Yesterday I discussed whether we’re being drawn toward or away from others. I know that my diagram wasn’t exactly theologically correct by placing God (and faith) at one end (opposite from work and from others). The exercise was meant to help us reflect on where we were being drawn, nothing more. The exercise helps us identify our direction – because we don’t naturally drift toward better behavior … unless we’re intentional. I don’t stay in physical shape unless I exercise. I don’t grow spiritually without spending time at it. My love for Kelly doesn’t grow unless we spend time together – and when we’re together we make it quality time. So, if we want to improve relationally, we need to do better at connecting.
So, after recognizing a new love for work and productivity that drew me away from others, I’ve worked to take five intentional steps toward others. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? But, it’s part of the “drift” that can push us if we’re not attentive. read more…
American culture champions the ‘rugged individual,’ a frontier-induced image of the one who can pull himself/herself up by the bootstraps and effect his/her future. In essence, these folks can “make it happen.” The old cowboy movies reinforced this ideal and we see this philosophy enacted in our culture. I see it in my life. I see it in others. I’m not trying to be a critic, just reflecting on my life and looking at which direction I’m gravitating. I’m not even sure how to measure it, but I think the exercise may be worth doing. Try this:
- Get a sheet of paper and draw a large triangle on it.
- Write “WORK” at one corner, “OTHERS” at another, and “GOD” at the final corner. read more…
Most Americans want to write a book, about 80% of them in fact, a stat offset by the fact that over half of Americans never read a book in a given year. Why the interest in writing a book? Do we all have a story to tell? Advice to give? We must. Ask any literary agent what it’s like when someone (even taxi cab drivers) find out their work – they get bombarded with pitches, attempts to sell and idea for publication.
Ever since I wrote “Bicycle Cops” in my Senior English Honors class, I always thought it’d be great to be a paperback writer. I still walk in bookstores in airports and wonder what it’d be like to have a paperback on the shelves. So, to all of you (us) who have aspirations of being a published author of a paperback story, and are actually spending part of this day editing or writing, and to commemorate the “debut” of Beatles music on iTunes, I offer this rare promo video of the old Beatles song.
We Americans celebrate Thanksgiving this week, a holiday that has become more meaningful to me each year. This week I fought discontentedness by listing the many people (mostly ) and elements for which I’m thankful. The process was moving, and I was a bit choked up as I looked over the people to whom I feel I owe so much and would love to regale you with stories regarding their graciousness and kindness. So, on this day of Thanksgiving and prayer, I’m thankful for:
- The constant grace and presence of Jesus Christ in my life. In the midst of a part of the world that seems increasingly angry with those who profess a Christian faith, my hope and prayer is that they could see Christ’s love and grace. And see it in my life.
- Kelly, who remains the love of my life in fresh ways every year. Few will ever know how remarkable she is every day, but our three teenagers do. Her character is exemplary and she is my best friend.
- For the three amazing people Kel and I get to call our “teens” – Lauren, Jayson, and Sean. We marvel at the wonderfully mature steps we see each of them take.
- For my family. I am grateful for the close relationship I have with my parents and sister. I know it’s not common and I’m thankful for a family heritage of faith, education, and nurture.
- I’m thankful for an “in-law” family that has become dear to me/us as well. What a blessing family is!
- Our small group that of the last nine years – Kip and Tanya, Chad and Tammi, Don and Christal, and Derek and Deb – each are so dear to us and have become a “family of families” for us.
- The Bethel College (Indiana) faculty and staff, especially my colleagues in the department of Religion and Philosophy. There are good people at Bethel and I’m thankful to be a small part of that vibrant community.
- Jay Howver and Holly Root. I’m awestruck at the generosity of these two. They have separately chosen to invest in me and my ideas/words, helping them become books that can make a difference.
- My friends and colleagues around the world who share a passion for Christian leadership and/or youth ministry. What a rich journey it is, full of its share of difficulties, but the joyful moments are without equal – and last into eternity.
Yesterday I reflected on our [American] culture’s fascination with conferences. There seems to be more conferences for Christian youth groups to attend than ever before. Research I’ve done with youth groups show that these are not as significant for youth when compared to a more “rustic” retreat or a short-term service project/mission trip. Some conferences are more like “camps” in that they are held at a Christian colleges (no fear of hotel security or inappropriate movies in the rooms), have lower costs, and are usually driven by a denomination or group of youth pastors.
It’s rare that a camp or conference can reinvent itself, but that’s what’s going on with one of the most innovative conferences I’ve seen in a long time (since we revamped DCLA in the early 1990s) – CONVERGE 2011. The conference won’t get more than 500 students in attendance this year, but it’s format may send ripple waves throughout “conferencedom” due to its innovative multimedia and interactive approach. I will be serving as one of the four facilitator/speakers for the event and as I’ve shared the format with other leaders of major conferences, they’re more than a little intrigued. We’re all trying to innovate and reinvigorate tired formats (more on this another day).
I just completed a three-week series with the good folks at Nappanee Missionary Church. It was a great format – a roundtable discussion with the pastors on the various topics. We had so much good stuff to discuss that the challenge was getting it all done in the one hour time slot.
For the first session, we touched on “Engaging Culture” and started with the fundamental ways that people view culture. We then moved in week two to a specific focus on youth, and then finished the series looking at ten fundamental shifts in our society today. The latter was the most touchy, but my favorite, because we looked past behavioral and temporal issues (e.g. teen risk behavior) and exposed the underlying changes taking place – from globalization to 24/7 technology to dietary issues.
Would you say we have a plethora of conferences? Seems like everywhere I turn I run into another conference and every weekend has a conference that applies to one of the fields in which I work. I am not sure why there are so many, nor do I have it figured what the rise indicates about current culture. Maybe it’s just the rise of social media and its inexpensive promotion of regional conferences. I do know that once the conferences begin, Twitter hashtags provide a play-by-play stream of content, notable speakers, and significant events from these conferences. And, yes, I would say it seems like we do have a plethora of them.
I work in four different fields and each have a long list of conferences available year ‘round. In the Christian leadership world it seems that every weekend boasts a conference with a cool name – Catalyst, And, or Innovate. The social media world has and conferences and conferences for youth (e.g. Converge, Merge) seem more numerous than the stars. Writers can attend regional genre conferences (Music City Romance Writers of America is meeting nearby as I write this) as well as national genre conferences (e.g. Thrillerfest, American Christian Fiction Writers) and conferences to help aspiring writers (e.g. Backspace Conference).