Archive for December, 2006

What Brings Change?

Friday, December 29th, 2006

 About Training Mead2

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

— Anthropologist Margaret Mead

Ford on Leadership

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

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“Courage is not something to be gauged in a poll or located in a focus group. No advisor can spin it. No historian can backdate it. In the age-old context between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity’s approval.”

The Harbor — St. Petersburg, Russia

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

The future of Russia lies in the emerging generation.

The Harbor is making a small but incredibly effective dent in the pressing needs of that generation. Located in St. Petersburg, it is a transitional living program for young semi-adult Russian orphans, helping them make the journey from hopelessness to productive members of society.

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Directed by CRM staff Melinda and Mark Cathy and Alex Krutov, The Harbor meets both the physical and spiritual needs of children, providing job skills and placement, introducing orphans to a living, relevant relationship with Jesus, and modeling a new way to care for street children and those in the new Russia who have been cast aside.

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Based on the St. Petersburg Governor’s report, 40,000 street children live in the city and the surrounding area, more than in the aftermath of WWII. The St. Petersburg region has approximately 40 orphanages in the city and another 60-70 in the suburbs. Each orphanage accommodates on average 100 children. At 17-18 years of age, Russian orphans are turned out into society and must find their own way to make it in life…and most don’t. Ninety percent of those turned out by the system end up in crime, prison, and prostitution. Within the first five years many commit suicide.

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All of the participants are enrolled in either high school, Technical College or University. The staff of The Harbor work with them daily; teaching basic life skills such as cooking, shopping, and how to study. They work with participants on self-discipline, how to work wholeheartedly, to be trustworthy, and how to care for themselves. In addition, residents participate in regular Bible studies, one-on-one and group counseling, and vocational training of their choice. Some may specialize in sewing; others may choose to specialize in computer classes, English classes, or carpentry. Vocational classes are taught by Russian lay men and women.

This ministry is intense. It is deep and it is thorough. In the section of The Harbor website that lists and describes graduates, results can be readily observed. The unvarnished truth is also there. Every participant has not been a “success story.” Nevertheless, the results and the recidivism rate are impressive.

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When All Hell Breaks Loose

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

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I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

In the relationships I encounter, it occurs most often with two groups of people to a degree far too often to be mere coincidence:

1. First are those who have stepped up and begun to use their resources in a strategic and sacrificial way. This is much more than the obligatory “tithing.” I’m talking about folks who really get it and begin to give and invest in the things of the Kingdom until it hurts.

Yesterday, I got a call from one such person. Last year, they gave almost ALL of their disposable income away. He was reeling. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong …agony in his family, vocational set-backs, betrayal from close associates, and physical things happening that could resemble a contemporary Job. Why? Could it be because of his significant financial and material involvement in the things of God, he now wears a big read bull’s eye on his life?

OR:

2. Secondly are those who have made the decision to make the jump and serve Jesus in some form of vocational ministry. Invariably, the bottom falls out in one way or another, discouraging them to pursue such a calling and making them question whether they have indeed heard from God about the future.

These folks catch it a variety of ways. Sometimes, simultaneous with their decision, they get an incredibly lucrative job offer which rocks them. Just think what that extra income would mean ...what they could do for their kids ...the things they could have they previously could never afford …the security, comfort and prosperity. Or, they get clobbered from extended family who consider such a vocational decision sheer madness. How could they possibly throw away all that education? How could they walk away from careers and pay checks and then “beg” from others to pay the bills?

And in both scenarios, there are inexplicable and invariable physical maladies that hit out of nowhere. It is as if they have hung out a shingle that reads “Hit Me!”

Both scenarios force intense reflection and introspection. “Did we really hear from God?” “Have we counted the cost?” “Is this really what we should be doing with our lives?”

One simple, but profound piece of advice I heard early in my days in ministry has been a lifeline during such times of doubt and despair, when all hell breaks loose and you wonder where God went: “Do not doubt in the dark what God has already shown you in the light.” It’s true. It works.

At the same time, such circumstances illuminate the reality of living and ministering in a profoundly supernatural world, a truth that is too often dismissed and ignored because of our western bias against what anthropologist Paul Heibert so accurately describes as the “excluded middle,” that realm where the demonic and angelic operate. When in such circumstances, our survival may depend upon knowing how to effectively engage in warfare in the supernatural realm. As Martin Luther wrote in the crucible of the Reformation:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

John Hayes and sub-merge

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

John B. Hayes

I met John Hayes over 20 years ago.

I was leading a discipleship group for single men and he joined it. He had just arrived in Orange County from Watts and was moving onto Minnie Street, one of the poorest, low income, high crime neighborhoods in a county that in the popular imagination of the rest of the country, symbolized the epitome of the American dream. Minnie Street was a teeming mixture of first generation immigrants from Latin America and Southeast Asia, (mostly Cambodian).

For over a decade, John lived there and thrived, building a team that has evolved into InnerCHANGE, an “order among the poor” with over 75 people people living and serving in places as diverse as Cambodia, Romania, Venezuela, the UK, and in American inner-cities such as LA, San Francisco and Minneapolis.

John met Deanna in the late 80s when she volunteered on Minnie Street. When John and Deanna were married in 1991, I had the privilege of officially tying the knot. They, and their two girls, are close to our family and we are honored to consider them in that rare category of life-long friends.

As such, John has had a profound influence on my life. In word and through example, he has moved me an enormous distance in my understanding of God’s heart for the poor and how to effectively live out the good news of Jesus among the most marginalized. Not that I have arrived in this respect or will ever live incarnationally among the poor as those serving with InnerCHANGE do, but my paradigms, values, and understanding of biblical holism has shifted dramatically because of the presence of John and Deanna in my life. And I would like to believe that in some respects, how I live has been permanently and deeply altered as well.

John was a major catalyst in my doctoral work which combined urban theology with a theology of the poor, all practically applied through a rudimentary blueprint for an order, such as InnerCHANGE, to grow and thrive within a larger apostolic movement such as CRM.

John’s new book, sub-merge, is must reading. It is a incredibly well written “manifesto” which puts feet to the biblical injunction to “act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Sub-Merge

“Sub-Merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World: Service, Justice and Contemplation Among the World’s Poor” (John Hayes)

sub-merge

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Submerge+-+Book+Cover

John Hayes leads InnerCHANGE—the branch of CRM where men and women serve quietly and humbly as an order among the poor. John has authored an important new volume that hits the bookstores January 5th.

sub-merge is unique. It is not outlines a practical theology for ministry among the marginalized, but it is a prophetic manifesto for being, in word and deed, the presence of Jesus among those the world has passed by. A must read for all who name the name of Christ and who are committed to following and serving him no matter where it may lead.

Available now from Amazon.com
“Sub-Merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World: Service, Justice and Contemplation Among the World’s Poor” (John Hayes)

Disposition of Our Lives

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

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My friend, Ronnie Stevens at the Danube International Church, Budapest, writes:

“God requires a disposition toward our own life controlled by four realities:

1. A grateful conviction of whence it came.
2. An abiding consciousness of Whose it is.
3. A growing understanding of what it is for.
4. A perpetual willingness to lay it down.”

* Painting is “The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by Ribera, 1630, in the Prado, Madrid.

Winner of the Runway Competition

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Xmasparty

I won!

At the Christmas party for the CRM office, we split into teams to produce (in 15 minutes out of wrapping paper) the best Christmas runway model and yours truly beat the competition …hands down.  I think it all had to do with the walk and haughty glare although the design of the apparel was exceptional.

ER and a Thick Skin

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Spicy Fries

It was not how expected to spend Monday evening.

Jon Moore, CRM’s Executive VP, and I were getting a quick bite to eat at a sports bar at the Sacramento, CA airport, waiting to catch a flight home from a day spent in Northern California seeing a financial partner. I was downing some great spicy fries that came with the burger when the itching began almost immediately …first my hands, then my feet, scalp, ears, and within minutes welts were appearing on my arms and neck. Eventually, my whole body was turning red.

Having been down this route before, I knew it was an allergic reaction. Something in those fries was deadly for me, ether in the oil in which they were fried or the spicy dressing. So it became quite the scene in the airport. A cop, paramedics, ambulance drivers, and lots of curious onlookers as they wheeled me down the concourse on a gurney and off to the nearest hospital.

I carry an epinephrine injection with me at all times for such a situation but didn’t use it on the advice of the paramedics who wanted me at the ER and not self-medicating. Besides, that needle looks like something you shoot into an elephant. Jabbing that spear into my leg is not my idea of fun if it can be avoided.

By the time we reached the ER, the medicine given in the IV on the way had begun to work and slowly, the reaction subsided. More meds and the doc released me later in the evening.

The highlight of the experience? As paramedic struggled to get the IV started in my arm, they pulled over to the side of the freeway so he could getter a better jab, and he commented: “Sorry that hurt so much, but you have unusually thick skin!” “It’s a prerequisite for my job” I replied.

So much for spicy fries.

Prayer for Russia

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

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Our Father All-Merciful!
Don’t abandon your own long-suffering Russia
In her present daze,
In her woundedness,
Impoverishment,
And confusion of spirit.
Lord Omnipotent!
Don’t let, don’t let her be cut short,
To no longer be.
So many forthright hearts
And so many talents
You have lodged among Russians.
Do not let them perish or sink into darkness
Without having served in your name.
Ot of the depths of Calamity
Save your disordered people.

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Levers of Influence

Friday, December 15th, 2006

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In my experience, anyone who leads has several “levers” through which they can exert influence in an organization. There is nothing particularly spiritual inherent in these as leadership tools. But spirituality makes a profound difference in HOW they are used.

1. Money – The spending of money is never morally neutral. A budget conveys values and priorities. The power to steer where resources are applied is a critical prerogative that a wise leader should not abdicate nor allow to wander far from his attention.

2. Recruiting – Whom we hire speaks volumes. In ministry, I believe the character, giftedness, passion and spiritual maturity of those we choose and draw close to us does more than anything else to determine the essential DNA of any organization.

3. Promoting – Eyes are always on who is sponsored into greater responsibility and who is tapped for what roles and positions of trust.

4. Public Persona and the Flow of Information – Communication is a powerful leadership tool whether it be written, spoken or visual. Even when aimed at audiences outside the organization, the boomerang effect can be enormous.

5. Evaluation Criteria – How we critique performance and results can exercise a huge effect on behavior. Such criteria translates what we believe and what we value into concrete action and accountability.

These five “levers” may all sound crass and even Machiavellian. But these are the realities of human relationships and are true whether found in government, business, families or religious movements. In the ministry realm, these are actually the means through which spiritual authority can be exercised and the blessing of God can flow. Conversely, they can be means through which abuse is perpetuated.

Anyone who is honest will find this to be true and can identify such levers of influence if they look closely at the life of any leader in any era, whether it is Mother Teresa, John Calvin, Martin Luther King, or Billy Graham.

Creativity and Conspicuous Consumption

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

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I’m not a car fan.

A car for me has always been essentially a convenience that gets me from one point to another and is a means of transportation. But that was NOT the prevailing opinion of the thousands that surrounded me this past week when Tom Middleton, my ministry assistant, and I took in the Los Angeles Auto Show.

This event is one of the largest in the world and it was an amazing educational experience. I came away with two conflicting emotions:

1. It’s incredibly difficult to understand and justify such conspicuous consumption. In a world where half of the people alive have never even used a telephone, here I was seeing and even sitting in some of the most exquisite (and expensive) vehicles ever produced. I experienced considerable emotional whiplash being surrounded by such luxury and extravagance while having been in places in the world where people are wondering where their next meal will come from. The mental juxtaposition of such extremes was jarring.

2. At the same time, the design, engineering, and creativity represented at this event was staggering. For those who are really into it, such an experience is like going to a Paris fashion show, an art gallery, or an opera. What is so amazing is that humankind—endowed with creativity as a result of the Imago Deicould produce such machines which are, in reality, works of art.

So how do I put it all together? I don’t know. I’m thinking about it. Regardless, thanks, Tom. It was a fascinating experience!

A Day of Diversity

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

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The morning started early as I left home about 5:30 am to catch a flight to Portland for a day of planning with Paul Rhoads, CRM’s Ex. VP.

When I got to the Orange County airport, to my dismay the flight had been cancelled. The best Alaska Airlines could do was put me in a taxi to pick up a later flight from Los Angeles International. The next hour I had a fascinating ride with a Somali cab driver—a college student who had immigrated two years ago and was moonlighting as a taxi driver. He was also a practicing Muslim. The conversation turned to Jesus which ended with a commitment on his part to look at the Bible and see firsthand who Jesus claimed to be.

When I settled into a seat at the gate to await the flight, the folks around me were speaking Russian. So, I chimed in with my rudimentary Russian and began interacting with a group who had immigrated from Ukraine back in the 90s and had not been back since. We ended up looking together on my computer at pictures from Kiev and Cherkassy where I had been in September. As the conversation drifted to religion, they were not Orthodox, rather admittedly secular but “who had God in their hearts.”

At the end of the day on the 2-hour flight back from the Northeast, my traveling companion in the next seat on the plane was a Dutch virologist who had worked for the WHO in a variety of trouble spots around the world. We traded stories about cross-cultural venues.

All in a days work.

All fascinating opportunities to let God steer events and conversations.

All marvelous possibilities to simply see what Jesus may be trying to do in people’s lives and how he would want me to cooperate in helping them move one step closer to Him. Domine Dirige Nos.

William Temple on Worship

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

William Temple

William Temple, the widely regarded and brilliant Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942-44 wrote:

“Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God.
It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness,
Nourishment of mind by His truth,
Purifying of imagination by His beauty,
Opening of the heart to His love,
And submission of will to his purpose.
And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable.”

The Agony of Budgets

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

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In the next two weeks, I will be completely immersed in CRM’s budget process for 2007. For me, this is a both a positive and very negative experience.

It’s positive because it gives us an opportunity to put our resources where our priorities are. As Jim Wallis writes in God’s Politics:

“Budgets are moral documents. They clearly reveal the priorities of a family, a church, an organization, a city or a nation. A budget shows what we most care about and how that compares to others things we care about.”

The negative aspect of these deliberations deals with the excruciating decisions that invariably must be made when we have only a dollar to meet two dollars worth of need. Sometimes I feel like I am being forced to choose between cutting off my right arm or hacking off my left. Making choices among competing needs is incredibly difficult, particularly when I know the ramifications on the ground where people live and serve with us around the world.

God, give us the grace and wisdom of Solomon in these several days. And I wouldn’t mind a little of his physical resources to ease the difficulty of painful choices.


“God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (Plus)” (Jim Wallis)

Morgan on Holiness

Friday, December 1st, 2006

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G. Campbell Morgan was the famous British bible teacher whose pulpit was primarily Westminster Chapel in London, (starting in 1904). Back when monologuing was the prime and effective means of persuasive communication (called “preaching”), he was one of the best. He also authored over 60 books. While archaic in such respects, he is still timeless in others.

For example, Morgan defined holiness in the following way:

“In holiness and righteousness, the essential meaning of holiness is right but it is right in intrinsic character. The essential meaning of righteousness is right, but it is right in actual conduct.”

He goes on to describe holiness in 7 limiting statements.

(1) Holiness is not freedom from all sin as imperfection; but it is freedom from the dominion of sin, and from willful sinning.
(2) Holiness is not freedom from mistakes in judgment; but it is freedom from the need to exercise judgment alone. (The alone is the key idea).
(3) Holiness is not freedom from temptation, but it is freedom from the paralysis, which necessitates failure.
(4) Holiness does not mean freedom from bodily infirmity, but it does mean freedom from all ailments, which are the direct result of disobedience.
(5) Holiness does not mean freedom from conflict, but it does mean freedom from defeat.
(6) Holiness is not freedom from liability to fall, but it is freedom from the necessity of falling.
(7) Holiness is not freedom from the possibility of advance, but it is freedom from the impossibility of advance.