Affirmation in Leadership

affirmationIn my relatively young life I have been lucky enough to have many amazing mentors, leaders, supervisors, and collaborators. They have all been different, but one common trait that the best ones have had is that they are great at giving affirmation.

This affirmation has looked different depending on the person, context, and experience. Some of the ways that I have seen and experienced it include:

  • By being verbally expressed. This is probably the easiest and most common way to show affirmation. It can be expressed in gratitude with a hearty “thank you,” or through an acknowledgment of “good job,” at a job done well. Sometimes it can be a bit longer in a conversation when you not only say thank you or good job, but you walk the person that you are affirming through what you appreciate in how they have done their work.
  • Through silent acknowledgment and gratitude. Sometimes verbally expressing emotions or gratitude can feel uncomfortable. When that happens, you can still affirm someone by recognizing their gifts perhaps through an email or by dropping off a hot chocolate (in my case), chocolate, coffee, or some other simple kind of gratitude and continued encouragement to keep up the good work.
  • Through providing a listening ear and a reassuring smile. Sometimes the best way to affirm another is to give them the space to process with you about: how things are going; what they are wondering about; and to give them the acknowledgment that they matter, are important, and you think that what they are doing is working, worth it, and going in the right direction. Another form of affirmation can come through this in mentoring, especially when you sense that someone might be lacking a little self-confidence. When you give them some time to talk, that can greatly build confidence. This seems to be especially true for mentoring and affirming Millennial leaders in my observation.
  • Through the embrace of a hug, or pat on the back. Some people are more outwardly expressive of their thanks. Others need physical signs of encouragement because that is their way of feeling appreciation. Whatever might be appropriate given the relationship, this can be a useful form of affirmation from time to time.
  • After the fact through written notes, reference letters, reviews, etc. Some of the warmest affirmation I have ever received from past supervisors has been through reference letters. It’s not usually a custom to share a reference letter with the person being discussed, but many times you can show your affirmation to them by providing them a copy. I received a couple such letters and emails last summer from past colleagues and supervisors who wrote to affirm me in my sense of call and vocation, and to “welcome me” with open arms to the formal ministry roster.

These are just some of the forms of affirmation I have received. The commonality of affirmation has helped me, and continues to inspire me to grow as a leader and in my sense of self, ministry, and vocation. If I have learned anything from this affirmation, is that it is also imperative, a gift, and a great joy to give affirmation to others as we build each other up as leaders.

How do you provide affirmation? How have you felt affirmed?

Image Credit: “You Can Do It

Workshop Prep Time #ext16

The theme logo for this year's Extravaganza
The theme logo for this year’s Extravaganza

Hello friends and conversation partners! As I mentioned previously, my wife Allison and I will be presenting and leading a few different workshops at the ELCA Youth Ministry Extravaganza in just about a week. My two workshops are in the “Tools for Leadership” category. In preparation for these workshops, I wanted to share the workshop topics and descriptions with you. Perhaps you have some creative ideas that would be good to include? Or, perhaps you have questions that come to mind related to these topics that you would like to see addressed as part of these workshops?

Workshop 1- Imagination to Initiation: Moving Brainstorming to Ministry

Having imagination in leadership and ministry is crucial. Being able to wonder, dream, and discern what God might be up to is central. But how do you move from the discernment and ideation to action? This workshop will unpack strategies for moving from heart and head to ministry in action.

Workshop 2- Equipping Volunteers: How do you not only Excite, but also Ignite?

Ministry doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it certainly doesn’t happen by just one person. This workshop will be participatory in nature, as leaders collectively share insights into ways they have found to both excite and ignite volunteers for leadership, service, and action.

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One of my vocations in serving the church and larger church I believe is that of a teacher and learner. Another is as a curator and collaborator. If you have any great ideas or questions, I would appreciate you sharing them with me in the comments. If you are going to be attending the extravaganza, I hope to see you! If you have any questions related to these topics that you would like me to include or respond to in my workshops, I am particularly interested in hearing them so please let me know.

Image Credit: Extravaganza Theme

The Problem with Bejeweled Butts

Those poor pews.

A Bejeweled Butt
Bejeweled Pants

Early on in a pastor friend of mine’s new call, she heard from a parishoner (a worshiper and congregational member) that the pews in the sanctuary were being unduly scratched and irreparably harmed. The person pointed to people wearing jeans and dress slacks with bejeweled butts as the problem. Apparently this was a major issue that was harming the church. The person that was pointing out this major concern wanted the pastor’s blessing to do something about this.

Ideas and approaches that were offered to the pastor:

  • Have a regular announcement about proper attire in worship.
  • Provide a printed notice in the pews asking people to kindly refrain from wearing such pants, and if wearing such things to make sure that people sat on their coats as a form of cushion for the wood.
  • Write a monthly newsletter article explaining the importance of this matter.

As you might guess, my pastor friend was a little caught off guard by the whole issue. How would my pastor friend reply to this congregant’s major concerns?

She obviously was not going to ban people for their attire, and there would be no message about what is proper and not proper attire to wear in worship. For a pastor who values a “come as you are” approach to the gospel, anything less would not be consistent. But these ideas were not the ones that she thought would be a helpful response to this parishoner’s concerns.

After a few moments of contemplation my pastor friend said, “you know the bejeweled butts aren’t really a problem.” The parishoner stunned, asked, “Why? How can that be?” My pastor friend responded, “To have a bejeweled butt is not cheap.”

“Ah,” the parishoner said, “they might be big givers.”

That wasn’t exactly the point my pastor friend was going for, but it worked. Sometimes to create a more welcoming environment, you have to think strategically about how you have others see what their “issues” and concerns are in a new light. In this case, it worked. One person’s concerns about a certain attire was relieved by a sort of stewardship observation.

The trick for my pastor friend, and all leaders, is to continue to help people see that what sometimes might seem like a big deal really is not a big deal at all in the grand scheme of things. Don’t get caught up in the small things, and focus on the bigger picture.

Maybe bejeweled butts aren’t the problem after all.

Image Credit: Bejeweled Jeans

 

This Week’s Links

Internet1Happy Tuesday! Each week on the blog I get to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and thought provoking over the past week. To help make sense of all of these links, I have grouped them by the following categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope that you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

For those of you preparing for worship or writing a sermon for this coming weekend I have a few helpful links. If you are following the revised common lectionary, check out these thoughts on “Epiphany 4C” from Bishop Michael Rinehart. Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis also digs into this week’s texts in sharing a reflection titled, “Love Never Ends.” Additionally, friend and professor Rev. Dr. Matt Skinner shared this reflection based on this weekend’s gospel reading, Luke 4:21-30, “Walls: Not in My Backyard.” Related to that, Rev. Dr. David Lose reflected about “Epiphany 4C: Moving Beyond Mending Our Walls.”

If you are following the narrative lectionary, check out this “Commentary on Mark 6:1-29,” by Rev. Raquel S. Lettsome.

Blogger and pastor Clint Schnekloth wrote and shared, “Finnish Lutherans and Pope Francis For the Full Communion Win.”

In a related note, big news broke yesterday about a “Joint Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation” which will include the Lutheran World Federation and Pope Francis together in Lund, Sweden.

Kira Schlesinger reflected about “The Sin of the Clergy Pay Gap.”

My wife Allison shared this look from Claire Markham and Lauren Kokum at “16 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2016.”

Exciting and probably long overdue news broke last week as “Pope Francis Officially Opens Holy Thursday Foot-washing Rite to Women.”

A North County view on a clear day of Mt. St. Helens
A view from where I serve as Mission Developer on a clear day of Mt. St. Helen’s.

Over the past week I shared a couple posts on the blog at Messiah Lutheran Church from my role as the congregation’s mission developer. I shared “Some Thoughts about Identity,” as well as thoughts about “A Challenge, A New Website, and A New Year.”

In many congregations this is a common time to have an annual meeting. Pastor and blogger Erik Parker shares some thoughts, challenges, and perspectives about this which I highly encourage you to consider, writing, “Annual Meeting Season: What Church Budgets Say about Ministry (it’s not good).”

Are you looking for new and effective ways to set congregational goals? If so, check out this new resource from my friends at LEAD, “The Annual Roadmap.”

Friend and pastor Diane Roth reflected about “Prayer as a Strategy.”

Congratulations are in order for friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess who will “Hold the Keenan Chair in the 2016-2017 Academic Year.”

Sad news broke last week from Iraq where “ISIS Destroyed the Oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq.”

In other terrible news, domestic terrorists in the KKK took aim at neighbor love in action. In response, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) released this statement, “LIRS condemns KKK targeting of refugees and Lutheran Services Carolinas.”

In good news, kudos to the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Seattle for hosting “Seattle’s first tiny house village for homeless to open this week.”

For a somewhat related story, see this article in The Lutheran from a friend and Northwest journalist Rachel Pritchett, “‘Being homeless is the toughest job’- Seattle congregation always finds a way to serve homeless.”

Friend, professor, and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared the announcement that “Morgan Freeman (will) host ‘The Story of God’ for National Geographic.”

Dr. Alton B. Pollard III shared “An Open Letter to Presidents and Deans of Theological Schools in the United States.”

Pastor and blogger Nurya Love Parish shares data about the simple but noticeable impact a $19.48 investment in social media made for Christmas Eve, writing, “We spent $19.48 to invite 1,695 people to church. Here’s what happened.”

In news I agree with, in seeing the benefits of technology and social media for ministry, I was excited to hear that “Pope Francis calls texts, internet, social media ‘gifts of God.'”

In a post that I have found especially helpful as I put together workshops for the 2016 ELCA Youth Ministry Extravaganza, I am pleased to share this post from #ChSocM about “Flipping Your Conference… Talk/Panel/Workshop.”

Neal F. Fischer moderated last week’s #ChSocM chat, which focused on “Hosting Your Own #CHSOCM Conference. What would your conference look like?” Good question which made for a good conversation.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared a call to action to “Celebrate and participate in the global commons.”

Friend, blogger, and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch shared this great post by Seattle Seahawks lineman Russell Okung who “responds to Paul Graham’s essay on economic inequality and startups.”

Tom Murphy at The Humanosphere shared this great post about how, “Jim Grant wanted all children to survive, and that drive saved millions.”

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes reflected on “The Sorry State of Social Studies Education.”

Friend, blogger, and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared this look at giving, philanthropy, and collaboration by Watsi which shared this post detailing how, “Three years ago, we launched Watsi to make healthcare a reality for everyone…

Friend, musician, and blogger Heatherlyn shared this article by Ai-jen Poo about “The Values Revolution: Embedding Empathy in the New Economy.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Dan Rockwell dug into the concept of the practices of the coaching leader on his blog last week in unpacking “The 10 Practices of Coaching-Leaders,” in part 1, part 2, and part 3 of his blog series.

Tanveer Naseer shared a guest piece by Dr. Karin Stumpf who wrote about “What it Takes to be Captain of the Change Journey.”

Steve Keating asked, “Are You Leading by Example?

Anne Loehr shared a guest post by Ashley Bell about companies and employee engagement and satisfaction in writing, “These 15 Companies Know How to Keep Employees Happy.”

Seth Godin somewhat humorously notes that “On average, averages are stupid.” What do you think?

Justin Irving shared, “#10… Top Posts from 2015- Strategic Foresight,” as well as some good thoughts on “Engaging the Emotional Side of Organizational Culture.”

Lolly Daskal shared and unpacked “10 New Truths Great Leaders Know That Most People Don’t.” The truths Lolly unpacks are: authenticity and transparency rule; your brand is your reputation; if you’re not social you’re missing the boat; collaboration is the new currency; new choices abound; interconnection means freedom; people want a say in their future; community is critical; if you don’t lean in, you’re heading out; set yourself apart by sharing what you know; and you don’t need a title to lead. This is a great list. Check it out and see what you think.

Brian Halligan wrote about and shared some “Scale-up Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned Over 9 Years as HubSpot’s CEO.”

Jay Shetty shared some thoughts about, “Finding Your Purpose, Being the Change, and Failure vs. Success.”

Sylvana Caloni wrote, shared, and pondered about, “How Can You Deal with Different Communication And Working Styles?

Networking
Networking

Ted Coine writes and explains that, “To Lead Successfully, You Must Fail Too.” Among Ted’s wisdom includes this observation, “Embrace your failure. Sure, continue to hate it. But take that bruise on your psyche and allow it to teach you one of the most important lessons any leader must master: empathy.” Check out the whole post.

Ted Bauer shared thoughts about “How to Network Better: Stop Networking.”

Over at Thin Difference, Eric Torrence wrote and pondered “The Chipotle Question: How Good is Your Personal Supply Chain?

Also at Thin Difference, Jon Mertz wrote and explained about why “Centering is the New Mentoring.” What do you think?

Millennials

Heidi Oran at Thin Difference shared some thoughts about Millennials, leadership, talent, vocation, and creativity, reflecting “On Talent and Responsibility.”

Skip Prichard shared a recent interview and learning from Jon Mertz of Thin Difference, sharing thoughts about “Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders.”

Strategy + Business shared some thoughts, articles, and perspectives about Millennials last week.

In looking ahead to the big elections in November of this year, Sergio Bustos writes that, “Millennials drive rise of Hispanic voters in 2016.”

Neighbor Love

My wife Allison shared a sermon she gave from a few weeks ago on Baptism of Our Lord Sunday, titled, “21.8%.” Within this Allison writes, “Just like we are called to the vocation of showing and saying our encouragement to one another, God tells Jesus, proclaiming to the world, at his baptism that he is loved, and it’s a passage begging to be read out loud on a consistent basis to our kids, our adults, and our people that they are loved. The heavens are opened, and the world hasn’t been the same ever since. Jesus is made new, and we are made new, in our understanding that we are loved & our unique gifts make God’s smile open like never before.”

Allison also shared this video from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert where “DeRay Mckesson Helps Stephen Address His Privilege.”

Zack Hunt reflected about “Christianity and the Problem of Common Sense.”

"Saunterer = Holy-Lander" by Vonda Drees
“Saunterer = Holy-Lander” by Vonda Drees

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week, including: “a child’s curiosity“; “Saunterer = Holy-Lander“; “the moment of truth“; “portentous“; “deeply real“; “soulsteps“; and “a soul stroll.”

On this blog I shared my sermon from this past weekend about “A Dream Enfolding; God’s Word Fulfilled.”

Pastor and blogger Todd Buegler shared his sermon from this past weekend as well titled, “The Mic Drop Moment.”

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shares, reflects, and responds in, “Bonhoeffer’s Troubling Theology?- A response to an article on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theological perspectives.” As a Lutheran who has used a good deal of Bonhoeffer’s theology in my theological work and writing, I found this to be an especially interesting post.

ABC News has a live blog drawing attention to a neighbor love and social justice crisis in real time, focused on “Syria Starving: A Family’s Fight for Survival.”

Friend Tim Schuster shared about how he sees that “Faith and Doubt are Like Dance Partners.”

Rebekah Simon-Peter wrote about, “3 Hidden Leadership Skills of Jesus.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared the sermon he wrote for this past weekend based on Mark 5:21-43 titled, “Access, Perspective, & the Kingdom of God.”

Sad news broke late last week that the hero, beacon of neighbor love in action, and “Muslim Man Who Saved Christians from Terrorist Gunman has died.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared some reflections about “Playing the lottery.”

The Millennial Journal shared this look by Mike Jordan Laskey offering “Four Ways to Heal the Social Justice/Pro-life Divide.”

Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis continued to blog regularly last week as part of her experience and class that she is co-teaching in the Holy Land this month. These blogs included the following reflections: “Into the Wilderness“; “It’s Complicated“; “Praying for Peace“; “Carrying on with Life“; and “Greater Works Than These.”

Elizabeth Rawlings shared about “Learning from my neighbors without homes.”

Stewardship

Friend, blogger, and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared about the stewardship challenge of “Shorting the Soul?

COMPASS continued their January series and focus on “Financial New Year’s Resolutions” with some reflections about January being “A New Beginning” from Matt DeBall who reflected and wrote, “Move Mountains.”

Stefanie O’Connell pondered about “What is the Future of Student Loan Debt?

Kristi at Young Adult Money pondered, “Is Rent Really Throwing Money Away?” Erin at Young Adult Money also shared about “How to Get Rid of Cable (but still watch TV.”

Also at Young Adult Money, DC shared, “4 Things I Do Every Month to Manage My Money.” The things done each month include: pay off credit cards; record my income and spending in an Excel spreadsheet; review my paycheck; and check my investments and net worth.

Vocation

Friend, “sister,” and blogger Megan Leibold shared more about her continued adventures in Europe in sharing about “Day 7-13.”

My wife Allison shared this vocational and reflective piece by Parker Palmer who shared some “Notes from a Week in the Winter Woods.”

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her regular helping of vocational and life reflections in her “Tuesday Tea Time.” In this week’s reflection Julia takes up the neighbor love and societal issue of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and shares some helpful ideas about what we can all do to help our neighbors in Flint in need.

Miscellaneous

Matthew Deery shared news at Minnesota Connected about how “Albertville Could Be Home to a New Family Theme Park.”

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That concludes this edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if you have particular questions or topics for me to think about on the blog, please share them. Also, if there are things you would like to see included in the links, please let me know that too. Thank you for reading and being a part of the conversation! Blessings on your week-TS

Image Credits: The Links; Networking; and “Saunterer = Holy-Lander.”

A Dream Enfolding; God’s Word Fulfilled- A Sermon for Epiphany 3C

The following is the text of the sermon I preached this morning at Messiah Lutheran Church in Hazel Dell. The sermon is based on the readings for today from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, and Luke 4:14-21, and incorporates some of the stories I have heard and experienced while serving as mission developer at Messiah’s North Site in Ridgefield

A Welcome Sign at Messiah North County
A Welcome Sign at Messiah North County

Hello and good morning- I am excited to be with you today and bring greetings not just from myself but also from Messiah’s North County site. Though you may not know me well, you probably know my better half and partner in life and ministry, Allison. This year I am serving at Messiah North County as the congregation’s mission developer, so that’s generally where I am on Sunday mornings while Allison is often here with all of you.

Part of my work involves listening and preaching. It involves helping North County and Messiah discern what the next chapter might look like, where God might be calling and leading. And part of my role is about helping invite and equip others to invite by telling their stories of faith, and seeing how those stories paint pictures of God’s on-going story in the world.

Going Home

In today’s gospel story, we hear the first part of a two part story about Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth and worshipping at the synagogue. It’s the first time Jesus has been back since the start of his ministry. Maybe you can relate to going home after being a way for a long time. Maybe you can remember the first time you went back after moving away and starting a new job?

It’s a joy, but it’s also kind of stressful. What will people think? In going back to your home church or your hometown, maybe you can picture a couple of people you want to see, or perhaps worry you might run into?

Poulsbo, WA- a historical Norwegian American community
Poulsbo- my home town.

For example, on returning home to Poulsbo for the first time since going to seminary in Minnesota, I am sure in a few people’s eyes I was still that little three year old running around the church choir loft. Maybe you remember going home and wondering if a Mr. Jones was still going to remember that time when you accidentally ran into him in the hallway, or a Mrs. Smith might still come up to you and pull on your cheek and tell you “aren’t you so cute?”

Maybe Jesus had such thoughts when he ventured home. Going home is something important to do, to return to one’s roots, to visit with family and loved ones, to spend time in relationship. But going home can also be hard. It can be awfully difficult to overcome the image of being a child that some people have of you. If you speak out and share your opinion, you might burn a bridge or worse. Well, that’s a gospel story for next week.

Just over five years ago, this congregation discerned and sensed a call to do something new. Messiah Lutheran sensed a call to go out and serve, and worship in North Clark County. That led to Messiah North County, going strong and continuing to grow today, though perhaps not quite like some people might have expected. My being with you in worship today then is kind of metaphorical homecoming, of one returning to the parent site.

In learning the history of Messiah Lutheran I have come to believe that Messiah’s call to North Clark County is less something unheard of, and more, the continuation of a call to spread the Gospel throughout the county and region. This congregation was once a mission start itself from Trinity Lutheran in Vancouver, who sensed a call to start a new ministry further north now in the Hazel Dell neighborhood. Years later, Messiah sensed a call into what is now the Felida neighborhood and Family of Christ Lutheran was born. And then a few years ago, Messiah sensed a new call to further north in Clark County. Part of what makes Messiah North County unique is that it’s not a separate church. It’s a second site in Ridgefield, a second campus of the same congregation serving the same work as part of God’s mission.

Isaiah Reading

When Jesus opens the scroll in today’s gospel lesson and reads from the prophet Isaiah, he is announcing the start of something important, a new Epiphany. By quoting Isaiah, he is also proclaiming what matters, what the Good News of the gospel means, and what it looks like when the Kingdom of God breaks into the world. “To bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, to recover sight, to let the oppressed go free…” These are big things, and just a few of the many signs of the change that comes with God.

A comical take on Luke 4:14-21.
A comical take on Luke 4:14-21.

The gospel of Luke is full of “Good News of Great Joy,” but also great news of reversal. The point of this gospel is one that not only is the world changed forever, the way we see things has been turned upside down. The poor have been made rich, the lowly lifted up, and the haughty brought to their knees.

The amazing thing about this though is that this work, God’s work, isn’t just limited to Jesus. It’s the work that we all do in our own lives and vocations. It’s also what calls us as a congregation to serve. The three initiatives Messiah currently has are good examples. To make sure that every child within a mile of both sites has what they need to learn, to teach future leaders and help them discern their vocations through summer internships, pastoral internships, and even the possibility of first-call pastors in residence, and to take the bold step of the gospel to have a second site in North County as a way to be the church in an area under-served, that’s the gospel in action.  It’s a story too great not to share.

Maybe that’s why Jesus picked this passage when handed the scroll from Isaiah as his first scripture reading in public? It’s a great summary of what the Good News means- Good News for you and for all people. News of freedom, change, and love that leads us out into our lives and neighborhoods spreading this news through the way we live and serve.

Many Members/Same Body

We all are a part of making the passage from Isaiah possible as members of the Body of Christ.

Paul writes, that the body “has many members, and all the members of the body though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member, but of many.”

It’s pretty easy to see this in the way this congregation works. People in this community of faith have a variety of gifts and vocations- in nursing, teaching, woodworking, forestry and landscape architecture, veterinary science, parenting, realty, baking, parks and recreation, auto mechanics, and repair men who have helped keep and put the house next door back in working order again and again. These gifts and vocations though varied, all are equally important in working and fulfilling the gospel and in serving as the Body of Christ together.

Similarly, North County and Hazel Dell members… are all members of the same body, Messiah Lutheran Church, and part of the larger Body of Christ. Together, these two campuses allow Messiah to serve out its gospel calling more broadly and comprehensively with members stretching about 95 miles from Longview in the north to Salem in the south. That’s about as wide of a range as you might ever see in a congregation.

Fulfilled Today in Your Hearing & A Dream Enfolding

When Jesus proclaims in today’s gospel that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled’ in the people’s hearing of it, the world is forever changed. This is a great Epiphany and “ah ha” moment, a moment to take notice, and know that things will never be quite the same again.

When Messiah started Messiah North County, it too was forever changed. The big heart of this congregation was being extended and opened wider. God does amazing things far beyond our imaginations and original visions because God’s kingdom and vision is that great- that good news is brought to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.

A North County view on a clear day of Mt. St. Helens
A North County view on a clear day of Mt. St. Helens

In my first four months I have seen a number of things which cause me to wonder- what is God up to? For example, looking north up I-5, Ridgefield and North County are seeing major changes. There’s plenty of new growth and development underway, and more just around the corner. Off of Exit 16, there’s the start of a major construction project on a massive casino. This will change the area. There’s also an influx of young families around Ridgefield, some of whom may include many of you worshiping today and living up in Ridgefield. Childcare is listed as the number one concern by the majority of the population there, and will likely continue to be for years to come.

Like in the larger Pacific Northwest, the people moving into North Clark County have questions, and are generally un-churched. Like anyone, they are people some of whom have been brought down by the pains of life, whom have had hopes dashed, opportunities experienced, joys and successes, but also challenges and tribulations.

On Sunday mornings at Messiah North County, just like here in this space, all are welcome and invited to the same meal. All are marked with the same cross, the cross we’re sealed with in baptism, and all hear Christ’s words of forgiveness and promise.

By being in North County, Messiah has a way to help in God’s mission to let all people know that they are Children of God, created, called, and beloved. It’s the work of Messiah- both here and in North County together, to help all people know of their identity as a Child of God, beloved just because of who they are, without any expectation in return.

At North County I have experienced this in the way people serve and dream. I have listened, making upwards of 30 visits with key leaders, members, and participants of the congregation. I have heard big dreams for where God may be calling and leading in North County. I have seen the way this congregation both here and at the golf course brings food each month, like today, as part of Food on the 4th. I have joined your service in the community through Compassion Ridgefield and at the Lewis River Foodbank. I have gone on tours and walks through the communities with members of the congregation wanting to share their stories. It’s these experiences that show me that Messiah has an identity beyond the walls of the church and the downstairs of a golf course clubhouse.

Within worship at North County, I have seen a Community of God’s people gather and surround each other in prayer. Recently the body circled around one member prior to a long awaited surgery. Since the surgery, this member has a whole new lease on life, dancing into worship without even a cane.

These are only a few stories. I have so many I can share, and hope to share them with you, in person and on the church’s blog in the weeks ahead.

When Jesus says that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” he doesn’t mean the work is done. Rather, it’s just beginning. What I hear after this proclamation is that, “the dream is enfolding.” “The Kingdom of God is near.” The dream and vision which Messiah had in leading to the creation of North County has only just begun. God is up to something great, and all of you are part of it in your own lives and vocations, but also by being part of this congregation together.

How are you doing the work of God described by Isaiah, which Jesus proclaims?

You might not even be aware of it, but I hope that this week you take a few minutes to write down some ideas which come to mind. God in Christ is working through you and with you. It’s pretty amazing to get to see that this year, and my hope is that each and every one of you is getting to see that in your own lives too. Amen.

Image Credit: A comical take at Luke 4:14-21

This Week’s Links

Internet1Happy Tuesday! Each week on the blog I get to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and thought provoking over the past week. To help make sense of all of these links, I have grouped them by the following categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope that you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

I have a number of helpful links for those of you preparing for worship or writing a sermon this week. If you are following the revised common lectionary, Bishop Mike Rinehart shared some thoughts on this weekend’s assigned readings in “Epiphany 3C.” Rev. Dr. David Lose also shared thoughts about Epiphany 3C in reflecting about “A Peculiar Power.” Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis digs particularly into the gospel passage from Luke 4:14-21 in writing about “A Life-Changing Epiphany.”

If you are following the narrative lectionary, check out this Commentary on Mark 5:21-43 from Karl Jacobson.

Are you looking for some great resources for Lent this year? Then check out these resources from LEAD featuring, “Five contemplative liturgies and accompanying coloring page for use during Lent.”

Sad news broke last week that “Trinity Lutheran College in downtown Everett will close.” The Board of Directors shared this “Open Letter to the Trinity Lutheran College Students, Faculty, and Staff.”

News also broke last week from Pennsylvania as “Pennsylvania Lutheran Seminaries declare intent to from ‘New School of Theology.'”

Josh Langhoff wrote a must read article in The Cresset for all worship planners, musicians, and pastors about “Copiers and Copyrights: Renewing Worship’s Music.”

Speaking of worship and music, Augsburg Fortress has released a new website featuring resources related to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. 

Glenn shared some thoughts about “What You (Probably) Don’t Know About Modern Worship.”

Friend and pastor Eric Worringer shared this post with data, perspectives and resources from David Zahl entitled, “The God of Tidying Up Hates Me.”

The Anglican Communion shared this news release from the Primates 2016 with particular news (which I find sad) related to The Episcopal Church.

Friend Hannah Heinzekehr shared this invitation from The Mennonite to “Nominate a Mennonite for our 20 under 40 issue.

I am excited to share that the faith community I am serving as mission developer this year, Messiah Lutheran Church North County has a new dedicated website. What do you think of the work-in-progress site?

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared a transcript of its weekly Twitter chat which last week focused on “The Psychology of Social Media (and how to use it better).” The chat was moderated by Carolyn Clement.

I am excited to share news that friend Megan Hansenhas accepted the position of Director of Operations for Worship Times.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

KPLU shared an update about the “Save KPLU” campaign.

Bill Virgin shares an important reflection about some pieces that may have been underestimated in writing and explaining that “KPLU (is) not so insignificant to PLU.” What do you think?

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared some thoughts about “Why School Funding Matters.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Steve Keating shared ideas about “How to Make a Decision-Maker.”

Anne Loehr looked back at 2015 in sharing about her “Top Five Women in the Workplace Posts of 2015.”

Bob Tiede shared a guest post by William Arruda about “Coaching Skills Every Leader Needs to Master.”

Croft Edwards wrote and shared, “Leadership 101: What Doesn’t Kill You Leads to ‘Flow.'”

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site (photo taken by Tamara Siburg)
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

Dan Rockwell shared a number of great leadership posts over the past week. These included reflections like: “The Question I’ve Never Asked“; “Success is Never about being Successful“; “Four Ways to Become a One Word Organization“; thoughts on “What Gratitude Really Means“; and a post inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., “The Real Truth About Dreams.”

Tanveer Naseer shared a guest post by David Amerland about “Transforming Leadership and Trust in the Organization.”

Sarah Goodall shared thoughts about “How to Fix Your Employee Advocacy Program.”

Seth Godin notes simply but profoundly, “Fear is easy, hope is real.”

Ted Bauer argued that, “Management is Not Actually Intuitive.”

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day yesterday, Justin Irving shared “20 Quotes from MLK.”

Last week after hearing the State of the Union address, I reflected on what it means “Being a Citizen” as a leader, steward, and person.

Shawn Murphy at Switch & Shift shared thoughts about, “Why You Shouldn’t Pursue Work-Life Balance.” Within this Shawn notes that, “The quest for work-life balance is leading too many people to burnout. Here’s what you should pursue instead.”

Jon Mertz at Thin Difference pondered about, “Is Showing Up 60 percent of the Time Good Enough?

Millennials

Molly Page at Thin Difference profiled a motivated Millennial, “Julius Givens: Showing Up to Impact Our Future.”

Will Yakowicz notes that, “Half of Millennials Would Reject a Work Assignment that Clashed with Their Ethics.”

Chelsea Krost listed out “12 Things Millennials Won’t Spend Money On.”

Speaking of money and Millennials, Katie Lobosco noted that though, “Saddled with student debt, Millennials want to foot the bill for their kids.”

Clara Nevins provided “A Millennial’s Take on Climate Activism.”

David Masci at Pew Research Center took up and shared a Q & A about a relatively hot button discussion of late, “Why Millennials are less religious than older Americans.”

Neighbor Love

Friend Hannah Heinzekehr shared this post for The Mennonite by Sarah Thompson about, “Moving toward conflict and the Beloved Community.”

This past Sunday, Pope Francis shared a message “For the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016.”

Ed Stetzer shared a great parable with implications about “Black Lives Matter” and other social movements in writing and sharing, “#HellenistWidowsMatter: A Parable.” If the title doesn’t intrigue you, how about the question, “What might we learn from the Scriptures about advocating for those who feel wronged?”

Friend Margaret Ellsworth shared a reflection entitled, “Quantum Prayer,” by Eric Elnes.

In neighbor love and social justice news that matters, Connor Nikolic notes that, “Minnesota ranks dead last for racial integration.”

"soles to Soul" by Vonda Drees
“soles to Soul” by Vonda Drees

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts, including: “love the moment“; “simply by listening“; “walk with us“; “on foot and on faith“; “soles to Soul“; “the art of travel“; and “quest-ions.”

Thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Rachel Held Evans wrote about, “Christians, MLK Day, and Historical Amnesia.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Beth Wartick also shared some “thoughts on Martin Luther King Day.”

Yesterday on the blog I also offered some Martin Luther King Day inspired reflections, especially about “The Problem with thinking ‘that’s a problem over there, not here.”

Inspired by the “I Have a Dream Speech,” friend and pastor Kaitlyn Forster shared this short film project from 2013 from the Salt Project titled, “I Have a Dream.”

In honor of MLK Jr., friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared this arrangement of “Shed a Little Light” from “The Maccabeats and Naturally 7.”

Romal Tune shared about, “Richard Rohr on White Privilege.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for the past weekend, “The Parable of the Sower, Lottery Tickets, Wrestlers, & the Kingdom of God.”

Marc Corbett wrote about, “Why I Will Protest a School I Love.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared his sermon for this past weekend based on Mark 3 which he titled, “The Payoff: Why Jesus is better with parables than J.J. Abrams.” Frank also shared his sermon from the previous week based on Mark 2, “Forgiveness: The heart of health.”

My cousin Joren shared this post from John Pavlovitz unpacking, “10 Things This Christian Doesn’t Believe About the Bible.”

In response to the Anglican Primates’ decision last week, Rev. Susan Russell wrote, “One Becoming Second Class Anglicans for Treating LGBT People as First Class Christians.”

Friend, professor, and blogger, Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis has been blogging and sharing reflections on her current Holy Land trip. So far she has reflected and shared thoughts in: “On the Shores of the Sea of Galilee“; “A Man from Galilee“; “A Place in History“; and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

Social Media & Blogging

Dennis Owen shared some light from his work Cathay Pacific on “What’s It Like to Run Social Media at a Large Company.”

Stewardship

Erin at Young Adult Money shared about “7 Tax Moves to Lower Your Taxes This Year.”

Ben Olsen at Teens Got Cents shared some financial New Year’s goals that anyone could get behind.

Mike Slaughter shared some reflection about “Ultimate Values.

Vocation

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth reflected about “Today,” with some inspiration from this upcoming weekend’s assigned scripture readings.

My friend and “sister” Megan Leibold continues to share on her blog about her fun European adventures with this reflection from Cologne.

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her regular vocational and life installment of “Tuesday Tea Time.”

Blogger Rachel Held Evans shared some thoughts on “Why I’m making just one resolution as a new mom.”

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared some fun “Blasts From the Past.”

Miscellaneous

Tristan Baurick sheds light on “Our Big One,” with thoughts on how “A Seattle Fault earthquake could bring death and destruction far greater than anything ever seen in the Puget Sound region.”

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That concludes this edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if you have particular questions or topics for me to think about on the blog, please share them. Also, if there are things you would like to see included in the links, please let me know that too. Thank you for reading and being a part of the conversation! Blessings on your week-TS

Image Credits: The Links and “soles to Soul.”

The Problem with thinking “that’s a problem over there, not here”

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy lives on when people serve, work for equality and justice for all, and work for the common good in expanding the beloved community. Sometimes we miss the point about how much we have yet to do to fulfill King’s “Dream.”

racism is realAs I have mentioned before I’m working in the Pacific Northwest this year, after having lived and worked the past few years in Minnesota. Neither is a place that you might suspect that racism is a major problem. However, if you have followed the news you know that Minnesota has major racism problems. One of the things you may not know about me, is that I worked for awhile in Minnesota for a start-up focused on closing the unemployment gap among minorities. It was in that work that I truly became aware of systemic racism. It’s because of that work from a few years ago, that I was sadly not surprised at the events that have transpired over the past year.

Upon moving back to the Pacific Northwest I was asked about this and for my thoughts. I was also told that racism is not a problem here. I was even told, “that’s a problem over there, not here.” I woke up this morning kicking myself that I didn’t push back on that assertion when I heard it. I allowed myself to go along with that thinking in a recent conversation. That goes to show how pervasive our racism and privilege can be.

As a white male, I admit that I am in a position of unique privilege. I have never really been the minority in the contexts I have lived in. I have never had to worry about being racially profiled. I have never been confronted and discriminated against for my religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc. When I live with blinders on to the world around me, it can be easy to let the logic of “it’s something happening over there” to go on without rebuke.

What really makes me disappointed in myself though is that not only do I know better, I have experienced it this year. A few months ago I was walking home and stumbled upon chalked signs of hate and bigotry on the sidewalk. I took time that day to quietly but deliberately get on my hands and knees and wash those racist signs of hate away. How quickly I had forgotten of this experience when allowing myself to go along with another in thinking “this isn’t our story here,” or “this isn’t a problem here.” When we assume that racism and injustice aren’t issues around us, that is exactly the time when we should be compelled to go out and talk with people and hear their stories. That’s a sign that we might have blinders on.

Martin Luther King’s dream is compelling. It’s also far from fulfillment, despite what some politicians might say. There is great work to be done in the work of equality and social justice. Until everyone has the same rights and abilities- for religious beliefs and practice, to vote, to assemble, to earn a fair wage, have health care, have safe and clean drinking water, and be able to learn and be educated, etc., there is work to be done.

I am grateful for all of you who work in your own lives and contexts to serve those around you. You are living out your vocations and callings, and doing your part in service of your neighbor and of the beloved community. Together we can help make Dr. King’s dream a reality. Dr. King’s dream, a dream and vision of what true community can look like, is not something impossible to attain, though it would be impossible without each other. That’s why, it’s just as important to speak up for each other, to walk alongside each other, and to raise awareness when we might lose sight of the fact that our blinders are on to the problems and challenges in the world and society around us.

How do you work to fulfill Dr. King’s dream? How do you work against the evils of racism? 

Image credit: “Racism is real