Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Where Good Ideas Come From

Great exploration about the process of innovation, by Steven Johnson.

Categories: Thoughts Tags: , ,

Not a bad philosophy

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I stumbled across this company as I read the most recent issue of Inc. magazine. Their mission is a good reminder to do what we love and pursue life for the sake of the pursuit.

Categories: Thoughts

Blinders on

October 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Lots going on in here, so I hope to be able to piece together some coherent thoughts.

I recently met a young guy (also named Matt) who just moved back to the States after spending a few years living and doing missions among Buddhist monks in Tibet. Matt is considering joining the team at Adullam Denver, our community here.

Two immediate sidebars: First, Adullam is, for lack of a more precise term, the “church” we have joined in Denver. But I think it’s important to explain a bit more. The community takes its name and mission from the cave at Adullam where newly-anointed David hid out while he was being pursued by Israel’s King Saul. (See 1 Samuel 22) The term “Adullamites” has come to mean the troubled, discontent, outcast, etc. who have rightful claim to power and who are committed to pursuing it. In our group’s context, we seek to reclaim the spirit of those who follow Jesus and who have become disenchanted by modern and western conventions of what “Christianity” and “churchianity” have become. Many Adullamites see modern churches as houses of Pharisees and seek to live and love boldly in the “sacrilegious” ways of Jesus.

One of the most obvious ways I personally manifest this is by living a deconstruction of many traditional conceptions of “church” in an attempt to reclaim the spirit that led the earliest followers of Jesus. For example, should a “church” own a building for itself? In my view, doing so makes church a place and devalues the community of Jesus followers, all of whom are just components of ONE body of believers – or church – in the world. Further, should leaders of faith communities get ALL their compensation from ministry? I think that followers should provide monetarily out of duty and love to enable the leader to meet his or her needs, but the leaders should also be in and among the real world with real jobs every day to continue to be challenged to see God at work.

Insulation and isolation can be very destructive forces on Jesus followers, either individually or corporately.

Pretty heavy for a sidebar, but there it is.

Second sidebar: So my new buddy Matt – whom, because of his Tibetan experience, I refer to as “Sherpa Matt” (which is itself ironic because Sherpa Matt is about 6’2” and blond) – told me of his experiences coordinating Bible studies with Tibetan monks. He talked a lot about their openness to the message of Jesus. Considering the virtue of enlightenment extolled by Buddhists, it didn’t surprise me to learn of their openness. But he also spoke of the significant hurdle Buddhists face when choosing to follow Jesus. “Conversion” from Buddhism to any other dominant belief system carries with it some nasty Karma that impacts not only the convert, but also his or her family both now and for all subsequent generations. Whether that’s real or perceived, it’s a massive challenge for many Buddhists to consider.

Each of those tangents are just backstory, each of which could probably stand on its own. But these thoughts connected me back to something I really wrestle with. Sherpa Matt mentioned to me that he and a few of his friends have also done some work among the Lakota Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. A couple of years ago I came across an article Ghosts of Wounded Knee (Harper’s Magazine, December 2009). That article explored the miserable lives of the Native Americans who live on the Indian Reservation in Wounded Knee, SD. I encourage you to read the article for yourself: Ghosts of Wounded Knee – HarpersMag Dec 2009

(Dear Harpers, I know I didn’t get your permission to post this. If you ask me to take it down, I’ll gladly do so. I’m certainly not profiting from it in any way.)

This is a Tedx(DU) presentation by the photographer who shot the photos in that Harper’s Magazine story.

Sherpa Matt said that living conditions there among the Lakotas remain deplorable and the hearts of the people seem cold and lifeless. It reminded me of Proverbs 29:18(a) – “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (KJV)

Aside from the wrongs of the past that should be righted, I read and hear stories about the Lakotas and about countless other hurting people and peoples near and far and wonder if providing a new vision of their future is possible. Can they reimagine their future? Can we with vision help them reimagine it?

My dad shared this ABC video link with me, also discussing the state of the Lakota today. Here’s a follow up to that story, too.

It’s easy to think that the conditions on “the reservation” are someone else’s problem, that “the next guy” will help, or that the lady on the street corner holding the sign essentially put herself there. It’s tempting to think that the problem of poverty inside the world’s wealthiest and most powerful economic superpower are self-imposed. But that shouldn’t absolve us of responsibility or assuage our consciences. At some point is it not incumbent on those of us who are so much more fortunate to respond to stuff like this? Sure, there are some circumstances that require voters to make the government right past wrongs. Sure, there are more problems around us than we’ll ever be able to solve. That clearly doesn’t get us off the hook to do something immediate to ease another’s pain.

I don’t know what to do with this, but it eats away at me sometimes.


Divergent thought – Parable of the Sower

August 2, 2011 1 comment

During our visit to a local church this past Sunday we listened to the pastor discuss the parable of the sower and the seed. For the uninitiated, that was one of the stories attributed to Jesus of Nazareth as recounted in Matthew (13:3-23), Mark (4:2-20), and Luke (8:4-15).

We think we like this church (Lookout Mountain Community Church) and have visited it now for three consecutive weeks. We’ll be trying it on for some time before we “place membership”, if we’re supposed to do that. The conversation on Sunday focused much on the sower and the soil: how it’s the job of the sower to faithfully and consistently cast seeds, and how we are all sowers and we are all different types of soil at different times in our lives. Something that I have been thinking about, which would not likely lend itself to pulpit talk, but which I think would be worth exploring over a bottle of wine, is to what extent the quality of the seed is involved, and what responsibility the sower has for ensuring the quality of the seed.

The Sower, Van Gogh

There is also the more elemental question: what is the seed? Without taking that into too great of detail, I believe that the seed represented in the metaphor is not the doctrinal “word of God” (i.e. scripture), but is the more fundamental “Word of God” that is marked by right living and love toward others, with subservience to the ultimate truth and consistent with the nature of God. In other words, the stuff I really suck at. Back to the metaphors at hand, though.

Carrying Jesus’s “sower” metaphor forward a bit, if the sower is throwing seeds that are contaminated by bias, malice, deceit, or misunderstanding, what crop will bear fruit? If the sower throws seeds from noxious weeds into good soil, that good soil – which might not discern bad seed from good – will soon be overrun by bad fruit, choking out an otherwise potentially good crop or worse, preventing a good crop from ever taking root where there is no room among the jungle of messed up ideas.

This brings me to the question: to what degree can the human mind discern good seed from bad – whether that mind belongs to the sower or the soil? How can the human mind prepare the soil accordingly, to fertilize the seed worthy of germinating, and to weed out the seeds that are noxious?

And one last thought that should trouble every sower: crops that grow have a tendency to reseed. Those seeds not only reseed the field on which they’re planted – they also can spread to other fields, carried by the wind or by others who have picked up the seed and resow them elsewhere. And so the quality and condition of the seed is all the more important, because the sower doesn’t control the quality of the soil, nor the germination and reseeding of the original seed.

I’m sorry to beat up this metaphor to this point, but I think it’s a very powerful image. It speaks to the grave responsibility that the sower has to not only faithfully cast seed, but to make sure that the seed itself is of the highest and purest quality, as the sower best and most honestly determines it to be. Understanding that all sowers are limited and fallible, and that all will naturally carry personal understanding and bias into their casting of the seed, if the sower’s motives are pure and if the sower aggressively strives to understand the seed and the soil, and is willing to tend to the crop with love and care, I suppose that’s all we can ask until some great harvest.

Zen and the Art of life

July 29, 2011 4 comments

This is a bit of a departure from our more “family stuff” posts, but…well, it’s a blog. So I thought I’d share something else that’s going on big in my life.

One of my best friends signed up for the Washington National Guard back in January. For the bulk of this year he has been working toward various fitness and other preparedness goals to make sure he’s ready. Today is his last day on the job with our company for at least four months. He’s off to the enchanting summertime weather of rural Georgia, leaving behind the ungodly August swelter of Seattle. (Or maybe I have that backwards.)

Anyway, my “so long for now” message to my buddy reminded me of some important takeaways from some books and a movie that I think are pretty powerful. First, there is “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Oddly, both my mom and another best buddy gave me a copy within about 20 minutes of each other. I read it last month and, while I’m sure it means different things to different readers, the big takeaway for me was the reminder that you can only be who you are; if you try and bend to a mold of someone else’s making, you’ll be constantly at odds with your true nature.

That’s kind of the takeaway for me from the movie, The Adjustment Bureau, which we watched last night. The big idea that resonated with me is that regardless of the expectations others place on you, only you can make the choice between chasing what is expected of you and what you are truly passionate about. If you have really found that, you are a rare breed. If, like me, you continue to search for that, then you are blessedly restless and will remain, to a certain degree, ill-at-ease. Unfortunately our world is full of people who have never heard the voice calling them to something bigger, more real, resigning them to a drab life on a hamster wheel, just putting one foot in front of the other.

I’m now reading “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. I’m about a third of the way through and some of the takeaways are the same. He was weird and did a lot of drugs, but his story is very Zen like – living life in the moment, savoring simplicity, and being real. (Bear in mind that I’m not saying that about Kerouac; I have no idea beyond his reputation. I’m speaking only to the message I’m getting from the book, now 1/3 of the way through.)

That’s about it. Just thought I’d put that out there as musings du jour.