Leadership and Self-Awareness

self awareIt’s important to have self-awareness.  This is true in general, but especially in leadership.  If you aren’t a self-aware leader, you at the least, aren’t most fully who you can be.  At the worst, you are dangerous to yourself and others because you may not be fully aware of how you respond to certain challenges and experiences.

Being self-aware is a life-long process.  And to this end, I think its a great idea to every once and awhile reflect on and say who you are, and who you want to be and are becoming.  To help unpack this process, I will use myself as an example.  There are countless categories one could use to reflect on oneself.  For purposes of clarity, here are seven that I have found particularly helpful for myself, and now share with you.

Self-Identifiers 

What labels or identities do you have or could you claim?  The ones you are and are aware of can be a good starting place for reflection on who you are and who you identify as.  (They might also hint at some of your vocations.)

For example, in no particular order I could claim or identify as:  a person/human being, “Child of God,” male, husband, son, brother, grandson, life-long learner, leader, citizen, neighbor, facilitator and consultant.  If wanting to identify as someone with nationality or ethnicity I could add that I am an American, a Washingtonian at heart, a current Minnesotan, with Norwegian and German roots among others.  I could keep going into particularities such as for “Child of God” being a Christian, Lutheran, and particularly an ELCA Lutheran.  There are many others, depending on the degree of interest. But to be aware of these is helpful in order to begin to understand who you are, why you might value what you value, and do (or not do) what you do (or don’t).  In terms of vocation, I would add that by being a husband, for example, is a particular vocation and relationship which is important to acknowledge.

Passions in Work, Life, and Fun

What are your passions?  What are you passionate about in your work, service, and leadership?  What are you passionate about in life?  What do you do for fun?  I ask passion here, but it could be just as helpful to ponder what are your vocations?

For example, I have a passion for helping people and have discerned a “calling” towards service (which might be called “ministry”) in the world.  What this looks like can range from smiling at a perfect stranger, to helping someone in need, to leading or participating in the life of a congregation, to leading an organization or partnering with an organization or other people to collaborate and do some good in the world.  I also am passionate about trying to help others see and understand that they are loved and have gifts.  I am also a passionate sports fan (particularly a fan of the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Seahawks).

Strengths

strengths finderWhat are your strengths? I am not one who believes that there are definitive metrics that tell us totally who we are.  But I do believe that there are some tools that can help us begin to unpack further who we are as long as we don’t limit ourselves to a few words or outputs from quizzes and questionnaires, etc.

For example, according to the Strengths Finder I have the strength types of:  Achiever, Responsibility, Strategic, Learner, Arranger and Competitive.  If you know or are familiar with Strengths Finder, you know that they tell you what your five top strengths are.  My top four have been consistent every time I have taken the assessment, but my #5 has switched between Arranger and Competitive, so I figure they are probably my top 6.  (If desiring to connect this more directly to leadership I highly encourage you to look into and utilize the Achieving Styles Indicator developed by Jean Lipman-Blumen in conjunction with her Connective Leadership Institute.)

Personality 

What kind of personality do you have?  I realize that there are always nuances and exceptions, but having a basic understanding of your personality can be helpful to be aware of how you react, energize, relax, and re-energize. This is of benefit in your work like, daily life, and relationships in general.

For example, according to assessments associated with Myers Briggs, I am: an equal introvert and extrovert (I/E); intuitive (N); thinking (T); and judging (J). Being aware of this makes me aware of how I act and interact with others.

The Person

What kind of a person are you?  You could answer this in a lot of ways.  Right now, I think the Enneagram might be the best tool at providing a snapshot answer of this.  This isn’t a “you are a good or bad person” type thing, rather, a look at your deeper self and at perhaps what makes you tick.  It’s an extremely helpful thing especially for knowing yourself and for knowing how you function the way you do with other people.

For example, according to the Enneagram, I am a “One with a Two-Wing.”  This may mean that I am a “Social Reformer,” or an “Advocate.”  It also may mean that I am principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and a perfectionist.  With a 2-wing, this may indicate a sense of being generous and serving others.  It may also mean that a quest for ideals is met with compassion and empathy.

Questions

question markWhat kind of questions are you wrestling with currently?  What questions do you continue to wrestle with and wonder about?  What questions did you used to wonder about?  What kind of questions do you ask about yourself and others in order to grow and learn about yourself?

For example, individually and personally I wrestle with questions related to employment opportunities. These aren’t about purpose, vision, and values.  Rather, just questions related to when and where.  I wonder about questions related to, how can I be a better me and a better spouse for my wife?  Or philosophically, how can we continue to make the world a better place for each other- for all of our neighbors?  Or theologically, what might be the signs around us for the in-breaking of the kingdom of God (if any)? These are just a few of the questions that I may ponder from time to time.

Personal Mission Statement

I recently saw an article about a personal mission statement, and felt inspired to include it.  So, if you were to think about who you are, and if you were asked to give a statement about yourself to describe who you are, what might it be?

For example, my personal mission statement might be:  “To love my neighbor as I love myself through accompanying, collaborating, leading, learning, and partnering.”

——————

Were these categories helpful for you?  What others categories would you add or consider adding to help be self-aware?

Image Credits:  1) Self Aware; 2) Strengths Finder; and 3) Question Mark.

Some thoughts about being lost (from Luke 15)

This past Sunday I heard a sermon (which you can watch below) shared by Pastor Dan Poffenberger at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota.  He reflected on Luke 15, and its inclusion of three separate but very much connected parables.  They all have something to say about being “lost.”  What might this mean?  What particular questions come to mind when we hear these familiar words again?  I should add that I have included this on my bog because I thought the sermon was an important reflection to join the on-going conversation about the love of our neighbor and the complexity of community and welcome (among other topics). 

For a very short summary of the parables:  1) The first (Luke 15:1-7) is about a lost sheep.  As a sheep it may not even recognize that its lost or traveled away from its larger family.  Yet, the shepherd searches for and finds it.; 2) The second (Luke 15:8-10) is about a woman looking for a lost coin. She rejoices when she finds it. Perhaps this raises a question about a fear of God losing sight of us, if we were the coin lost in a crazy large world.; and 3) The third (Luke 15:11-32) is the parable of the Prodigal Son, and a story basically of willful abandonment. All of these are stories about being lost to some degree.  So how do you see yourself in these?  Perhaps you may have chased the wrong dream or followed the wrong path?

Towards the end of the sermon, Dan shares what these stories can say to an addict.  The Prodigal Son story is like that of an addict returning to his or her family.  Whereas the story of the lost coin is the personal feeling of an addict feeling that there is no one searching for you or missing you.  The reality though is that the addict is the lost sheep, simply lost and wandering away.

There is something important to know about this, which speaks to the vastness and completeness of God’s love, promise, and community. As Dan concludes, “its okay that we wander.  God never forgets us, and its never too late to come home to the party.” God is there, present, searching and hoping to be in relationship with us, because God is for you.

What do you think?  How do these sorts of stories and images move you?  Do they have an impact on how you approach others and live into community?

This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday means that its time to share some of what I have been reading and thinking about over the past week with you.  This week I have links to things related to:  Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Neighbor Love; Stewardship; Worship and Miscellaneous.  I am really excited to share these with you this week, even more so than usual and I hope you enjoy them!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

This post made the rounds a bit last week considering leading figures in evangelical ministry thought from 10 years ago, today.  I’m not sure what I think of it, nor all of the other posts like it that came in response.  But I offer it here for your thought in case you missed this and the dialogue related to it.

Karl Vaters shared his thoughts about how “one hidden agenda can kill any element of a healthy church.”  Check it out and see what you think.  I definitely agree with the necessity, no matter what, to “do the right things for the right reasons.”

My friend from seminary, Pastor Nathan Strong shared this post (or perhaps more accurately story) about someone asking, “What happened to my church?” Give it a read.  It’s a nice creative way to consider some of the realities and complexities of change, conflict, and transition in congregations.

Are you or someone you know looking for a potential larger ministry/church organization related internship opportunity this summer?  The ELCA has a number of options based in Chicago that could fit the bill.  Check them out and share them with your friends.

Ron Edmondson at Ministry Matters shared “7 Ways to Make Bad Decisions.”  His reasons include:  make them too fast; make them too slow; make them to keep people happy; make them when angry; make them alone; make them reactionary; and make them out of fear.  What do you think of these?  What others would you add for yourself?

InterServe co-director Kris Borke shared some great thoughts on the First Third blog about Framing Ministry in Transition. Some her reflections included:  you don’t need to be the solution; less is more; don’t hurry; listen; and pray.  Check it out.

Pope Francis was back in the news this week too.  In appointing or calling new cardinals, he instructed them to be “servants” and not “bosses.”  I think this is a good reminder for anyone in some kind of ministry capacity, or for that matter, leadership in general.

A Blank Display of "My Personal Theology"
A Blank Display of “My Personal Theology”- part of the Discourse series and journey to discover a snapshot understanding of your current beliefs and ideas about God.

If you haven’t seen my blog lately, I am in the midst of a series of posts sharing insights and thoughts related to going through a class called “Discourse: God,” which is part of the Discourse Series.  I have become a huge advocate for this program and think it could be a wonderful and deep resource for adult and inter-generational groups in congregations and communities of faith.  (If you want to see those posts I have written so far, check out the introduction, “God is,” “God creates,” and “God reveals.”  There will be plenty more in this series to come.)

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Adi Gaskell asks, “How strong is your collaboration network?”  Take a look at this, especially to reflect on your own partners and partnership network.

Leadership Thought & Practice

Last month Lindsay Lavine shared a wonderful piece, “Unexpected Lessons in the Art of Failing Gracefully.” I just found it last week, and highly encourage you to give it a read.

Pastor, author, and blogger MaryAnn McKibben Dana shared, “Ten Lessons on Stepping into Leadership…from Jimmy Fallon.” Check out her take and these lessons!

If you have never heard of the Cynefin Framework, check out this helpful video introduction which I found this past week.  I have come to really appreciate this framework, and have used it as part of two leadership models which I have shared in different masters thesis projects.  I think you might appreciate this too.

If you are like me, you end up doing a lot of networking.  Give this piece by Dorie Clark a read about “Three Mistakes to Avoid When Networking.”

Here is a post from 2012 which I just stumbled upon last week by John Coleman, “11 Books Every Young Leader Must Read.”  I like the list, though I might add something from Drucker to it (no surprise). What might you add?

Last week Jon Mertz asked and pondered, “How to Develop a Leadership Philosophy?”  Check this out if you like to continue to learn and understand yourself better, as well as if you have an interest in digging into some of those leadership ideas and values you hold consciously or unconsciously.

Julianne Wurm wrote, “The Other Factor that Makes an Idea Spread.”  Give this a read if you ponder how ideas spread, or if you have ever wondered what might be helpful in sharing your ideas with others.

Dan Rockwell wrote a great post as well, “Unlock Relationships that Transform Leadership.” Especially read this if you are a mentor, like mentoring, are looking for a mentor, etc.

Lauren Schuckel shared an important post about emotional intelligence well worth a read, “Emotional Intelligence and Why it Matters in Leadership Development.”

Steven D. shared and Dave Wilkins wrote, “Building an Effective Leadership Plan.”  This seems like a nice compliment to the development of a leadership philosophy (from above), and is a good read too.

Creel Price reflected on “How Job Descriptions Suffocate Innovation.”  What do you think of this?  Do you agree? Have push back?  This is a post to read and then think deeply about what you do (as your work), what is in your job description (if you have one), and what is the same and/or different between the two and why there might be differences.

Neighbor Love

Friend Hannah Heinzekehr shared this wonderful and authentic post on her blog, “On Mourning”  Please read this.  It’s extremely powerful and an important read in particular for how as communities of faith we invite (or not) others and welcome and meet them.

Last week Pastor Dan Collison shared “Transforming the ‘Other’ to ‘Us.'” It’s a wonderful discussion about faith communities, mutuality, reconciliation, and Ubuntu. Please check this out too.

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber shared one of her recent sermons, “On Jesus Rolling his Eyes.”  It’s wonderful and you should read or preferably listen to it.  I greatly appreciate her conclusion.  She proclaims, “We do not serve a distant God, but one who actually cares about how you treat people and how you are treated.  People matter.  Relationships matter.  The dignity of human beings matters.  May the church, of all institutions, uphold this truth and ask forgiveness when we do not. Amen.”  Amen, indeed.

Jonathan Merritt wrote, I think helpfully that “MLK would agree with Kristen Powers on serving same-sex couples” (though please save yourself the pain and anger and don’t read the comments).

Somewhat related, comes this story about the “Religious Right” and their response (and support) of the bill in Arizona which would allow businesses to refuse to serve gay people.  This might be the biggest neighbor love related story within the United States from the past week.

Instead of having me respond to this bill, read Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite’s take.  It’s powerful and important, and I think aptly named too, “Arizona’s No Good, Very Bad Samaritans.

I believe that I shared this earlier this month.  But in case you missed it, here’s a great read on accompaniment by Elizabeth Hunter.

Finally, if you haven’t been following the news out of Ukraine, Venezuela, and Uganda recently, please do check out some news stories and update yourselves.  I believe its important to follow what our global neighbors are going through, and to support and accompany them in whatever ways possible.

Stewardship

Ruth Schwartz shared recently this reflection on “The Prosperity Conversation,” looking at our beliefs about money as individuals and organizations, general madness related to them, and thoughts about how to create profit sharing and compensation.  Check it out.

Some palms. Maybe these will be used for Palm Sunday?
Some palms. Maybe these will be used for Palm Sunday?

If active or interested in ministry leadership, and with particular interest in stewardship and congregational revitalization check out this upcoming conference.

Worship

In preparation for your congregation’s Lent and Holy Week worship experiences, and in particular Palm Sunday, take a look at this reflection about palms from Lutheran World Relief.

Miscellaneous

This week’s miscellaneous stories all have some relationship to sports.  The first is on the latest potential for a NHL hockey team in Seattle.  The second and third come from Squarely Rooted, and offer some interesting statistical reflection and analysis to wrap up and review what happened during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

———————-

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s links.  If there are types of stories and articles you would like for me to include in the future, please let me know.  If there are particular topics or questions you would like me to reflect on with their own dedicated posts, please let me know that too.  Thanks for reading the blog, and blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits:  1) The Links; and 2) Palms.

Discourse: God Reveals…

Some might say a Sunset or Sunrise are great symbols, if not actual acts, of God's revelation to and for the world.  This sunset was one that occurred off the island of Oahu in Hawaii in 2007.
Some might say a Sunset or Sunrise are great symbols, if not actual acts, of God’s revelation to and for the world. This sunset was one that occurred off the island of Oahu in Hawaii in 2007.

Today we continue our series, sharing and unpacking my snapshot of my current theological understandings.  So far to recap, I provided you an overview of this process and explanation about Discourse.  And previously in the series, I shared reflections on the ideas of “God is” and “God creates.” Today we move into unpacking the conception of “God Reveals.”  We’ll begin, as is the practice in the series with me sharing what I came up with for the class (indented below), and then after that I will reflect further for purposes of this blog.

God Reveals…

God reveals God’s self to all creation.

I believe that God reveals God’s self in different ways and through different means.

God is revealed to humans I believe in any way possible, believing that God can use anything as a means to communicate and reveal with us.  These include:  the Bible; our faith; creation; through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; relationships; music; prayer, etc., there is no limit to what God can do or use.

However, there is a need for community and others together to discern what God is up to and might be up to.  The community plays an imperative role in discerning what God might be revealing about God’s callings, purposes and vision.

Now to unpack this a bit.  I believe God wants to be in relationship with creation, and part of this desire for relationship comes in the way God may reveal God’s self to it.  If God created all, then I also believe God is just as likely to reveal God’s self to all as well, though likely in unique ways and through different and unique means.  Within the notions of “God reveals” I believe there are questions and conceptions of God’s agency among other things.  For me, to believe that God is all powerful and all capable, it only makes sense that God can potentially use any means as a way to reveal or potentially reveal what God is up to.

Returning to my overarching sense from my previous posts in this series that “God is true community” I think there is an important role that the community can serve in regard to discernment.  Some times God may reveal God’s self to one person or prophet.  But I also think that there are just as many times when someone may claim that they have discerned what God is up to (or the Spirit is up to) but could really be out in left-field so to speak.  This is where the community comes in.  Together as people in community and communities I believe there is an ability to discern together what God might be up to.  Communities certainly aren’t always right or perfect in this process, but I also think when they are open and honest and willing to wrestle with these questions and to wonder and sense together what God might be up to, there is greater likelihood of being richer and perhaps closer to what God might be calling us to do.  This idea is really built out of personal experience for me.

I came to seminary, entering as a Masters of Divinity student. Within two months of my first semester I knew something was wrong.  I woke up in the morning at 3:00 am for straight days for what seemed like two weeks.  This led me to meet and talk with a number of professors, friends, family, mentors, and supporters.  Through these conversations in community I discerned that the M.Div. wasn’t perhaps the best route for me in my own discerned calling, and thus I gradually switched to the MA in Congregational Mission and Leadership.  (I slept normal after this too, for what that’s worth.)

I admit, that the larger community and majority may not always be right.  (There are plenty of examples of this in history, of where the dominant ethnicity has oppressed others, for example.)  But, I do believe that when trying to discern through the multitude of means God might reveal through, we have a better likelihood of doing this together than we do alone.

Musically, the ideas and images of God revealing bring many hymns and songs to mind.  Two that really stand out though are “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” and “O Day Full of Grace.”  I’m sure you know and have heard countless arrangements of the first.  Imagine a beautiful organ and string section helping lead through the first couple verses, and then transitioning into a change in the rhythm and feel and instrumentation to jazz piano kind of like in “Sister Act.”  The variety of that hymn (and any hymn really that can be done in new and unique ways) just symbolizes for me how God’s revealing can be done in new and different ways, ways we might like or ways we might actually find even somewhat disturbing and uncomfortable (but sometimes we really need to be jarred from our comfort back into action).  The other hymn, “O Day Full of Grace,” is definitely in my top 10 favorite hymns of all time.  It was my Grandpa T.’s favorite.  The text is beautiful, and the tune is magnificent as it speaks to themes of:  Pentecost and God’s action and revelation in the world; life, death, and resurrection; as well as the movement and fulfillment of the kingdom.  F. Melius Christiansen’s arrangement of this, might be even more beautiful then his arrangement of “Beautiful Savior” and that is saying something.

So what do you think?  How have you seen or sensed God revealing in the world?

As we continue our conversation and journey reflecting on this, our next reflection will be on “God Guides.”  Until then, thanks for being part of the conversation and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, questions, etc., that you have when hearing and reacting to mine.

Discourse: God Creates

Beautiful day at Ruby Beach on the western edge of Washington State- where the Olympic Peninsula meets the Pacific Ocean
Beautiful day at Ruby Beach on the western edge of Washington State- where the Olympic Peninsula meets the Pacific Ocean.  This picture also for me provides a glimpse of at least two creative acts demonstrating the on-going acts of creation:  weather and erosion. 

Continuing our series unpacking the Discourse snapshot of my current theological understanding, here is the second post, God creates.  To help remind you of the series or to give you some background if this is the first time you have read my blog in awhile, here is the introduction and the first piece, “God is.”

God Creates:

God creates all with value.

God created everything good, but not perfect.

God is all-powerful and present in all of creation, but God limits God’s self for the sake of creation and to have a deeper relationship with it.  As part of this, humans are given a sense of responsibility to name, work with, and care for all of creation as co-creators.

God’s creative activity in the world is ongoing and can be seen in ways including:  birth, life, and death; weather and erosion; growth, change, and evolution; new ideas, discoveries and inventions; through relationships being formed and redeemed; through restoration and redemption in the world; and through the calling of the Spirit.

That was what I articulated as part of the Discourse course.  Now, to reflect on this a bit further like I did in my previous post.  I love the idea of co-creation.  The first time I ever had really thought about this was in a Pentateuch class taught by the great Rev. Dr. Terence Fretheim.  He is easily one of my favorite professors of any fashion of all time.  He continues to learn, think, research, even in his upper years.  He is down to earth, positive, and always capable of leading his students to question, imagine, and wonder.  Back to the idea of co-creation though, it is a concept which though present in current theological thought, its not limited to that sphere.

I have noticed it more and more in new missional church thought, but even outside of the church world it is showing up in larger discussions about the commons such as in the work of Elinor Ostrom and Otto Scharmer among others.  I have also noticed these themes more and more in how there are places in the world and at cross-sectional places especially, where there is more recognition about how different entities and people are not only co-inhabitants, but co-creators in the world.  I think this only enhances the sense for me then of how God’s creative activity is on-going and continues in the world today.  What do you think?

On a different and more personal note related to God creates, I was born over a month early, nearly six weeks early to be exact.  Because of this, I spent a good month in the hospital after being born before being cleared to go home.  A number of doctors early on tried to warn my parents that I would probably develop a little bit slowly, and that school, learning, and life would be difficult.  In spite of such prognostication, here I am today.  God took a very small baby who never really crawled and created and continues to create who I am.  I sure have to believe and trust that God is working through me and will work through me.  I believe this is probably true for just about everyone else in their own way too.

As I began in the last post, let me share a couple hymns that speak to me about ideas of “God creates.”  First of all, in terms of the vastness and beauty of God’s creation its hard not to hear the lyrics of “This is My Father’s World” by Maltbie D. Babcock and the tune from Franklin L. Sheppard.  The other song that comes to mind is one that many a Lutheran college and university choral member, such as myself has sung, the F. Melius Christiansen arrangement of “Beautiful Savior.”  Both to me speak to the beauty of God’s creation, and I believe in their own ways to our relationship with it and our relationship and community with God and God’s people.

What speaks to you in this post?  What questions has this created for you?  The next post in the series will be “God reveals.”  I hope you have enjoyed these reflections and look forward to your thoughts, questions, and our continuing conversation and journey together in unpacking my own current thoughts.

Discourse- God Is…

This is the first post of eight in a series unpacking a snapshot of my theology.  For a reminder about this process, check out my post from yesterday.  As a reminder from that post, what I seemed to come to land on as a core to my personal theology is the claim and concept that “God is true community.”  In this post and all that follow, my initial response to each of the eight expressions will be indented.  Following that, I will unpack further for purposes of my blog reflections that may not have been shared in such a fashion with my fellow classmates in the “Discourse:  God” class.  So, without further delay, here is what I think of and believe in articulating, God is:

CommunityGod is true community and relationship, grounded in love, peace, promise, and hope.

Through this true community and relationship, God is creator, sustainer, reconciler, and redeemer.

We embody this in our call to love, forgive, grow and create with one another, in abundant live, and in living lives of joy.

To unpack this, and to provide some theological underpinning, I think the importance and belief of God as community reflects my belief in the Trinity.  Traditionally, this is the idea and belief that God is simultaneously three persons, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  For me, I believe this is God being in community and relationship with God’s self.  Out of this relationship, I think God relates with us.

"Holy Trinity" by Andrei Rublev, c. 1400
“Holy Trinity” by Andrei Rublev, c. 1400

I don’t remember the idea of community being so important to me until seminary.  But while at seminary and primarily working on my thesis, it became obvious.  God’s work is always done collectively as a gathered and sent people.  God’s promises aren’t to us individually, but to us collectively. When God says “I will be with you” and “you are mine,” God is speaking to all of God’s children.  As this is the case, there is a relationship that we all have together with God in community grounded in God’s promises of forgiveness, love, and reconciliation.

The concept and idea of perichoresis comes to mind here too.  Needless to say, this wasn’t a term I was very familiar with before seminary.  But upon attending seminary, and studying theology especially related to mission as part of the Congregational Mission and Leadership program at Luther Seminary, that changed.  The term basically describes the relationship between each of the three persons of the Godhead.  I like to think of it as a good theological idea of trying to articulate and understand the community of being of God.

To take this a step further, all human community is bound to be flawed because of our human nature.  This is not true though for the community of being, represented by the Trinity.  Therefore, as God is in community with Godself in the three persons, all other community is called into being into relationship with the Triune God.  God is the perfect community and through that community comes the hope of being able to be reconciled and redeemed.  Human community then is at its best when it works to embody the acts of love, peace, reconciliation, abundance and forgiveness towards one another that can be found in God.

Musically I would regret if I didn’t mention that two hymns or worship songs come to mind when I think of my conception of “God is.”  First, is Reginald Heber & John B. Dykes’ “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!”  You would be hard pressed to come up with a better hymn that sings praise to the Triune God.  More directly related to my conception of community perhaps is another song which comes to mind, “All Are Welcome,” by Marty Haugen.  The text of both of these hymns is beautiful, and the tunes are sweeping and hopeful.

As we continue this series, we will continue in a similar framework where I will offer the big overarching ideas that I presented in the class in an indented fashion, and then following that I will share more perspective.  These perspectives are ones that I have after the class presentations about my own views, and will help show where my ideas have come from and how I am continually discerning and wondering related to them.  Next in this series will be my pondering related to “God creates.”

Image Credits:  1) Community Circle and 2) Holy Trinity.

Discourse: A Snapshot of my Personal Theology

The Dome above the Altar in St. Paul's Cathedral (also known as:  "St. Paul's Beyond the Walls") in Rome.  [Picture taken in January 2008] I believe this is a helpful starting display of what God's community can look like.
The Dome above the Altar in St. Paul’s Cathedral (also known as: “St. Paul’s Beyond the Walls”) in Rome. [Picture taken in January 2008]
I believe this is a helpful starting display of what God’s community can look like.
This past month I have had the opportunity to be challenged, pushed, affirmed, and so much more.  I have experienced this mix of emotions and actions by participating in a “Discourse:  God” pilot class, taught by my wife Allison. No, in case you are wondering or worried, I don’t intend for this post to be a not so veiled promotion.

However, to give you some background, Discourse, formerly called “Building Your Personal Theology,” is an opportunity for you with a group of other people to discern individually and together what you each believe and understand about God at this point in time.  This is not definitive in any way, but I believe what it does extremely well is provide space to wonder and wrestle, and to do so with the support of others who are also wondering and wrestling in their own faith journeys and trying to articulate what they believe, understand, question, and wonder about.

As part of this process, each participant is asked and invited to present their understanding about God at this particular time in their lives.  People do this in light of what seems to be their core understanding of God and in about eight different areas or expressions of who God is or might be, or at least how we come to understand who God is and what God might be up to in the world.  For example, my core understanding of God, seems to be that for me, “God is True Community.”

A Blank Display of "My Personal Theology"
A Blank Display of “My Personal Theology”

As an extension of this practice, I intend to unpack this core idea by offering a series of blog posts about these different eight areas (in no particular order necessarily):  God is; God creates; God reveals; God guides; God loves; God envisions; God heals; and God relates.  The first post then in the series will be:  “God is.”  So over the next couple of weeks, I will share where I am at in my discernment of who God is for me.  These reflections again, aren’t definitive and may not be true at all for you.  Rather, these are meant to be articulations of how I understand or have discerned what God is up to or might be up to.  They certainly will leave open questions, and probably create many more questions.  But isn’t that just the point?  Faith for me is about having the hope, but also the willingness to wonder, imagine, question, and grow in relationship with God.

Special thanks needs to go especially to Pastor Siri Erickson, the original designer and visionary of this wonderful program which I believe has great fruit and potential (you can follower her on Twitter too).  I have found it to be the deepest and most helpful adult faith formation curriculum I have experienced, and also know that it is currently being adapted and piloted even in an extended fashion as part of a confirmation program as well.  Thanks also should go to my wife Allison Siburg, who is leading the particular class I have had the pleasure of taking, and who is helping share this resource and pilot it with other congregations.  Thanks finally should go to Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota for allowing this program to develop and giving it the support to do so locally and then to take the missional and collaborative step to share it with other congregations and faith communities to learn together and perhaps even co-create.

I hope you enjoy walking with me as I share some reflections on these areas of who God is, as far as I can understand at this point, in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks for reading the blog and being a part of the conversation!

For easy access, here are the posts in this series:

1) God Is

2) God Creates

3) God Reveals

4) God Guides

5) God Loves

6) God Envisions

7) God Heals

8) God Relates