I read Austin Kleon’s book “Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad” and really enjoyed it. It came at a good time for me where I feel that my creativity has been languishing and as a friend told me recently, creativity is my oxygen. I like how Kleon gives some very simple and actionable ideas for helping keep these pieces alive. I found it a lot like his other books, which I also enjoyed, full of good quotes, great pictures, and things that make me slow down and think.
Stephen Colbert’s recent interviewabout the power of comedy in the face of politics and how faith and morality play into his making sense of the world today.
Thanks to a friend who recently mailed me a copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” I’ve been hearing about it for years but have never read it. Since I received it in the mail, I’ve been reading it every morning, trying my best to soak in every word. Here’s one line from my reading today that stood out to me.
Don’t you see that everything that happens becomes a beginning again and again? Could it not be [God’s] beginning, since a beginning in itself is always so beautiful.
I’ve been working on a book about Revelation that offers a different perspective then the “Revelation as End-of-the-World” interpretation.
This book, Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation, published by Barclay Press, is coming out very soon and I wanted to give you a heads up to start watching out for it. It is in e-book form and will be available as an e-pub through Barclay Press, on Amazon, and, as I understand it, through the Our Bible App.
The general premise of the book is that Revelation, drawing on a number of other scholars, doesn’t have anything to do with predicting the end of the world, but rather is about how small, marginalized faith communities resisted and survived empire. The book lays out four practices that the author of Revelation points out are necessary for doing this.
I am a big a big fan of the Enneagram and have been using it more and more lately in my work for my own personal growth and self-awareness, as with my work with students, and staff. As I was taking some time for reflection at the end of the semester I took some notes on exercises and practices from David Daniels’ great introduction called “The Essential Enneagram.” I highly recommend the book and I wanted to share the 5 principles he writes about in terms of working at personal growth within the context of the Enneagram. This summary is completely lifted from his book (73-82).
Principle 1: Three Laws of Universal Behavior
• Wherever your pattern of attention and energy go, your behavior follows. To change your behavior requires self-observation of your pattern and energy. Self observation is an ongoing practice.
How did I do today at staying aware of my pattern of attention and energy?
When I reacted automatically to someone or something, was I able to bring back my awareness and redirect my attention and energy?
How can I better manage my pattern of attention and energy tomorrow?
It occurred to me recently how hard it is for people to lose, to give up, let go, or just admit that maybe they had it wrong. Why do we fight tooth and nail to get our own way? While this may not seem all that new, the part of this that really had an edge for me was when I realized that the people who seem to have the hardest time with losing are those who identify as Christians!
But surely this is all wrong!
People of faith, certainly within the Christian tradition, should be great examples of how to lose well. Shouldn’t we be known for people who don’t throw tantrums when we don’t get our own way, rather than being willing to – in some cases quite literally – go to all-out war over something? In Christian theology there is a larger perspective than one’s own – so if I consider myself a Christian I become a part of something much bigger. I learn that I can let go because I trust that there are greater forces at work in the world. Everything really is not all up to me. There may be other needs, perspectives, or desires at work.
But beyond this, losing is built into the Christian narrative.
W hen we think about renewal and “rebuilding” our faith communities, practices, and programs we are a part of, it is important that we focus on the strengths and places of life so that we are building on that which is most alive, rather than spending so much time or focus on the pathologies and weaknesses of the places we find ourselves. I have found that these weaknesses and pathologies persist whether you give them energy or not, but containing them within a framework of strengths helps the community not become overwhelmed by the issues.
One of the tools I have found extremely valuable for doing this is the social model of Appreciative Inquiry, a model of renewal that I have had the privilege of walking a number of communities through. Appreciative inquiry is a participatory change process that helps a community focus on the life that is already within the community. While there is a whole process to Appreciative Inquiry, it all starts with the kinds of questions you ask. A.I. puts a lot of care into the designing of questions that are meant to stimulate passion and gratefulness for the community, in order to draw out the kinds of insights that might help us to build upon the strengths.
For instance, A.I. asks questions such as:
What brought you to this community and what keeps you here?
What are three dreams you have for this community?
In your opinion, what is the best part of this community? What is the core?
What do you bring to the community – this could be something that is common knowledge or things that people may not know about?
Recently, I had the opportunity to ask these questions as a part of a series of Sunday morning sessions I led on the topic of renewing faith traditions at a Quaker meeting. The class was a combination of some of my work and Brent Bill’s great pamphlet: A Modest Proposal for The Revitalization of the Quaker Message. There were about 20-25 of us who worked through this reading and topic over the course of about 5 weeks.
I think the conversation was worthwhile and would highly recommend Friends wanting to have a discussion around renewal of their meetings to reading through Bill’s pamphlet. As a part of the discussion series, I also put together an eBook with some of my thinking on the subject that can be found here. I think both resources work well together.
Dear Friends on the West Coast,Recorded Minister, Lloyd Lee Wilson and I will be traveling to the Pacific Northwest in June. Our goal is to travel in the ministry “in the old style,” no program, no agenda, just show up, share in worship together, and see what God might do among us. I wanted to share the itinerary with you in case you are interested in connecting while we are there. I look forward to reconnecting with folks, sharing in the ministry that the Spirit is doing among you there, uplifting and encouraging that work, and sharing about the work we are doing here in Greensboro and Guilford College.Tuesday June 5, 2018 – 7 PM – North Seattle Friends Church (Seattle, WA)
Wednesday June 6, 2018 – 7 PM – Camas Friends Church (Camas, WA)
Friday June 8th, 2018 – 7 PM – Freedom Friends Church (Salem, OR)
Saturday June 9, 2018 – 7 PM – Newberg Area Churches (Newberg, OR)
I have become increasingly interested in creating templates for Evernote. A template is useful for things you might come back to a lot, such as a basic project plan or for a process you use a lot. Recently, I created a “template” with a checklist of steps I want to remember to do everytime we want to publicize an event at the college.
Background: This template is was created for an assignment I like to have my students do in class called a “biography as theology” paper. In these papers, students are asked to write a biographical account that looks at how their person lived and what their living says about their believing (the idea is taken from James Wm. McClendon Jr.). This template lays out in pretty clearly the steps needed to develop a well-researched paper on their subject with all the links and necessary information to make it as easy as possible on the researcher later.
It occured to me after creating this, with a good bit of help from my Guilford College colleague and archivist Gwen Gosney Erickson, that this kind of template would be useful to me for my research as well. I can easily duplicate the note, put it into a new notebook created for my current research topic, and then plug in any specific sites and steps to fit the needs of the project. Not only do I not have to recreate the wheel, I a robust process already in place that can help me get started.
If you’re an Evernote user, feel free to click on the template link and click save to save it to your own Evernote library. If you’re not an Evernote user, what are you waiting for? After saving it, I’d encourage you to adapt it to your needs or create your own step by step template for your writing and research process.
Let me know if you have any questions or what you come up with in the comments below.