2012: Two weeks in

2012 is not even two weeks old and God has already begun his work in and around me. About a week ago, as I prayed about what God had in store for me this year, my mind was drawn toward the word “intentionality”–a theme I talked about in my New Year’s sermon (“In the beginning … rest”) and also in a recent blog. I got the sense that this would be a year of big decisions and big choices, with big consequences. At the time, I had no idea what those would be, but even in the last week, I’m beginning to see what God might have in mind.

This weekend, The District Church’s Leadership Community will be heading on its yearly retreat, for a time of spiritual renewal and re-visioning for the coming year. Last year, we had about thirty people; this year, our church having grown now to a community of around 250, we have over 50 people coming–and several other leaders weren’t able to make it this weekend! Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we get involved in helping this toddler-aged church learn to walk and talk.

As for myself, I’m learning to fill out my role as Associate Pastor at the church, moving from a manager and task-completer to a vision-casting, proactively-investing leader, with the remit to create, to innovate, to make space for other people to grow into their God-given potential. It’s, in equal parts, exciting and challenging, and I can’t wait to see how God does his alchemical work with what I have to offer. Discerning where and how to invest my time and energy is definitely a matter of prayer, and I’d appreciate yours for my continuing development in the calling God has for me.

Finally, I’m so stoked to inform you that–through the generosity of many of you getting this email–I’m now at over 50% of my target support for this year, after only two months! That’s not even including those of you who’ve said you want to support my work at The District Church but haven’t yet given! What an amazing testimony to your love and support; I’m so humbled, and glad to have you along for the journey. I count you as part of the ministry team without whom my work wouldn’t be possible! And as a reminder of how I ended up where I am, here’s a video produced by Lindsay, one of the storytellers (she’s a writer and photographer) at our church, from an interview we did last summer:

Mandela on Leadership

Hans Gedda/Sygma/Corbis

This TIME piece on Nelson Mandela was recently brought to my attention. It was actually published back in 2008, but Madiba’s thoughts remain challenging and very interesting to consider, particularly for me at this time as I step into a new position of leadership at the church.

As Richard Stengel (who helped Mandela write his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom) concludes:

Ultimately, the key to understanding Mandela is those 27 years in prison. The man who walked onto Robben Island in 1964 was emotional, headstrong, easily stung. The man who emerged was balanced and disciplined. He is not and never has been introspective. I often asked him how the man who emerged from prison differed from the willful young man who had entered it. He hated this question. Finally, in exasperation one day, he said, “I came out mature.” There is nothing so rare — or so valuable — as a mature man. (emphasis added)

Keeping healthy

It’s been awhile since I’ve made time for things that give me life, that aren’t necessarily ‘productive’ but are highly conducive to my spiritual, mental and emotional health–things as simple as reading a book, or going to see a movie, or discovering new music. I realized that I needed to build a little more of that into my schedule, and with the extra time afforded me by my sports injuries (from which I’m recovering), I’ve been able to indulge a little.

Books

Between Two Worlds, John W. Stott. A great and classic resource on preaching; insightful and wise. Stott’s been a spiritual mentor of mine and a favorite theologian, and when I read books of his like this one, I feel his passing all the more keenly.

Kissing Outside the Lines, Diane Farr. A funny, touching and insightful look at inter-racial relationships, sparked by an encounter between a Korean-American named Seung and Farr (a well-known actress). I guess it sort of validated a lot of the thoughts and feelings I’d had about inter-racial relationships, including ones that I’d been in.

LeadershipNext, Eddie Gibbs. Examining what leadership–particularly in the church–looks like as we launch into the 21st century. Gibbs is a professor at Fuller Seminary, and has been involved with a number of emerging church movements. In reading this, I was glad to see that we at The District Church are already living out a lot of the things he said would be needed to thrive.

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin. I’m re-reading this fantastic work of fiction in light of the HBO series whose first season just finished, and also the latest installment, “A Dance with Dragons,” that just came out. When I first read this, years ago, I couldn’t handle it. The bad guys weren’t clear; the good guys weren’t clear; I didn’t know who I was supposed to root for. But reading it again last year, having the benefit of a few years of age, wisdom and maybe a dose of realism, I was able to appreciate that there aren’t easy answers, it isn’t a black-and-white world, and that not everyone you care about lives to see the happy ending. A fantasy-fiction series for a post-modern world.

Movies

Captain America: The First Avenger.

A riproaring adventure, a fun comic book adaptation, an enjoyable ride. Definitely, definitely, definitely had its cheesy, “ra-ra America” moments (a.k.a. Team America moments), but on the whole, I had fun. Chris Evans did a great job as Cap, Tommy Lee Jones was hilarious–as usual when he’s trying to be, e.g. Men in Black–and it set the scene well for next summer’s blockbuster adventure, The Avengers, which you get a preview of at the end of the credits–so exciting!!

Cowboys & Aliens.

Cowboys? Cool. Aliens? Cool. Combined? A boy’s dream. Lots of shooting and explosions, two generations of leading men (Harrison Ford–sorry, dude–and Daniel Craig), and Olivia Wilde? Entertainment. I’m not going to dissect this, or talk about postcolonialism, or even how it could’ve been a better movie. It was a good and fun and entertaining enough for me! Thanks to Jon Favreau, who’s really showing his directing chops–with this, the Iron Man movies, and Elf, the guy’s got some talent.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Definitely one of my favorite movies of the year. In the story of a middle-aged man whose life falls apart around him, Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone light up a fantastic script–at turns heartwarming, gut-wrenching, painful, hilarious, sad, frustrating, and laugh-out-loud funny. Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei provide some stellar support, and welcome to the big screen, Analeigh Tipton! I went on the basis of my friends’ recommendations, and I’m telling you now: go see it.

Music

Zonoscope, Cut Copy. Fun indie, electronic music. Thanks to JY for the recommendation.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver. All my friends (hipster and otherwise) had been raving about this. And it’s warranted. My first taste of Bon Iver’s music, and it’s a good one.

10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman. The latest offering from a Christian music stalwart, Matt continues to write songs that speak for a new generation. Love the guy’s heart.

Strip Me, Natasha Bedingfield. This actually came out last year, but I only got it this summer. Natasha’s always got a way of making me smile with her music. So much love for her.

Christians being all racially insensitive

Brought to light recently by Angry Asian Man.

A couple years ago, Christian publisher Zondervan released a book about radical integrity, character, grace and leadership. The blurb reads:

Integrity is under attack. Character assassins are on the prowl, seeking to ambush people at their points of vulnerability — in their homes, in their churches, in their relationships. Shredded reputations litter the landscape, ruined by just one or two bad choices.

But everyday leaders, from mothers and fathers to preachers and teachers, can fight back and win. This book equips them with comprehensive, no-nonsense self-defense training to protect their most priceless possession: their character. Working in tandem, this book and DVD curriculum initiate a growing movement of men and women who want to finish strong and live with no regrets.

No psychobabble or clinical discussions — just straight talk from two guys who know the opponents and what it takes to beat them. This book will help untarnished leaders stay untarnished and will show the way out for those mired in the ugly consequences of bad decisions.

Through honest, eye-opening reading and eight interactive small group DVD sessions, this book helps cultivate lifestyles of radical integrity and radical grace.

Character. Integrity. Grace. Leadership.

All necessary components of a living and vibrant faith. And from the DVD clips, it looks like Mike and Jud took an approach to the subject that was honest and insightful.

The problem?

The packaging, the marketing, the form in which the content is presented, is SO racially insensitive I don’t even know what to say. (So you can follow the comment conversations here at Deadly Viper, as well as on Sojourners board member Prof. Soong-Chan Rah’s blog.)

Here’s Prof. Rah’s open letter to authors Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, and publishers Zondervan — it highlights a number of things that are wrong with the marketing approach that was taken.

Now I’m fairly certain that Mike and Jud — and Zondervan — didn’t intend the book and the accompanying materials to be racially insensitive — and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt on this — but, well, they are, notwithstanding intention. It does make a difference that the intention was not to cause offense or hurt, but the result remains the same: offense and hurt was caused.

I hope that the resolution of this situation (which is still to be played out) happens so that people can look back at this as an instance of Christians demonstrating humility and unity within the body of Christ, and being examples of apology, repentance, grace, love, and forgiveness. And I hope this experience will be a call to move forward, to grow and mature together.