Categories
Christian Living

Dear 2012

Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

Philippians 3:13-14

Dear 2012,

We, the undersigned, are ready for you. 2012 will be better than 2011. Not that we’re ashamed of 2011… we just want 2012 to be different.

Rejecting apathy – For too long we’ve been defined by our apathy. We come to church to listen and not change. We engage Scripture to learn and not make a difference. We apply biblical truth to our hearts but not our blocks. We wait for the church to do something so we can feel good about funding it. We hire experts to teach our kids because we’re too busy doing nothing important.

Apathy will not define us in 2012. We’re done talking about what we are going to do. We are done dreaming. We are done crying about what hasn’t been done. And we won’t wait for a program to do what we can do on our block. We don’t need a tax break. We don’t need a sermon.

2012 will be known as the year of being Good News in our Neighborhood.

Foregoing aestheticism – Sure, we didn’t live 2011 in the desert eating locusts. But we were way more reclusive than we wanted to be. When we were home we hung out in the house or in the backyard. We spent time with our family and deepened friendships with people who aren’t on our block. We were reclusive. We were loners. We defined ourselves by how we lived and not how we impacted our community.

This year will be different. We will be social. We will be a front porch type of neighbor. We will not just have our little circle of friends chosen by a shared hobby or faith. Instead we will choose to be different. Our relationships will be defined by proximity, not affinity. We recognize that Jesus told us to love our neighbor and we will stop trying to redefine the word neighbor to fit our comfort level. And we recognize that Jesus has us living where we live for His purpose and not our own.

2012 will be known as the year of being Good News in our Neighborhood.

Living as the best neighbor ever- Yeah, we saw opportunities in 2011. And we blew it. The elderly neighbor who lost her husband. The person who hired a gardner to weed because they were too busy. The latch-key-kid who sat at home all afternoon waiting for her mom to come home from work. We saw it. We heard about it. But we didn’t do a darn thing about it and we’re sick of feeling guilty.

This year we’ll go from observer and shoulder shrugger to opportunist. Our neighbors will know that they can depend on us. We will rearrange our schedule to serve. We will stop being busy at the church so we can be the church on our block. We will know their names and they will know ours.

2012 will be the year of our neighbors knowing we are Good News in their lives.

And finally- We will rally others because Good News spreads fast! We will lay aside petty differences for the sake of our neighbors. We will let forgiveness and grace reign. We will become block uniters instead of block dividers.

This year will be marked by it’s impact!

Making 2012 count,

[signed]

Leave a comment to join me. Feel free to add to the letter, too. 

Categories
Christian Living

Five ridiculously hard steps to a better you


Tim is right. There is a whole lot of lying for the sake of SEO in blogs these days. While there might be five easy steps to creating a Facebook page for your business, there aren’t five easy steps for everything.

Becoming a better you is ridiculously hard. I know it not from issuing advice but from walking through a few difficult seasons in my own life and finding success, happiness, and satisfaction on the other side.

Here are five ridiculous hard lessons I’ve learned towards become a better me:

  1. You often have to say no to the wrong opportunity when you have no idea when the right one might come along. For me this has meant, several times, shoving off into the great Lake of the Unknown with no idea if I’d end up where I needed to or have the financial resources to keep going.
  2. Sometimes you have to do things you are dispassionate about in order to get to things you are passionate about. Sure, I probably look like I’ve lived a storied life. But I’ve had jobs I hated. And I’ve done countless things I hate in order to finance what I love. Walk around any art museum and you’ll see that most of those people didn’t become famous until they were dead. All of their life they did work they hated to pay for the work we adore after they are gone.
  3. Being the smartest person in the room is not nearly as important as being the hardest worker in the room. Some of my friends joke with me that I never sleep. That’s not true. But success has never come easy for me. Any success I’ve achieved has been the result of ridiculously hard work. And today’s success only got me here. To get somewhere else I’ll need more and more hard work.
  4. You can’t figure it out on your own. When I make big decisions on my own I usually make a mistake. But when I take the time to add plurality to my decision making process I make wiser , better informed choices. That’s a frustrating, personal, slow, arduous, and humiliating experience. It’s not that I don’t know what’s best for me. It’s that I’m so “in it” emotionally that I have a hard time seeing the bigger picture or asking the really obvious questions of myself. Left to my own, I make a decision and then generate a full-proof construction to justify my decision.
  5. Failure is not the enemy. Failing to see the opportunity in everything is. Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” We consider them both genius’ but maybe they mixed their natural born intelligence with a unique ability to fail well better than their peers?
What are some ridiculously hard lessons you’ve learned on your way towards success? Let’s learn from the wisdom of the crowd by sharing a comment. 
Categories
hmm... thoughts

Run Your Moobs Off

Yes. I just went there. Seinfeld jokes never go out of style.

Moobs – Unsightly man boobies.

Forget all of that Biggest Looser emotional stuff about being fat. “I don’t want my kids to know their dad is fat. I want to live longer. I need a new strart.” Yada. Yada. Yada. That’s all just TV psychobabble to me. If it works for you, awesome. But that show just makes me hungry. I love that there is a commercial during the weigh-ins so I have time to refill my ice cream bowl.

One thing I hate about being out of shape is where all of those extra candy bars, slices of pizza, and cheeseburgers end up. The belly, the butt, and for me… my upper chest. Blech.

And since I have the kind of friends who aren’t shy about pointing out my moobs I figure it’s probably time to do something about them.

So the last couple of weeks my running mantra has been: Run your moobs off.

Sure. It’s a bit crass. And surely it’s not Oprah approved. But it’s silly and makes me giggle and work hard at the same time. Right now, I’m about halfway to my initial goal of running a 5K without stopping and with just 5 weeks to go… I have many more hours of running my moobs off to go.

No easy way out

Whether I’m around professional golfers or big-time Christian leaders– one thing has been clear: It’s not merely that they are talented. It’s that they took a little bit of talent, a golden opportunity, and out-worked all of their peers to become the best.

The same thing is available to all of us.

Some people look at successful people with jealous eyes. They think, “Surely, they just got lucky.” Probably a little bit. But they also took the good fortune of an opportunity and made something out of it. Whatever their specialty is they have worked harder and smarter than you have.

So?

Whatever your goal is… there’s no easy option coming.

For me, right now, it’s to run this 5K. For you? I don’t know what your goal is. But I do know this one fact:

You’ll just have to run your moobs off.

Categories
Politics Social Action youth ministry

DREAM Act & Youth Ministry

Everywhere I’ve done youth ministry I’ve met undocumented students. (Chicago, Northern California, Suburban Detroit, and here in City Heights)

But it wasn’t until I started doing youth ministry here in City Heights that I truly started to understand the difficulty they had in furthering their education and starting their own American Dream.

Think of the uphill battle a student in our neighborhood climbs towards adulthood. Their parents brought them here when they were very young. They were put into an elementary school where they didn’t speak the language. But they’ve overcome obstacles beyond language. A lack of health care, parents with unstable jobs, parents who struggled with the stress of starting a new life in a new culture, (the divorce rate is high) rough schools, the temptation of gangs, the reality of substance abuse, the allure of teenage pregnancy, few meaningful extra-curricular activities, on and on.

And despite everything– these students have succeeded by every measurement tool. tudents with high GPAs, excellent standardized test scores, held offices in their class, been star athletes… the top of their class.

Born in quick sand sucking them towards a failure no one would blame them for. They have struggled, clawed, and fought their way through high school. They are living proof that hard work pays off.

But, as it stands now, the American Dream ends there for all but a few.

As they reach graduation, a waypoint on their way to what they can become, they are faced with a new struggle they might not be able to overcome: Their immigration status prevents them from many academic/financial aid opportunities they would otherwise qualify for. Likewise, their immigration status prevents them from another viable option towards a career in the military.

To put that in perspective in my neighborhood: Future community leaders hit a roadblock towards education and military service and are left with few options towards a bright future.

What does this have to do with youth ministry?

The young adults in that video could just as easily be students in our youth group. And, in all reality, there’s a very good chance that there are students in your group facing the exact same problem. Our ministry isn’t just about preaching Good News, it’s about bringing good news to the neighborhood. See, this has everything to do with youth ministry here in San Diego and around the country!

Photo from Politico (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/45243.html)

That’s where the DREAM Act comes in. Without going into a comprehensive immigration reform and all of its political pitfalls, it helps bridge a gap immediately that most people agree needs to get fixed.

Purpose

The purpose of the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, also called the DREAM Act, is to help those individuals who meet certain requirements, have an opportunity to enlist in the military or go to college and have a path to citizenship which they otherwise would not have without this legislation. Supporters of the DREAM Act believe it is vital not only to the people who would benefit from it, but also the United States as a whole. It would give an opportunity to undocumented immigrant students who have been living in the U.S. since they were young, a chance to contribute back to the country that has given so much to them and a chance to utilize their hard earned education and talents.

Would I qualify?

The following is a list of specific requirements one would need in order to qualify for the current version of the DREAM Act.

  • Must have entered the United States before the age of 16 (i.e. 15 and younger)
  • Must have been present in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill
  • Must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university)
  • Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application
  • Must have good moral character

Source

For nearly 10 years the Dream Act has taken on many forms as it’s proponents have tried to get the law to pass through both the House and Senate. It has stalled or was killed every time.

On December 8th, the bill was passed by the House of Representative. It was hoped that the debate in the Senate would begin immediately. Unfortunately, the Senate tabled a vote on the measure yesterday.

Obviously, this is labeled a political issue.

But in my world this is a social justice issue. These students have done everything right and the only country they’ve ever known prohibits them from pursuing their dreams. They have looked adversity in the eye and climbed past it’s sneering, snarling teeth and overcome everything to become  the embodiment of success our country adores.

It’s time that this legislation passes and they are allowed to move on.

More info:

Wikipedia article

Follow the story on Twitter, #dreamact

Dream Act Portal (student activist site)

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hmm... thoughts illustrations

Opportunities Stomach

Photo by Kenji Oka via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

Colossians 4:5

These were the words of Paul to the Colossian church. He was wrapping up his letter to them with a few tidbits of sage advice. Like bits of dessert after a Holy Spirit inspired meal.

Those words have stuck with me and become part of my self-talk. You know, the little words that run through your head all the time. A lot of people label me an optimist or a glass half full guy. In fact, I label myself an opportunist. I’m constantly asking myself, “Am I making the most of this opportunity?

Maybe that’s a spiritual or ministry opportunity? (Paul’s original intent of those words) But maybe that’s an opportunity at work? Or a business opportunity? Or an great idea? The possibilities are as endless as the food combinations at a buffet.

The Opportunity Stomach

I’ve found that there is a strategic difference between waiting for the right opportunity and and jumping at every opportunity.

Think of opportunities like a meal. You are either hungry for it or you aren’t. (Most people aren’t. They just pass on opportunities without even thinking about it.)

But if I jump on too many opportunities my appetite for really great opportunities wanes. Then, because I waited for the perfect opportunity I tend to lack the experience to know the difference between a choice meal and a cheap rip-off.

I notice that most people tend to approach new opportunities like they approach their favorite restaurant. They like what they know and they know what they like. So they turn their nose up and almost all new opportunities.

Whereas, I tend to nibble at a lot of opportunities and save room for the big ones. That way I know what a great opportunity tastes like when it comes along.

With that said, the only problem with nibbling is that sometimes you get too full for the big meal.

Categories
Christian Living

Slaying the god of apathy

I believe this little phrase, God opens and closes doors, has lead to people falsely blaming God for missed opportunities. We put this philosophy of open and closed doors above biblical concepts like perseverance, patience, and long-suffering. Myth: God Opens and Closes Doors

We live in an apathetic culture.

Sure, we are a culture of people who can do amazingly good things in times of crisis. We certainly think of ourselves as a culture of people who care for our neighbors and even a caregiver to the nations.

But we are also a people who have the attention span of the common flea. Just ask the people of the Gulf Coast who still have an oil spill issue. Or people affected by Hurricane Katrina. Or the people of Haiti. Or the people of Darfur. Or the people of [insert the name of any disaster in the last 10 years.]

Christians are just as guilty of this as non-Christians. It’s a cultural phenomenon.

We tend to get über excited about something big, obvious, or bleeding but struggle to carry it through beyond triage.

For example: I’ve never met an incoming freshmen who wasn’t excited to start college. But three weeks into college and they are bored, questioning why they entered school, skipping classes, and living for the next party.

On and on… we struggle with being excited about things and then when we get into the tedious parts we want to quit because it’s hard or it isn’t immediately fulfilling or it wasn’t what we expected it to be.

So we quit. We stop caring. We long for something else. We make plans.

We forget that hard work is a virtue. And perseverance. And over-coming adversity. And all those other words.

This is why the phrase “God opens and closes doors” feeds fatalism.

Is the phrase biblical? Of course. The metaphor is used several times in Scripture. And folks who come at life from a biblical perspective understand the metaphor.

Is the phrase understood in our culture? Absolutely not. It is entirely misunderstood. Most people who come to church don’t look at life through the lens of biblical Christianity. So the metaphor often times means just to opposite of its intention! They hear, “if its easy it is an open door” and “if its hard or boring it must be a closed door.” I even hear it used with words like, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” “It was just bad luck, I guess.”

How will I know if something is an open door, a closed door, or if I’m supposed to persevere, or be opportunistic?

Since we’re not talking about a metaphor you will never know if a door is open or if a door is closed. What if the door is open but you face persecution or you have to persevere through a dry spell or an open door is really a temptation and not what God wants?

That’s the problem with the phrase. It’s trying to describe something that you’ll never know in the moment.

And it feeds into our apathetic culture.

We confuse “open door” with “easy button.” And visa versa.

This is what I do know

We are called to the uncomfortable. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to be light in dark places. We are called to speak truth in love. We are called to be faithful with what we have. We are called to be living sacrifices. We are called to not just be hearers of the Word, but doers.

We are not called to be 3rd party observers looking for open and closed doors.

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Christian Living illustrations

A or B thinking

Wipeout is a metephor for life

The thing that I really love about Wipeout is that I can see myself being on the show. There is something about the story of the show that makes me want to insert myself into the narrative. I don’t know about you, but when I watch the show I’m constantly thinking about how I would react to a situation or how I would have done it differently.

Watching other people fall, fail, and probably get hurt is attractive to me.

There is something so train wreck about Wipeout that makes it interesting and intruiging.

I want it. But what is “it?”

Why can’t I stop watching?!?

3rd person perspective

I like it because I am not in it. The reason it is so funny on television is because the people on the ground are in the first person and they are forced to think linear about Wipeout while at home we are in the third person and can see everything.

They only get to see what is in front of them. They don’t know how other players have completed the obstacle. They don’t have the view we have at home. We are above the action while they are in it.

They are trying to problem solve the maze of each apparatus in real time first person.

We are the humans watching the mouse work its way through a complicated maze. When you have a third person perspective, the game is easy and the mouse looks stupid.

Person after person makes the same mistake and you are left to just scream at the television… “Don’t do it that way! You’re going to fa… Oh, did you see him fall? Ouch!

The Wipeout mousetrap forces the participant into A vs. B thinking while the third person perspective clearly shows the answer is either A or B.

Sometimes the answer is C

My life is sometimes an episode of Wipeout. Life often feels squished into a maze of A & B choices.

But I’m learning more and more that the answer in A & B circumstances is actually C.

  • C: None of the above
  • C: All of the above
  • C: Another idea

This is why life isn’t Wipeout.

Life feels like a series of A or B choices. And if you get them right, you’ll succeed in life.

But that’s incorrect. Life is full of choices that look like A vs. B. But C is often the only right answer.

Stuck?

I know a lot of people who feel stuck right now.

They don’t feel like life affords them a lot of options.

Do I continue down this path or do I start something new?

I hate my job but the economy sucks and I don’t want to be unemployed right now.

The trick is not settling for A or B when the answer might be C.

The answer is– adjust your perspective.

Categories
Church Leadership management maturity Social Action

Innovating with an established ecosystem

Photo by fmgbain via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Starting a new organization is an entirely different task than innovating to change an existing organization.

Both are hard. But changing and existing organization is way harder.

For most of my career I’ve been in turnaround roles. Kristen and I have a little joke… My entire adult work life has seemed like one roller coaster ride after another.

Click, click, click, click… up we climb.

Click, click, click, click. My heart races.

Wait for it. Wait for it… Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Arms up. Screaming bloody murder. Thinking of the Tom Petty song, Free Falling.

Down the big hill we go.

Over and over again I’m left to help try to innovate our way out of the mess.

And, so far, I’ve been pretty successful at it by most people’s judgement.

How does one innovate within an existing ecosystem?

  1. Become Switzerland. There are political factions within any organization. If you want to get stuff done you need to be neither and empathetic both sides at the same time.
  2. Spike the football. When you do something that everyone is happy with its OK to just look into the camera and say, “Thank you very much. Woohoo! Hi mom!” I’ve seen a lot of people fail in an organization because they were afraid to take the credit for their own ideas doing well. Don’t be an idiot. It’s OK to be the guy to do good stuff. Spike the football.
  3. Own the data. Existing organizations are horrible at owning their data. I like to look at the results of a long-standing program that has had no results and say, “30 years of VBS and not a single new family? Why didn’t we just light that $300,000 on fire? At least we would have had a good BBQ.” When people are tied to tradition or the way they’ve always done things, sometimes you need to be the person with the frying pan who hits them in the head. Helping people in leadership own the data is the catalyst to getting stuff done in an existing organization.
  4. Be creative. Face it. A fist full of money and a fat belly has never created a single good idea. Have you seen Bing? No budget, no time, no research, shot in the dark… that’s when good stuff happens. That’s when the best ideas pop into your head. Creativity and innovation come out of suffering and frustration. These are your friends and allies, not your enemies.
  5. Opportunistic eyes. I keep a list of ideas I’ve got on ice. Then, when I’m in a meeting and everyone is scratching their heads looking for something new, bam… I’m pull out my concept. If I ran around screaming about every idea I had all the time I’d look like a mad scientist.

What are some ways you’ve learned to innovate within an existing ecosystem?

Categories
hmm... thoughts illustrations

The jugglers cup runneth over

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3:10

I’ve heard and read this verse a ton of times. And the phrase that has always popped out to me is– “test me in this.” It’s one of those passages of the Bible that you read and think that it can’t literally be true.

If I trust God with my money will he really pour out so much blessing that I won’t know what to do?

Sounds like a load of bull spoken by a TV preacher trying to build his version of Disneyland, right?

As I’m learning– maybe not.

I don’t often write about things that are happening RIGHT NOW in my life. As much of myself as I share, I tend to let things percolate a little bit and mellow into principle before I try to capture my thoughts in words.

But the last few days I’ve just come home and looked at Kristen and said– “My life is crazy right now. I can’t hardly explain it. All awesome stuff.

Two photos really capture visually what I’m having a hard time processing into words.

1. The juggler.

Photo by Andy_Tyler via Flickr (Creative Commons)

My work life is a constant juggling act. Big projects, little projects, add leadership over one area and support over another. Go on the road to do one thing while keeping everything in order on something else. It’s a good kind of juggling. As my co-workers know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even when I come home I’m still juggling all sorts of personal and McLane Creative projects. From a thriving garden to the latest social media campaign– I’ve just got a lot of balls in the air.

Juggling requires constant attention. And when people see a juggler they like to ask you one important question… can you juggle one more ball? Sometimes I shrug my shoulders yes and sometimes I shrug my shoulders no.

2. The overflowing cup

Photo by shioshvili via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Is Malachi 3:10 really literally true? It sure seems that way right now. The last month was filled with unexpected showers of awesome. Several people and organizations are asking for quotes for new web designs. Several outlets are looking for me to write for them. Our community group is doing some cool things. In a few weeks Lisa is coming here for the summer. In June, Kristen and I have planned an amazing local vacation capped off by a fun celebration. My second trip to Haiti is coming together and basically full. And in the last 2-3 days a whole new shower of unexpected blessings has come my way– earth shakingly awesome stuff, too!

If you bump into me these days I’ve kind of got this crazed mad Scientist look going. Buggy wide eyes, haven’t slept, and a scary perma grin.

OK, not that guy.

More like that.

Categories
hmm... thoughts

Warp Speed!

warp-speed

That’s how I feel about the next 90 days. This week starts the first of three National Youth Worker Conventions. For me, it’s a huge honor to be able to go to the three U.S. conventions and to play such a cool role. On site I am in charge of capturing the story of the convention for our internet audience, snapping a couple thousand pictures, filling a years worth of blog content, co-leading a seminar on social media and video, plus a whole littany of other normal stuff the whole staff does on site.

What this really means is that this is my busy season. Between now and the end of the year I’ll be gone about a week a month for work. Of course, while I’m gone doesn’t mean that regular work doesn’t get done, it just backlogs. And I stil need to use a weeks vacation in there. So the pattern is go away for about a week. Rest HARD on the travel day. Push through as much work as possible. Rest HARD some more. Get everything together to go back on the road. Repeat.

The point of this post isn’t to lament about the next 3 months of my life. Not at all. Trust me, I consider this insanity to be a blessing. I am thankful to God for the opportunity. The point of this post is to think about the question, “How do you find sanity when your life hits warp speed?

Here’s how I do it. I’d love to hear how others go through similar times.

1. Embrace some insanity. This might be super unhealthy, but when I’m on site at a convention, I focus on what needs to be done. If these trips were a sport I want to make sure I leave it all on the field.With thousands of attendees coming I want to do whatever I can to make their experience awesome.

2. Schedule rest when on the road. The attitude of #1 above will kill you if you aren’t disciplined. Last year, I was so wide-eyed about the whole thing that I barely slept, said yes to everything, and allowed my schedule to get out of control. This year I’ve blocked out times for meals, rest, and “me time.” I’m an introvert– this is for my sanity and everyone else’s safety.

3. Schedule rest when at home. I’ve gotten better about not working on weekends, I need to keep that pattern going through this busy time. I also need to look at holes in my schedule and stay home to work a bit during the week, leave early when possible, stuff like that.

4. Do fun stuff with the kids. My travel stuff is hard on the kids. Sure, they don’t express it. But I can tell when I come back that it hasn’t been easy without me. I’m cooking up some evil plans to spend time with them.

5. Accept that some stuff won’t get done on time. As much as it drives me insane to know that I need to do that, I just need to decide which things get done on time and which things are less important and get pushed off until later.

6. Take notes. My mind swells with ideas/thoughts/reflections during these times. This year, I’m going to capture so much more with Evernote on my iPhone.