Friday List – October 8th, 2010

Happy Friday everyone.  Fall is in the air and it is a beautiful day in the Mile High city.  Enjoy your weekend.

If you have any material that you would want to share that might fit the Friday List, feel free to send it my way!

The Art of Silence

A few years back I heard a pastor talk about the art of silence.  We love surrounding ourselves with sound.  When we’re driving we turn on the radio.  When we’re at home the TV or the radio is on.  When we exercise we love having our iPod rockin’ while we’re mashing the iron.  We have elevator music, music while we’re put on hold on the phone, text alerts, ringtones, car horns, doorbells, all of this noise is in our daily lives.

We love noise, even if it’s just white noise, the wallpaper of our hearing.  But what if we were to take away that noise, peel away the wallpaper.

Silence is awkward.

In silence we can hear our own heartbeat, sometimes so loudly that it can feel deafening in our ears.  In silence we realize what’s been drowning out God’s still, small voice and what we’ve been missing.  Silence keeps noise from glossing over our cares and concerns.  Silence keeps us from submerging our minds in the waves of sound and forces us to think without external stimuli.

Silence is an art.  Like good art it has to be developed and refined.  Some people are natural artists and have a gift for understanding the art in its proper context.  When an artist takes time to perfect their art then there are details and elements that slowly appear.

You turn off the radio.  Unplug the iPod.  Turn off the TV.  Drive in silence.  Take a walk.  And the details and elements begin to appear.

Silence brings out the deepest parts of who I am as I sit there exposed and open without the covering of noise.  Thoughts and struggles that I have ignored or glossed over have nowhere to run but are right there in front of me.

I hear my heartbeat and realize that the life pulsing through my veins is a gift from the God whose voice I sometimes can only hear in silence.

I want to perfect the art of silence.  I want to eliminate the white noise, peel away the wallpaper, and listen for God’s voice to speak.

Rest and Recharge

Today’s a day of rest for me.  Yesterday was moving day and I am definitely feeling it.  There was a point this morning where I wondered if the creaking and groaning I was hearing was the stairs, only to realize that it was my bones that was making those sounds.  I need some rest.

Life has been at a go-go-go pace for me over the past six weeks or so as I’ve been trying to juggle full-time ministry, grad school, and life in general.  Today is the day where I am resting and being intentional about it.

I’m catching up on things that have been needing some face time with me.  I’m going to be working on some spiritual things, faith refining and some spiritual house cleaning.  Today’s also a day for practical things like posting stuff on Craigslist (yes, probably should have done that before I moved.) and finishing a book that I’ve been wanting/needing to finish.

But today is also a chance to dream and refine my vision.  With leading a variety of teams I need to revisit what God wants from my teams and me.  Sometimes it’s hard to have a clear outlook when you’re in the whirlwind of the schedule and you allow that same whirlwind to drown out God’s still, small voice.

I think we confuse the idea of rest with doing nothing.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times where we all need a day of “nothing”.  No plans, no agendas, just mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual respite.  But it’s so easy to just slip into the mode of “day off” meaning that you check out for the day, mentally and physically.

God has given you the opportunity on your “day off” to redirect your energies from the tyranny of the urgent towards what you enjoy doing and what will enhance your well-being.  Take the opportunity to better your outlook on life, faith, and God’s will for you.  Sleep in a bit (not all day) and go to bed early that night.  Sometimes sleep can be the one of the most powerful spiritual practices ever.  Even Jesus slept in the midst of a violent storm.

If you’re an introvert, make plans to spend time with a close friend or two.  If you’re an extrovert, make plans to spend an hour or two alone in silence with maybe a journal and your Bible.  Find the things that refresh you and put a handful of them into your plans for the day.  And if you don’t get to all of them, who cares?

Today’s that type of day for me.  I am soaking it in and loving it.

Moving Memories and Part of My Story

I’m moving tomorrow and leaving the apartment where I have stayed the longest since college.  When it comes to moving and changing new places I’m not too much of a sentimental guy.  We moved a lot when I was kid until I was about 10.  6 times in 8 years.   The first time doesn’t count though because I was 2 or 3 when it happened but still you get used to moving at that rate.

When I graduated from college I moved back to Colorado from Chicago.  Ten weeks later I moved back to Chicago to take my first real job at a church.  I crammed all of my stuff into my 2002 Subaru Outback and drove the 1,000 miles back to Chicago.  No trailer, no rooftop luggage rack needed.  All my stuff fit inside my car.  Can you say college kid?

I lived in the parsonage at the church for ten months.  It was drafty and clapboard with wiring that was a crapshoot at times but it more than met my needs and was a blessing to me.

The church sold the parsonage so I moved to an apartment in northwest Indiana.  It was probably the sketchiest building I’ve ever lived in.  It was 14 months of loud neighbors, domestic violence in the hallways, sharing Christ with single moms chain-smoking out front, and trying to figure out what made these people tick.  It was probably the greatest blessing for me in ministry as it breathed a new perspective into my outlook on ministry.

Then came the call to come back to Colorado.  I left a great job with a great future to follow what I feel was the clearest call of God on my life.  He grew in me a heart to reach out to Denver and led me back to Colorado without a job offer or any idea of what was ahead of me.  I felt like Abraham being called to a new place without any guarantee of what was to come.

I’ve been back in Denver for two years now and I feel so fulfilled with where God has me.  This apartment has been more than just a place to live and a spot to crash at night.  It’s the start to my journey of being called to Denver.  I know that God has some incredible things in store for me and I’m excited to see what’s next.  Turn the page, next chapter.

Friday List – October 1st, 2010

It’s Friday.  Thank God.  Happy 1st Friday in October.

  • A guy in Utah got his lawnmower up to almost 100 mph.
  • When the sun hits a Vegas hotel just right, it turns one section of the pool area into a fry zone.  Enter the Vdara Death Ray.
  • For those of you who really think it takes too long to get dressed in the morning, now you can spray on your clothes.
  • Picture of the Week:  About to Fail.
  • Video of the Week:  How to Be Bully Smart.  Two points for the “Throw Candy in the Face” technique.
  • Quote of the Week:  Facebook status — “Please put this as your status if you know/are related to someone killed on Alderaan when it was obliterated by the Death Star. My wish is that people will understand the Empire is a band of murdering scum. The Rebel Alliance wants only to bring peace to the galaxy, but the Empire continues to kill innocent civilians. …93% of people won’t copy/paste this. Will YOU make this your status for at least an hour?”

Great Expectations

No, Great Expectations doesn’t refer to the Dickens novel, Great Expectations.  Great Expectations is the stuff that you and I place on others around us, usually the people who are closest to us.  We have so many high-level, sometimes even unrealistic, expectations that we place on our friends, our family, our co-workers, and our significant others.

They should do _____ for me.  They should know _____ about me.  They should be ______ to me.  Don’t they know who I am?!  They should, they should, they should….you begin to get the feeling that someone has pretty high expectations.

Hey, we’re all guilty of this at times. We have unrealistic expectations and compound that problem with the fact that largely we don’t voice our expectations to others.  Those unsaid expectations are sometimes worse that the unrealistic ones:  What you don’t know will hurt you in the long run.

The biggest problem is when we confuse what we expect of people with what we should expect from God.  Why don’t I feel completely fulfilled with this person?  Why aren’t they meeting all of my needs?  Why do I feel like I’m on the outside looking in?  These are all fleeting expectations that we have misdirected from God to people in our everyday lives.

The only place where Great Expectations are justified is in our relationship with God.  Expect great things from the One who made you.  Expect great movements and convictions from the One who seated your conscience and soul inside of you.

But we’re not the only ones with Great Expectations.  God calls us to a much higher level of living than what our hearts want.  God expects us to do great things for His kingdom but not on our own horsepower.  He fills us with His Spirit because He knows that we can only do great things if He empowers us with great attributes.

And that’s when it’s okay to have Great Expectations.

Joshua Prince-Ramus on Creativity and Creative Execution

I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of TED Talks, a think-tank of some of the leading minds in Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  Several months back I watched a TED Talk given by Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal architect of REX Design Firm in New York City.  This morning I re-watched the same TED Talk for two reasons:

1)  Christians need to become better visionaries, seeing the big picture and realizing the relationship of the parts in light of the overall arena of function.  Almost anyone can throw out a good idea but it becomes a great idea when it fits inside the overall function of the ministry.  Otherwise it’s just a good idea with no real place to take root.

2)  Christians also need to become better at understanding the relationship between creativity and execution of creative design.  Prince-Ramus does a great job of explaining this relationship.  Sometimes I forget how important this relationship is in ministry.

A creative idea stays as simply an idea until we begin execution of the idea.  A common mistake is that we limit the label of creativity to just the conception of the idea.  We throw out an idea that is creative and think that as long as we simply put that idea into action that it is the end of the creative power of that idea.

Creativity should extend beyond the initial conception throughout the entire process of execution.  Be constantly thinking through the execution process of more ways you could infuse creativity into the final outcome.

Example…If the chandelier in the Phantom of the Opera came dropping straight down from behind the curtain it would be a good effect.  Having it swing down onto the stage from above the audience’s heads?  That’s a memory-creating experience.  Smart money would say that idea wasn’t in the initial conception of the Phantom of the Opera.

Once you’re “done” with the execution of the idea, creativity should extend into a post-production analysis of the idea.  How much did your initial idea change and evolve through the execution process?  What are the areas or elements that could be improved to create a more effective and appealing outcome?  What were the areas where you had to compromise some of your idea development for the sake of better function?

Our creative process needs to be a process and not just a preliminary discussion.

Getting Rid of “Good Enough”

Good enough.  This has become one of the worst crutches that the Church has been using over the years.  Whether it’s in leadership, ministry, outreach, design, or a variety of other areas, we’ve settled with “good enough” as the standard instead of the exception.

There’s a problem with “good enough” though.  “Good enough” is rarely good at all and has a closer resemblance to “okay” than good.  “Enough” implies that we’re willing to settle with whatever level we’re at; it’s okay to stop pushing forward.  “Enough” is us kicking back and pushing the cruise control button.

The Church has the greatest message ever in the person of Jesus and yet for years we’ve given into the rut of “good enough”:

Artistic design has been annually butchered on the altar of “good enough” in the Church.  Flyers, websites, logos, Powerpoint layout, these have all been victims of “good enough”.  Let’s not even talk about videos and skits.  Those have been the ugly step-child of art for years in the Church.

Leadership development and training has been chopped down to the bare minimum.  Volunteers are told that they only need to know the minimum.  I’ve been guilty of this one and see some areas in my leadership circle that need to be cured of this issue.

We put people into leadership positions who are less than skilled in leadership.  They’re willing to lead but completely out of their strength zone.  When we put the wrong people in the wrong places we might as well cut their legs out from under them.

The question might come up, “Is there ever a good time to use “good enough”?  Here’s a pretty complete answer: nope.  Wanting to be excellent in even the smallest details will separate you from the rest of the pack.  Push yourself to the next level.  Define and demonstrate excellence, especially in the details.

I’ve been guilty of giving in to “good enough”.  I’ve given into the temptation to cut corners on excellence and settle far short of the mark.  I still find myself saying, “Aw, that’s good enough.”  This is me calling myself out to step it up, to run a tighter ship, and to keep reminding myself of what defines excellence.  None of this makes any difference unless we’re doing it for the glory of God.  Excellence for the glory of God is the fullest calling that we could ever fulfill and “good enough” is the quickest exit away from that fulfillment.

Why Apologies Aren’t As Valuable

I’m sorry.

Two words, just two words, that can contain a large amount of meaning. They can mend broken bridges, heal past wounds, and start you back on the path of regaining trust. There is a lot of power in those two words but we’ve started to rob them of their meaning.

It’s too easy to apologize today.  If you offend someone, just throw out a quick “I’m sorry, blah, blah, blah, fill in the blank” and you can check it off the list.  You’re not required to be specific, no extensive details need to be involved. You don’t even have to be sincere.  All you have to do is say, “I’m sorry”, and be done with it.  Not only that but if someone still takes offense for what you did, you can fall back on this claim, “I said I was sorry!”

Sports players, comedians, celebrities, the “popular” in society have perfected the written apology.  They, or some official representative of theirs, gets up to the podium with a crisp, one-page letter and rattles off some canned apology letter that a robot could have scripted.  Finish reading, wipe away whatever tears you might or might not have conjured up, hug your family flanking both sides of you, and exit stage right.  It’s clean, it’s sanitized, and the cameras are there just eating it up.

New flash:  There’s a problem with that!  There’s no accountability, no promise for change in the future.  When you apologize it’s implied that you’re going to work at not making that same mistake again.  When we’ve lost the sincerity and commitment for change that comes with a real apology, we’re doing nothing more than checking an apology off the list so we can get people off our backs.

Let’s bring meaning back to apologies.  Put some thought into why you’re sorry.  Internalize why you have your regret.  Make a plan in your mind how to prevent that same mistake going forward.  Be sincere and resist the urge to quick-draw a half-hearted “I’m sorry” whenever it’s convenient.

Friday List – September 24, 2010

It’s the first Friday of fall.  Cool weather is coming and leaves are beginning to fall soon.  I’m a big fan of the fall months.  Happy Friday everyone.

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