idea as truly novel and useful.

If the implicit bias against creativity is triggered by uncertainty, then crafting your pitch to maximize certainty should improve the odds of the idea being accepted. You can do this in a variety of ways…

Members of the NEXT Church and other change agents: be advised.

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Pride Parade in Uganda — Advocate

This came across my Facebook feed last night. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, that is some stunning bravery right there.

Gorgeous.

Go in peace. Live fearless.

What To Expect… Grandparents’ Edition

My video on “What to Expect When Your Church is Expecting” has hit 4,000 views/pages and counting. I’m humbled and honored by the attention.

It also makes me cringe since I hate watching myself on video.

A few folks have countered that there are places in which the church is not pregnant, but really and truly dying. I agree. One person rightly pointed out that the symptoms for pregnancy that I named are not unlike the symptoms of a cancer patient. Also true. As I’ve said, this video/post offers a metaphor. To the extent that the metaphor helps, great. If it gets in the way of the hard work of dying that must take place in many specific places, disregard.

May my words be faithful or may they slip harmlessly away.

The inimitable Jan Edmiston riffed on the metaphor in a wonderful way today. The church is graying. So what is our responsibility as grandparents to this new church that is coming into being?

It occurs to me that those in my and older generations need to keep something in the forefront of our minds as the church we love is pregnant:

The Next Church Will Not Be Our Baby.

We will have great ideas for how to care for it and treasure it.  We might even be able to help pay for its nurture and its future.  But it’s not our baby.

 This is not to say we will not be ideal grandparents.  But it’s possible that we could overstep our bounds.  We could chuckle at the disciplines the younger generations have chosen to follow. We might want to talk incessantly about the way we did it.  But let’s not.

She ends by saying that the church of the future will be a lot browner than it is now. That’s also true. And yet the Presbyterian Church is very white. So what’s going on there? Adoption is another metaphor that might help us. I wonder if there’s someone out there that might riff on that in some creative ways. Susan? Alex?

Let’s all keep dreaming and spinning generative metaphors.

Friday Link Love

Where did the week go? Oh yeah, to Baltimore for a planning meeting for the NEXT Church. Now that’s a group of folks with some big dreams for the church! Stay tuned… and if you are of the Presbyterian flavor, register today for the 2012 conference!

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Nothing is Impossible — YouTube

Beautiful and inspiring:

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Physics, Miracles and Witchcraft: 50 Years of A Wrinkle in Time — Big Think

I recently read A Wrinkle in Time to the girls and was re-astounded at its beauty, complexity and depth:

What [L’Engle] seems to have intended to do is add a new twist (wrinkle?) to C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books. Those, too, combine fantasy with a religious message; The Magician’s Nephew even includes an element of planet-hopping sci-fi. But while the Lewis of Nephew was a veteran children’s author who knew, metaphysically speaking, where he stood, the L’Engle of Wrinkle was a relative newcomer, and there’s something less slick and complacent about her universe. Blend pagan myth with Christian themes and you’re repeating an old formula; stir in large quantities of secular literature and modern science, and you get a more intriguing, more volatile chemistry.

There’s also a discussion of a pivotal scene in the book (one of my favorites), which may be “the single most outrageous scene in classic children’s fiction.”

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Most Runway Models Meet the BMI Criteria for Anorexia — Daily Mail

A magazine dedicated to plus-size fashion and models has sparked controversy with a feature claiming that most runway models meet the Body Mass Index criteria for anorexia.

Accompanied by a bold shoot that sees a nude plus-size model posing alongside a skinny ‘straight-size’ model, PLUS Model Magazine says it aims to encourage plus-size consumers to pressure retailers to better cater to them, and stop promoting a skinny ideal.

Lots of very arresting photos of a beautiful “plus-size” model.

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Tackling “Wicked” Problems — Faith and Leadership

There are hard problems, and there are wicked problems:

Steve Jobs was a master at dealing with wicked problems, and when he came back to Apple [in 1996], it was in a very bad place. They had the success of the Macintosh, and then they really struggled.

Most CEOs would come back and say, “How do I sell more computers? We’ll have to expand the number of consumers who are interested in my products. We’ll have to hire a chief marketing officer.” It’s a hard problem — “How do I sell more computers?”

Jobs came in and asked different kinds of questions about what could that company even be. He famously said his objective was to make a dent in the universe. He asked, “How do I transform how people interact with each other and the devices that enable them to communicate?” It’s a totally different kind of thing.

I talk about this all the time in the church. We are very good at avoiding the wicked problems by asking the wrong questions: how can we halt membership decline? How do we get young people back to church? Wrong questions.

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Mike Rowe Answers Your Questions — Reddit

This is a couple years old, but couldn’t help but share. We love Mike Rowe and Dirty Jobs in our house:

Oodles of fun anecdotes, commentary, and yes opera singin’. Also, his answer to “Is there any chance you’ll stop having sex with my wife in her dreams? It’s getting pretty old, Mike” is so elegant, it would have made Archimedes jealous.

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May you all have a dreamy weekend.

Friday Link Love

A few random things…

Ice Art

 

Greenpeace got artist John Quigley to partially recreate da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man on a melting ice pack near the North Pole. Nicely metaphorical, dontcha think?

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Overshoot on Your Salary Request to Get the Best Offer

With any luck, I won’t be negotiating another salary from scratch any time soon. But I was intrigued by this approach:

Asking for a ridiculously high salary—even when offered as a joke—can get you a much higher salary offer than if you stay within the typical salary range for a job, the Harvard Business Review suggests.

I’m wondering whether this approach works in other areas of life!

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Choices for Change

This is an article for church leaders on how to catalyze change, but it has good thoughts for anyone needing to make a shift in his or her life: “When you want to change, you have two choices: think your way into acting or act your way into thinking.”

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If It Feels Right…

This David Brooks column has been making the rounds among my Facebook friends:

During the summer of 2008, the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith led a research team that conducted in-depth interviews with 230 young adults from across America. The interviews were part of a larger study that Smith, Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog and others have been conducting on the state of America’s youth.

Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing.

It’s not so much that these young Americans are living lives of sin and debauchery, at least no more than you’d expect from 18- to 23-year-olds. What’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.

[more at the link]

At least one commenter suggested that people of all ages are not necessarily good at talking categorically and philosophically about moral issues… but they are still good and moral people. What do you think?

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Hope it is an excellent weekend for everyone.

Shift Happens… at Tiny Church

The lectionary texts for the early fall come from Exodus, so we’re sticking with that story for several weeks and making a series out of it: Shift Happens: Faith at the Speed of Change. Our church’s transformation team thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce some of the stuff that they’ve been learning in their training. The goal is also pastoral: life is always changing. Some changes are positive, some are negative; some are sought after, some are foisted upon us. All can be stressful. All can knock us off balance.

And when it comes to change, Exodus has got it all: radical change (leave Egypt tonight!), gradual change (now wander for forty years), anxiety and resistance (there’s no food! and the food’s no good!), a desire to go back to the familiar (we were better off as slaves), and the need for mature leaders and companions in the midst of it all (Moses… well, he does the best he can. And Aaron kinda screws the pooch with that golden calf thing).

One of the members of our team says that our greatest challenge as a congregation is our tendency to be complacent. The church was blessed with a long-time pastor before I arrived—almost 30 years. That relationship brings with it incredible gifts. And a challenge: it’s really easy to get nice and comfortable. Relationships are vital in ministry, but the cultural landscape is changing too fast for that kind of cozy comfort. Complacency is a luxury we can’t afford if we want to be faithful to the gospel. Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff (and current Secretary of the VA) Eric Shinseki has said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevancy even less.” The Christian faith is headed to that point. (Others might say: look behind you.)

So this week it’s the story of the first passover. When I got together with a group of folks at Tiny Church to study the scripture and plan the series, they were befuddled by the instructions God gives here: Hey, I’m going to free you tonight, but it’s going to involve the slaughter of a whole lot of Egyptian people. Now, here’s a recipe for roast lamb. Best not to improvise on it.

What is God up to here? I’ve got a few ideas that I’m kicking around for Sunday.

Should be a fun series. Of course when you start working on something, you start seeing related stuff all over the place. This post from Seth Godin was on point:

The warning signs of defending the status quo

When confronted with a new idea, do you:

  • Consider the cost of switching before you consider the benefits?
  • Highlight the pain to a few instead of the benefits for the many?
  • Exaggerate how good things are now in order to reduce your fear of change?
  • Undercut the credibility, authority or experience of people behind the change?
  • Grab onto the rare thing that could go wrong instead of amplifying the likely thing that will go right?
  • Focus on short-term costs instead of long-term benefits, because the short-term is more vivid for you?
  • Fight to retain benefits and status earned only through tenure and longevity?
  • Embrace an instinct to accept consistent ongoing costs instead of swallowing a one-time expense?
  • Slow implementation and decision making down instead of speeding it up?
  • Embrace sunk costs?
  • Imagine that your competition is going to be as afraid of change as you are? Even the competition that hasn’t entered the market yet and has nothing to lose…
  • Emphasize emergency preparation at the expense of a chronic and degenerative condition?
  • Compare the best of what you have now with the possible worst of what a change might bring?

Calling it out when you see it might give your team the strength to make a leap.

And away we go.

Video: How to Move a 100 Year Old Church. I don’t love the aesthetic or the message of the rock/choir piece midway through, but there is something poignant about the people leading the way. 

The Upper Room: “Before” Pictures

Read my previous post about our plan to create a kid-friendly “upper room” at Tiny Church. A reader requested “before” pictures—here they are with a bit of commentary:

Here’s the view from the very back of the balcony, near the door. I love the archway and think one could do something creative with paint, to hearken it to the Upper Room commemorative site in Jerusalem. Or just something fun and warm.

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Here’s the view from the railing of the balcony. There are about eight rows of pews, so as you can see, the balcony sticks out into the worship space quite well. This means the folks in the upper room are still a part of things, but it also makes foot noise a problem. Thankfully, the building is solid as a rock, and it’s carpeted, so there’s no major creaking happening when people walk around. I was jumping up and down, trying to make noise, and it was minimal.

The fact that the balcony protrudes so much means we can do fun things up there, like on Pentecost when I had the kids drop red, yellow and orange balloons on the people below as a “tongues of fire” throwback.

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The balcony has become home to all kinds of random things, including this fantastically retro couch. Unfortunately it’s gone totally flat. Any cushiony feel comes from the sheer amount of dust residing in it. We are thinking Craig’s List. That’s rolled-up carpet behind the couch. The globe is awesome, but perhaps needs to live somewhere other than our church.

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Nobody I’ve talked to knows where the rocking recliner came from, but it’s got a lot of life left in it. I could see a little reading nook in the corner of the upper room. I could also see that being a bone of contention.

Figuring out what to do with the books is a major puzzle. I firmly believe that in the Internet age, most church libraries are going the way of the dodo. However, there is some decent stuff up there—check out the Interpretations series lining that top shelf, and owl-eyed readers can also spot an old set of Calvin’s Institutes.

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A long view of the balcony. These are the white shelves you just saw.

Our current plan for the church library (such as it is) is to give it a second life by allowing people to take the books they want. They are the church’s books, so it makes sense that members of the church should be able to have them. Books that aren’t claimed will be boxed up and given to… whom? I bet my readers have some ideas!

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More stuff to be dealt with.

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Views from either side of the front railing. One of our challenges will be to figure out what to do with all these chairs. Also, notice the two large raised parts of the floor. Those need to go—they are a tripping hazard, but I think that means new carpet. Interestingly, there’s some more of this carpet rolled up behind that filing cabinet on the back wall of the last picture. !!

But as you can see, the space has two windows! How wonderful!

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So there’s your guided tour. I’ll be posting updates about our progress as we go.

I’m also considering applying for a worship renewal grant from Calvin College to do some kind of programmatic work, perhaps about children in worship, to go along with these physical changes to our building.