Monday, May 11, 2009

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) You will get a new post every time I don't want to write anything for this book. Today would be one of those times. Call it a mental block. Call it laziness. Call it anything you want, just don't call me late to dinner.

2) Resident Family Digital Genius, CJ, has dug up this gem of a commercial. Low budget at its best. These are the ideas I wish I had.

Pure genius on a $65 budget. I'll be singing that jingle all day.

3) Worshiped yesterday at Philippian Missionary Baptist where the Rev. Dr. B Lamont Montford was on fire yesterday. In all seriousness that might have been the most challenging, in-your-face, Mothers Day sermon I'll ever hear in my life. A powerful sermon from a guy whose own mother was a drug-addicted prostitute who was murdered at a young age. It was an honor to be there. A true honor.... although at a certain point in the service, I was sitting in the back of the sanctuary, and upon realizing I was there, Lamont invited me to come sit up on the platform with him. Unfortunately, it meant that another guy up on the platform lost his seat, which I still feel terrible about. Things work differently in predominantly black congregations.

4) Was told that yesterday's service here at Shawnee UMC was also very powerful. Testimony was given by a woman who is now a social worker who as a teenager gave a child up for adoption. Also heard from a teenager who lives here locally who realized a couple of years ago just how loved she is not only by her adopted mother, but by her biological mother who gave her up in the hope she would have a better future. Kind of a different take that Charlotte Hefner, our associate pastor, decided on for Mothers Day, but that's why we love her. Nobody's better at getting people to look at things from a different perspective. Here's the link for our podcasts. I'm sure at some point soon this week's service will be posted if there weren't recording issues (which we sometimes have). Just keep your eyes peeled.

5) I am having a hard time moving forward on this book regarding leadership transitions (obviously, cause I'm killing time here to avoid killing time there). Part of the issue is just feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand. In a lot of ways I just feel like I'm over my head. But the first and foremost issue is that there's a lot of information to sort through, and not a lot of time. I was up until 2am last night simply sorting out the various learnings I think have been uncovered by the research, and there are many.

One of the most important, for example, is that boards and bureaucracies have to show a lot of self-restraint in order to make a leadership transition work. Because these folks generally have a lot of power, the inclination, particularly as it relates to finding new leadership, is to use it. Once all involved agree on a transition process, this biggest challenge often faced is getting the board to keep their hands to themselves, and trust the process.

At one of the churches, for example, a board member who vehemently opposed doing a transition from a senior leader to one of the associate leaders, had to be asked by the rest of the board to resign when he simply wouldn't back down even after the decision had been made. The particular board member was convinced that the only way a church should receive a new senior leader was in the aftermath of doing the more traditional "national search" and "call" process where resumes were solicited, candidates interviewed, trial sermons given, and the congregation getting the final vote. So married was he to the idea of the traditional "call" process that the stink he began to create convinced the rest of the board that he really didn't support the direction of the church, period, so they let him go.

In many cases, particularly in church settings, the general rule of thumb is for boards to make stink makers happy. Whether or not a leadership board has the stomach to follow through with a non-traditional leadership transition is a big question that should be asked by themselves and the senior leader before they try to engage the process.

6) When do you know the economy is bad? When every quartet, band, actor, and choir is sending you countless emails asking to come play at your church. I can't remember a six month span where I've been solicited more by artists. It must really be lean out there. Southern Gospel quartets, guys who can recite the entire Gospel of John, a female singer who sings ACR music and gives her testimony about her life as a gypsy, numerous hard-core speed metal/punk/r&b/alternative Christian rock bands, a Christian motivational speaker who juggles, countless choirs from all over the world..... everybody just wants meals and a free will offering. Just another sign that the church is battening down the hatches in a difficult economy.

7) Cleaned Max's room with him Saturday (for Mothers Day), and realized that my son suffers from the same malady I do: Pack-Rat-Pile-Making-itus. What's more, its genetic. You ought to see my dad's office. Everytime I get depressed about mine, I just go see his and I feel much better about my organizational ability. Let's hope that there's steady improvement generationally as we continue to sit on Max to keep his things in order. There's still hope for him. For Dad and I, like Red from "Shawshank Redemption", we're institutionalized. We can't make it on the outside of pack rate pile making.

Or maybe, then again, there might still be hope for us pile makers after all. In any event I'll do what I can to help my son.

8) My excitement over my own discovery of Ben Harper only grows. You will be... I will be... forgiven:

9) I'll tell you where amazing is gonna happen this year in the NBA playoffs. Wherever this guy is. He's on a mission.

10) Finally, to wrap this up, not only is there apparently a Red House commercial, but also a behind the scenes video of the making of the the Red House commercial. The internet at its finest.

I too enjoy extending credit to all people. On that note, I hope you have a nice day.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Ramblins And Such....

- The "Blessing of the Bikes" is over, and it was fantastic. Beautiful weather, 1300 people, 800 bikes, great tunes, and grace made it a morning to remember. Our service may not be the biggest Biker Blessing, but I am convinced it is the best. Look for it the first Sunday of next May. You won't want to miss it.

Here, by the way, are two the "mockumercials" we showed as a part of the service that day. For the unwashed, there is more than a little bit of rivalry between the owners of various makes of motorcycles. Let's just say that in these parts, Harleys and Hondas rule the roost. Us Kawasaki owners are the oppressed minority subject to much ridicule.

Joseph Bishman, our former senior pastor, was in the audience for this one. Fortunately, he has a pretty good sense of humor.

Special thanks to CJ Dugan, the family digital genius, for his editing work.

- I'm officially on the hook to write a book on my dissertation topic (speaking of which, I should be beating that buggar out right now... let's call this a creative genius break) with Bob Russell, whose web site is right here. More on this as things kind of come to fruition over the next three or four weeks (which is my deadline).

I can't say that I really wanted to get into something like this. On a number of occasions the past three years I've been told I should turn this research into a book, but 1) I've always kinda thought that sounded like more work than I wanted to do, 2) wouldn't be all that lucrative because (well let's face it) books by pastors leading midsize mainline congregations in small midwestern communities aren't exactly flying off the shelves, and 3) I had no idea where to begin. It wasn't until I was in Louisville to interview Bob Russell (among others) that someone who seemed somewhat serious about this project actually pursued me with the idea we do something together. This mysterious third party, the proprietor of "Ministers Label Publishing" is a young go-getter who has enough gumption and giddy-up for all three of us. He's the force behind the project, cracking the whip to keep me moving.

Well, cracking a whip and writing a check. That's pretty much what it takes.

- Gotta love the Cavs right now. They say the greatest story nobody has talked about in the NBA season is the relationship the teammates on the Cavaliers have with one another. In this day's NBA, where everyone has a posse (albeit the bigger the contract, the bigger the posse), its unusual for a team when its on the road to eat together, or catch a movie together. Normally they all go their separate ways, and see one another at the arena a few hours before game time. But the word on the street is the cheerleading you see LeBron doing on the bench is no act. Unlike Michael Jordan (champion basketball player... not-so-champion teammate who pretty much destroyed both Brad Seller's and Kwame Brown's confidence single-handedly) or Kobe Bryant (when Bryant goes to sit on the bench if you watch his teammates its almost like they're willing him to sit somewhere not next to them... I think he scares the crap out them) who begrudgingly worked with the rest of the team, LeBron is truly into the concept of "teamwork". I mean, this is a guy who has "loyalty" tattooed on one rib-cage and and "family" on the other. He still runs around with the same three guys who were his best friends in high school, the same high school he accepted his MVP award at earlier next week. The man likes having deep roots.

Which is to say, "Eat Your Heart Out NYC". No way LeBron leaves Cleveland. He'll be a global icon from the shores of Lake Erie.

- What's it say that right now I'm listening to a lot of Pink Floyd? Especially when for the longest time I haven't been able to stand Pink Floyd. We had a guy back at Stanton Hall, freshman year at Miami, who used to blast Pink Floyd out of his room at all hours day and night. A couple of us snuck in, took his "Dark Side of the Moon" CD and buried in the flowerbeds not far from our dining hall. After much cussing and threatening, he had a replacement copy by the end of the day. For all I know now there's a Pink Floyd Tree growing next Hughes Dining Hall. The music wasn't worth retrieving. Now, the Floyd rings out the speakers in office and I'm not even using drugs while marveling how amazing my hand is, which is always how I thought you had to be to stomach their so-called music. Now I'm singing along with Roger Waters... "tongue tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit am I". Must have to be 40 to appreciate these guys. That's all I can figure.

- Got an email from an old friend, Steve, who was in Columbus last weekend to run a "half-marathon" with two of our mutual friends, John and Wayne. He wants me to run with them next year (given that he's seen me recently, "with them" meaning that while they run 13 miles I do the 5k fun run). Steve is one of my favorite people, and always had a unique way with words. Here's an excerpt of his invite for next year's festivities:

"Anyhow, you'll be done dinking around with your doctorate stuff before
you know it and we want you to join us next yr but you can do the 5k fun run. You gotta get in shape or your gonna have a grabber before your 50. Instead of biking, get all those harley/honda boys to get in shape. Half the country is a lard ass and adding to our health care costs. I imagine in your part of the country its probably 2/3 are over weight and Obama aint gonna fix it for 'em. Gotta go, take care

Don't wanna have a "grabber" anytime soon, so I suppose back up on the treadmill I will drag my "lard ass". I surely would run next year if it meant I could see all those guys.

Maybe its just time passing (or the Facebook updates by Tyler Hoops, a young parishonier, about his Miami experience) but I look back on my collegiate experience with even more relish and nostalgia now more than ever. John plinking around on his guitar. Chuck chucking class to play Bards Tale (until they kicked him out of school). Countless hours playing basketball with Brett and Wayne (and I really, really miss playing ball with those guys). Steve regailing us with stories from his past life as a sportsware salesman/dump truck owner/man about town. Wheeler's own brand of unique humor as he re-lived that day's lecture by B.H. Smith. The cast of characters who seemed to constantly pass through Mike and I's dorm room: Paul, Star, Mel, The Pickerington Gang, Laura.... the list goes on and on. Late night at Saloon and a burger at Chuck's. My old radio show at WMSR. Even the rotten stuff like cramming for finals I can chuckle at now (although I wouldn't go through that again for all the tea in Greece).

All that and young love with my own beloved Aimee. Young love before kids and obligations and responsibilities and the constant fatigue you feel no matter how much rest you try to get. Great days. Great, great days.

Thus, if it's at all possible schedule-wise, you are on Steve Skeels. I'll be in Columbus to run that 5k as long as we can all go out afterword and beat the stories of the past into the ground. I'd like that a lot.

(By the way, nobody would be prouder that I'm shoving back the completion date for my doctorate so that I can make money writing a book than Steve. I may even get a free stock tip or a story about a guy who tried to outmanuver him in some business negotiation as a reward for my mercenary ways.)

- If you've got the time and ability, you gotta listen to new album "White Lies for Dark Times" by "Ben Harper and the Relentless 7". Great stuff. YouTube won't let you embed, but here's the video for "Shimmer and Shine"... and indeed it does take 100 miles of love to heal a mile of pain.

- Special thanks to Todd and Pam Stallkamp for hosting me whilst I finish up my doctoral dissertation research work in Tucson last week. The parents of Eric the Buckeye informed me that their son loved a particular snackfood so much that they ended up calling him "Mr. Ho Ho".

So, I wonder... is it "Mr. Ho Ho", or "Dr. Ho Ho" now?

In any event, thanks for a soft bed, witty conversation, great cups of coffee, a lovely meal at El Charro, and garage space for my rented Harley Electra Glide (under the auspice that they wanted to keep it protected from the elements.... I just think they didn't want to scare the neighbors into thinking Todd had joined the Hells Angels).

Also thanks to Pantano Christian Church for their cooperation so I could cram a bunch of interviews into too short a time period. Wish I had more time to hang out with that bunch. Undoubtly they were the happiest and most accomidating staff I met during my travels. Blessing to Glen Elliot and his staff as they attempt to reach their corner of the American Southwest.

- Here's the latest from Brother Esq. With his hard-earned attorney's fees he bought a smoker, and promptly bought 25 pounds of brisket to break it in. Also, Sammy, my nephew, had an earache this week, meaning Brother Esq. got to squeeze in 3 hours of sleep before appearing at an early-morning hearing (welcome to parenthood, Brother). He also informed me that if you win the lottery and are paid in the form of a long-term annuity, that before you can sell the annuity to one of those folks who advertise that they buy these things for pennies on the dollar in the wee hours of the morning (because lottery winner don't apparently need to sleep), you have to receive permission in a court of common pleas before you make the sale. Apparently JG Wentworth and the lot of those snake-oil salesmen were paying in some cases less than 50 cents on the dollar, and the complaints were so many that Ohio General Assembly passed a law that basically protects people from themselves.

The lesson, as always, the lottery is for suckers. Well, that and there seems to be no end to the ways attorneys can make money.

- Pray for SUMC pillar, Buzz Alder. He's having hip replacement surgery today.

Be good. See you again in another month.