Thursday, October 31, 2013
I thought it might be interesting to see all my various personality profiles mashed up together. So I went to tagxedo.com, which is one of those nifty wordcloud generators, and came up with a rough system for weighting the profiles: * I typed in my top term from APEST and Enneagram five times. * I typed in my second APEST category four times, then three, then two, then one, till all five were represented. * I typed in my two Enneagram directions three times each. * I typed in my Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinder terms twice each. * I typed in my Enneagram wing once. Then the wordcloud generator did its funky work. Here is what it kicked out, designed as a footprint, which I think is a pretty good visual representation of how I fit into the world.
Monday, October 21, 2013
My dad taught me to whistle. I've recently become aware of this. I don't think he taught me how to whistle; I would hope that I taught myself that, since the mechanics of whistling are simple: as Lauren Bacall put it, "You just put your lips together . . . and blow." But the bliss of whistling -- that I learned from my dad. He whistles a lot. Like, all the time. And, like, everywhere. Walking through a store. Walking through the neighborhood. Stepping into the pews at church. Sitting down for dinner at home. He whistles while driving, while reading, while waiting around for the next thing to happen. He's a whistler. And so am I. I started to become aware that I had inherited my dad's whistling disposition when I got the eponymous first album by "newgrass" band Nickel Creek. The trio that made up the band played their respective instruments with the speed of youth and the acumen of veterans. And I whistled right along with them. I whistled the melody; I whistled the harmony. I whistled the fiddle part; I whistled the mandolin part. And I did it all from the comfort of my desk at work. Imagine how that must have annoyed my neighbors. I got made fun of a fair bit, and I know that I deserved it. I'm pretty confident, however, that as annoying as I was, no one stayed annoyed at me. Whistling is too innocent, too blissful, to resent for long. Plus, there's no denying I'm good at it. Anyway, I kept doing it --not out of conviction but out of habit. Something happens to you, I think, when you make a habit of whistling. It lightens the load of life, I think. It's hard to nurse grudges while you're whistling. It's hard to dwell on some slight, to fret over some mistake. It's hard to stay angry or stay panicked. Whistling takes you out of time and drills you down deep into a particular moment. If you're whistling, chances are you're in the zone. Or maybe you're desperately trying to get in the zone. "Whistling in the dark" is what we call putting on a brave face; ironically, it's roughly equivalent to keeping a stiff upper lip, a state that is hardly conducive to whistling. Whistling somehow, mystically, shores up our resolve, emboldens us in the face of danger. We distract ourselves by whistling in order to do what we might not otherwise want or feel able to do. If you find yourself whistling, chances are you're in the thick of it. My dad taught me to whistle not out of fear but out of serenity. He didn't set out to do so; he just whistled everywhere he went, and he gave off a sense of serenity in the process. The message kind of stuck with me, and the habit embedded itself in me. And now, the older I get, the more I get it: life is no match for a person who whistles. You think you're a good whistler? Put your lips together and blow through this one -- "The Lighthouse's Tale" by Nickel Creek.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
In my previous post, most excellent blogophile, I identified some pitfalls that people facilitating a paradigm shift often stumble into. As a reminder (although, come on, how long would it take you to read a 500-word post?), they were as follows: 1. Treating smart people like they're stupid. 2. Treating competent people like they're incompetent. 3. Treating committed people like they're uncommitted. I suggested that these pitfalls could be avoided, or their impact mitigated, by a prior commitment to the second great commandment of Jesus: Love your neighbor as yourself.
They are seen to be the God-intoxicated, biblical existentialists, calling all to live faithfully in covenant relationship with God and consistent with his kingdom and rule in the world. The effect of prophetic ministry is to bring our world into divine focus.This presumes, all too rightly, that most of us live out of sync with what we profess about God and the world, making the prophetic intelligence a somewhat maddening burden:
This experience of encountering two contradicting realities causes the prophet to passionately call into question the existing order of things. ... By forcing us to face up to these gaps in our faithfulness, the prophet creates a context that allows us to perceive the truth of our situation. ... People, and the institutions they inhabit, can find themselves being held hostage by their own logic and systems of justification. In such situations we need prophetic imagination to deconstruct and dismantle these systems of justification that so often conceal our fears and selfishness.Sound like a paradigm shift? It's a helpful reminder that paradigm shifts aren't just change for the alleviation of boredom; they're an acknowledgment, arrived at gradually by increasing numbers of people, that something is out of sync with reality, and a commitment, arrived at with varying levels of enthusiasm, to return to equilibrium. Paradigm shifts need prophets, not just to shake the foundations but to identify where the foundations are and how we find our way back to them. Given this setup, prophets sound awesome, right? But they have their own rules of engagement. Hirsch and Catchim identify six. 1. The prophet is to point people to God, not to the prophet's preferred reality. There's something objective driving the prophet's concern, which is why we test prophets to distinguish between something objective and something loudly, annoyingly subjective. 2. "Criticism is not a license for cynicism." Underlying the prophetic task is a commitment to the possibility of change and to the responsibility to point people toward that change--not just to chide people for their stasis. 3. Love is the foundation of prophetic ministry. If you're not motivated by love for the people you're prophesying to, you're doing it wrong. 4. "Critical distance should not translate into permanent distance." Prophetic imagination has its own allure, and can draw us into a bubble of our own insight. No man is an island, and no prophet is without a people. 5. "Prophets are not infallible." Prophets rely on intuition, which can be wrong. Prophets, again, need the rest of us to test and approve their prophetic imaginations, just as we need prophets to keep pushing our buttons. 6. Prophets can make a situation worse. Prophets have a responsibility to their own message, to keep refining it and asking questions of it and considering the pitfalls of it. There's nothing worse than a prophet who doesn't know what she's talking about. Anyway, that's how Hirsch and Catchim see it. It's a tragedy when prophets get stoned, or killed, or marginalized or suppressed. But sometimes, when they lose sight of these rules, a little suppression might be in order. Prophets aren't messiahs, after all. They work for us, just like we work for us.
Monday, October 07, 2013
I run around with a lot of people who are trying to change people's minds on a lot of things. How we do church, how we do publishing, how we do social change, how we do what we do--all of these things are, in the minds of my friends (and, for the most part, in my mind as well), up for revision. Some of these things are better primed for change than others. "There's something about the gallows," a publishing executive I know likes to say, "that focuses the mind." Publishing, in other words, is in danger of perishing--unless we make some changes. I think that's hyperbole, but I think that mainly because I'm predisposed to change and see it as the normal order of things. In any case, a change junkie would say something like that, wouldn't they? "Don't waste a crisis," I think Rahm Emmanuel said when he stepped into the role of White House Chief of Staff for new president Barack Obama. "The sky is falling!" doesn't have to be cause for panic; shouted by the right Machiavellian mouth, it can be the preamble to a paradigm shift. Many a movement has been dissembled from within, however--even by the loudest, shrewdest champions of it. I'm pretty sure that the following remedial rules apply to any effort to lead people through significant change: Facebook page, Google Plus or Twitter.
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
My church has found me. I must have passed some threshold of monthly giving or something, because lately everyone in every corner of the church is inviting me to serve with them. Youth ministry, homeless ministry, marriage ministry, small group ministry, communications, uh, ministry, and even . . . prayer ministry. Yes. I, who scored "present" on an online test measuring the quality of my faith, hope and love, am now regularly praying for people after our worship services. Don't worry, I don't get a lot of traffic. But occasionally someone comes up to me for prayer, at which point I am, occasionally, sent into a tizzy. Recently I was sitting around, trying to look welcoming and spiritual, trying not to look at my phone, when I was approached by a woman I'll call Joan. Joan needed prayer, mainly for discernment, because she had two friends who she was trying to figure out when and how to inform that they were sinners and she would no longer be hanging out with them. Seriously. This is the sort of thing some people request prayer for. This is, I believe, how not to pray. I listened to her story and tried to remain sympathetic, but inside I was sort of seething. Who does this woman think she is? I wondered. In what universe would this kind of prayer make sense? What kind of God would respond well to a prayer like that? I asked her some questions for clarification, and then I closed my eyes and started preaching. This, by the way, is also how not to pray. I learned this from Andrew Wheeler, in his excellent and woefully underappreciated book Together in Prayer. Preaching with your eyes closed is not praying. When you tell God what you want other people in the room to know--when you teach God Christian doctrine or remind God how bad people are at following him--you're not praying. You're preaching, and you're not even dignifying your audience by looking them in the eye.