Friday Link Love: Art Books, Mysterious Wires, and an Appreciative God

First things first… you guys know about the Sabbath in the Suburbs website, yes? I post there a couple of times a week.

Onward…

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The Best Art Books of 2012 — Brain Pickings

I covet them all. Here’s a page from Alice in Wonderland:

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The Fear of Women as Bishops — New Yorker

I went to see the great Oxford historian of Christianity (and former ordained deacon) Diarmaid MacCulloch, and asked him to explain the roots of such lingering hostility to the idea of women bishops. He laughed and called it a piece of theatre, confabulated by men still smarting from the fact that Christ chose two women to witness and announce the Resurrection.

Snerk.

I quoted him then, and I’ll do it again, now: “The historical ‘against-women’ argument about twelve male apostles—it comes from the early years of the Christian era and the spectacles put forth by the male leaders, who [had] wanted to be the ones to ‘see’ Christ first. By the end of the second century, a male leadership had emerged, and after that it became the men-were-what-the-Holy-Spirit-intended argument and then the tradition-of-the-church argument. It was specious. Slavery was also our ‘tradition’ for seventeen hundred years. If you want a doctrine of the Holy Spirit, you change.”

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Five Charts about Climate Change That Should Have You Very Worried — Atlantic

Most of Greenland’s top ice layer melted in four days this summer:

The event is uncommon, though not unprecedented. A similar event happened in 1889, and before that, several centuries earlier. There are indications, however, that the greatest amount of melting during the past 225 years has occurred in the last decade.

I’m sure everything will be just fine.

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Gazing into the Abyss — Christian Wiman

Wiman is the editor of Poetry magazine. He has an incurable form of blood cancer. And he is my kind of Christian:

So now I bow my head and try to pray in the mornings, not because I don’t doubt the reality of what I have experienced, but because I do, and with an intensity that, because to once feel the presence of God is to feel His absence all the more acutely, is actually more anguishing and difficult than any “existential anxiety” I have ever known. I go to church on Sundays, not to dispel this doubt but to expend its energy, because faith is not a state of mind but an action in the world, a movement toward the world. How charged this one hour of the week is for me, and how I cherish it, though not one whit more than the hours I have with my wife, with friends, or in solitude, trying to learn how to inhabit time so completely that there might be no distinction between life and belief, attention and devotion.

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Giving Thanks for a God That is Appreciative — Hesham A. Hassaballa, Patheos

A link from Thanksgiving week:

In Islamic tradition, it is believed that God has 99 names, or attributes, that describe God for the believer. These include the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Loving, the Shaper, the Maker, and many more…

in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to reflect over a particularly fascinating name for God: Al Shakur, or “The Appreciative.”

This is truly, truly amazing. The Lord God—Originator of the heavens and the earth, Creator of all that exists, Giver of Life, the Most Powerful of all things, the King of all kings—is al Shakur, or “the appreciative.”

Appreciative of what, however? What have I done, as a servant of God, so that He would be appreciative of me?

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What’s That Thing? Mysterious Wires Edition — Slate

The “What’s That Thing” series is fun. See the thin wires in the picture?

Apparently it’s a Sabbath thing. More at the link…

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Moneyball and the Future of the Church — David Lose

The third in a series relating aspects of the book/film with the tremendous upheaval that’s at work (and that’s needed) in the church:

One of my definitions of good leadership is the ability to take advantage of crises.

What do I mean by that? Simply that a good leader is always tending a vision of the future. A vision that is always a little larger than the present, always moving just a little beyond where we are now.

The challenge however, is that as a species we tend to put a very high value on homeostasis. We greatly prefer, that is, stability to change. And for good reason: stability promotes growth. But that means we are often far more reactive than proactive, changing only when we have to. And that makes advancing a positive vision of the future difficult, as we would often prefer to make due with a less-than-adequate – but known – present than a promising but unknown (and therefore risky) future.

Which is where crises come in. A crisis demands immediate action and provides the thoughtful and prepared leader with an excuse to make changes that he or she knew were necessary but couldn’t enact because they seemed too difficult for most to contemplate previously.

Incidentally, I used the clip he discusses in part 1 of his series in my workshop for the NEXT Church gathering in Dallas in February. You have to define the problem accurately in order to solve it.

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And the obligatory Colossal post:

The Energy Generated from a Single Orange — Colossal

It’s alive!!!!

May you be alive to your world this weekend. Advent blessings.

Friday Link Love

Still at FFW. (Ah, the joy of pre-scheduled posts…)

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Gymnast Johanna Quaas — YouTube

She’s 86.

That’s Eighty-Six:

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95 Tweets against Hell — Two Friars and a Fool

I love the friars, and this is a tweeting tour de force:

#95Tweets #E1: Eternal Hell is not in any way restorative – it eternally severs relationship and eternally prevents redemption

#95Tweets #E2: In fact, eternal Hell is the teaching that there are people and things that can never be redeemed, even by God

#95Tweets #E3: Eternal Hell is vengeance made infinite, and is therefore even less noble than vengeance

#95Tweets #E4: Eternal Hell lacks the sole moral underpinning of punishment, which is correction

 And yes, there are 95 of them.

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How to Store Fruits, Vegetables and Eggs without a Fridge — Improvised Life

Such ingenuity and simple beauty in this approach.

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Walking the Tightrope: Thoughts on Vulnerability and Hurt — Brene Brown

Brene is one of my heroes. With this post, she takes a stand: she will no longer write articles for venues that don’t moderate their comments or have some basic controls in place to keep the discussion civil.

Brava.

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Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy — YouTube

My friend Todd passed this along: why the first follower is just as (more?) important than the leader. Good stuff and a joy to watch:

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A Congregation of Theological Coherence — Alban Institute

I really like the idea of a congregation having a common theological vocabulary:

This pastor leads a congregation that is sturdy. It isn’t likely to be the focus of a church growth study, or make the cover of Time during Holy Week. However, it is a congregation that makes a difference in people’s lives. The parking lot is full during the week. The lights are on in the evening. Membership numbers are steady. 

Several conditions enhance a congregation’s ability to address the challenges and opportunities it faces. They include simple yet important realities: use of outside resources to learn new capacities, clergy and laity learning together, and congregations assuming the initiative over their futures. 

Another emerging condition we’re observing is theological coherence; the ability to think clearly about God and then act accordingly. A congregation that is clear and consistent about how it understands God, and applies this understanding to its daily life, is more able to deal effectively with challenges and opportunities. 

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Why Storytellers Lie — Atlantic Monthly

I’ve just put Gotschall’s book,  The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, on my Goodreads:

When we tell stories about ourselves, they also serve another important (arguably higher) function: They help us to believe our lives are meaningful. “The storytelling mind”—the human mind, in other words—”is allergic to uncertainty, randomness, and coincidence,” Gottschall writes. It doesn’t like to believe life is accidental; it wants to believe everything happens for a reason. Stories allow us to impose order on the chaos.

And we all concoct stories, Gotschall notes—even those of us who have never commanded the attention of a room full of people while telling a wild tale. “[S]ocial psychologists point out that when we meet a friend, our conversation mostly consists of an exchange of gossipy stories,” he writes. “And every night, we reconvene with our loved ones … to share the small comedies and tragedies of our day.”

…Every day of our lives—sometimes with help working things out via tweets or Facebook status updates—we fine-tune the grand narratives of our lives; the stories of who we are, and how we came to be…

…We like stories because, as Gotschall puts it, we are “addicted to meaning”—and meaning is not always the same as the truth.

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Have a good weekend, dear readers.

Needing a Mentor, Being a Mentor

Ah, Generic Stock Photos. Where would blogs be without them.

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about mentors lately. I thought this article was awesome: Get Ahead with a Mentor Who Scares You:

“You’re the best!” the four American Idol contestants cried to their voice coach Patty after narrowly escaping elimination, “We couldn’t have done it without you!” As they celebrated, I couldn’t help but notice that their hero was the same irascible, no-holds-barred woman who had been shown yelling and screaming at the same contestants just minutes earlier, leaving her devastated charges in tears.

With the group’s success, Patty’s tough-love approach was validated (much more clearly, perhaps, than that of the show’s previous tough-love artist Simon Cowell). Though her tactics were questionable, they certainly brought out the best in her team; she truly helped them to become better singers and performers. I’m not saying that you should go out and be like Patty, but if you’re young, ambitious and motivated, you should take a page from that foursome.

Go out and find the most qualified or talented mentor, coach, or manager you can, and subject yourself to everything they can throw at you.

The comments rightly caution against a mentor who is abusive. I’m not interested in being yelled at. After all, my kids will be teens before I know it…

But I love the basic idea. Over my 12+ years in ministry, lay and ordained, I’ve had a number of nurturing and supportive mentors and guides—spiritual directors, coaches and professors.

Now I’m ready for someone to scare the bejesus out of me. Or scare the Jesus into me.

I’d like a mentor who assigns me challenging work to do. Who is constantly reinventing herself in ministry. Who understands that good pastoral leaders are as much futurists as they are caregivers and consensus-builders. Who is where I’d like to be on this writing/pastoring journey.

‘Trouble is… I’m not sure I know anyone who fits that bill. Or who would be open to that kind of relationship. Do you? If not, I wonder what it says about the church that that’s the case.

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On the other side of the equation, I will be mentoring a woman who is newly graduated from seminary. I’m not interested in scaring her. She’s looking for someone to guide and hold her accountable to her own goals and process. I’m excited, because she’s an awesome person and is going to be an incredible minister, and to the extent that I can help her along her way, it’s a great honor.

As I begin this process, though, I have a couple of questions for you, Gentle Readers of all persuasions:

Have you had a mentoring relationship that was helpful? Would you be willing to talk to me about that?

Have you ever wanted a mentor and not been able to find one? What stood in the way?

Have you ever been a mentor? If not, what has stood in your way?

If you’d like to talk off-blog, e-mail me at maryannmcdana (at) gmail (dot) com.

Moneyball

Robert and I went to see Moneyball last night. Excellent flick—I can see why it’s 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

I was bowled over by how the story resonates with issues of leadership and church transformation.

Anyone? Anyone?

Please tell me someone has already written this post so I don’t have to.

 

Will Apple Go Downhill? Maybe.

In his early years at Apple, before he was forced out in 1985, Mr. Jobs was notoriously hands-on, meddling with details and berating colleagues. But later, first at Pixar, the computer-animation studio he co-founded, and in his second stint at Apple, he relied more on others, listening more and trusting members of his design and business teams.

In recent years, Mr. Jobs’s role at Apple has been more the corporate equivalent of “an unusually gifted and brilliant orchestra conductor,” said Michael Hawley, a professional pianist and computer scientist who worked for Mr. Jobs and has known him for years. “Steve has done a great job of recruiting a broad and deep talent base.”

…[But] it is by no means certain, analysts say, that things will go that smoothly for Apple.

Link

One of the things pastors say to one another is that if the church falls apart after you leave, you haven’t done your job. I believe this. After all, our only job description according to scripture is to “equip the saints for ministry.” A pastor who is driven by ego or insecurity can set herself up as the savior for the congregation, and when she leaves, the congregation becomes lost.

And yet taking this view too far is not helpful. We bring unique gifts and experiences to the work we do. If, after we depart, our church hums along as if we’d never been there in the first place, does that mean we did a really good job of equipping? Or does it mean that we withheld some of our authentic selves from the people with whom we served?

After I left a previous call, there were programs I initiated that did not continue. I’ve felt guilty about that at times: maybe I didn’t do enough to share the ministry. Such self-reflection is healthy. But it’s also possible that God called me, with a specific set of unique gifts and talents, to make an impact for however long I was there, and that some of those things were dependent on what I uniquely brought to the table. It is not vain to acknowledge this.

Now the leadership looks different, so there are different things happening. Good.

The more I read and understand of leadership, the more I understand that it really is the pastor who sets the course, who risks articulating a vision, and who puts her own creativity and abilities on the line for the sake of what needs to be done. We don’t do it alone, and sometimes we do it badly. Or we don’t do it at all and end up plodding along. But that is our job. And our gifts and talents and personality are inevitably tied up in this. We talk a lot about the “pastoral role” as this thing that exists. And it does. But we are not interchangeable appliances that can be swapped out. (Maybe we should stop calling the service that welcomes us into the congregation “installations”…)

The above article says Jobs matured as a leader and learned how to find good people and call forth their gifts. So the company is likely to be fine. But let’s not pretend that CEO Jobs was simply a midwife for others’ creativity. He was the creative force behind much of Apple’s success.

Nor will it be the same company in his absence. And that’s OK.

If Apple loses some of its mojo, it doesn’t necessarily mean Steve Jobs didn’t do his job. It means that there is nobody quite like Steve Jobs.

Friday Link Love

Some random stuff that caught my attention this week:

I Believe in Child Labour, Sweatshops and Torture

Peter Rollins is an amazingly complex thinker and communicator. But in this post he doesn’t do nuance—for which he has been criticized. Still, for many Christians who have divorced belief from practice for way too long, and in some pretty tragic ways, these are prophetic words.

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“In My Opinion”: Practices of Discernment for Leaders When Making Decisions

Here’s your nuance:

On one of my work-related trips, I struck up a conversation with a young man who was a professional pilot. He was a serious-minded guy, and before long we were discussing the big issues of life. After a while, he said he noticed that whenever I said something substantive, I always added the qualifier “in my opinion.” In his opinion, he said, someone with my academic background should not qualify his remarks but should speak “with certainty.”

I explained that my degrees have provided me with more questions than answers. He said, “I’ll have to think about that.”

I thought about it, too. And I stick by my qualifier.

The article offers some antidotes to what the author calls “arrogant absolutism.”

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The Men in Mentors

The author went looking for female mentors… and couldn’t find any.

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And a bit more whimsy:

Solutions for the ‘Everyday’

Two-way toothpaste? Coffins that screw into the ground? I love it!

Lionel Logue and Leadership

I saw The King’s Speech over the weekend. Stop reading if you don’t want to be spoiled, although the plot is formulaic enough (not in a bad way) that you can see some of this coming a kilometre away. This movie is really about the characters, not as much the plot.

I saw the movie after spending the day in church leadership training, so of course that colored my impressions of the movie. That said, the Geoffrey Rush character had many marks of a transformational leader. (Leadership doesn’t always imply an assembled group; leaders can lead individuals into new places as well.)

First, Lionel Logue had a very intentional sense of purpose and vision and remained faithful to it (I meet with clients here, nowhere else; I will call you Bertie; we will meet everyday).

He expected the people around him to work hard and he held them accountable (practice an hour a day).

This weekend we talked about the job of a congregational leader, namely, to train more leaders. He certainly did that; he helped train a king!

Transformational leaders do not rely on outsiders to give them their credentials; their authority comes from within. This was demonstrated in the way Logue handled the confrontation with Bertie over his not being a “real” doctor.

He exhibited an extremely high level of empathy. He was an attentive listener and he used what he heard to increase his effectiveness and care for his famous client. His fidelity to his vision grew out of his love and concern for others and a belief that straying from that vision just so people would feel safe and comfortable would not serve them in the long run.

And yet he also was very authentically himself. He shared about his humble beginnings and was visibly hurt when Bertie blasted him with these personal details in the park. Later, when confronted about his lack of credentials, he didn’t stammer and rationalize and beg for a second chance. He shared his experience with quiet confidence and let the chips fall where they may.

Lots to chew on.

In short, it is a testament to Geoffrey Rush’s performance that I was more captivated by Logue than by Colin Firth in Royal Attire. *cough*

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?