Sunday, February 20, 2011

To Consolidate or not to Consolidate not the real question.

To be sure, it's an important question, but it's a secondary question. In my opinion, the primary question is the same one that Cain asked God as a response to God's question, "Where is Abel your brother?" Cain's response: "Am I my brother's keeper?" This is a question that needs to be asked as we as Memphis voters consider this decision.

I admit that I am not very into politics, and I realize that there is a lot that I do not know. But the more I learn, the more I am convinced that we, especially those of us in our county who consider ourselves to be followers of Christ, need to ask this question. How responsible are we to one another? How responsible are we to those children in our city who do have anyone taking responsibility for them? The answer to questions like these will determine how we make decisions in regards to an issue like this one.

The Commercial Appeal has a great section devoted to this issue on their website. One of the most helpful is this chart. It's very telling.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Let Go of Your Stuff

Below are some of the statistics that Sandy Wilson, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, gives in his message, "Let Go of Your Stuff." The key text is Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23, which is one of the primary passages that helps us understand the Missio Dei (mission of God). In this passage he talks about the relationship between our money and the poor throughout our city and the world. One of the questions he seeks to answer is, "Am I my brother's keeper?" The audio can be found here. Notes can be found here.

· If you make $25,000/yr, you are in the top 10% of the world's wealthiest

· If you make $25,000/yr, you are just above the poverty line in this country

· If you make $50,000/yr, you are in the top 1% of the world's wealthiest

· Two million children (mostly girls) will be traded in sex traffic this year

· There are more slaves in the world today than there have been in all points of history combined

· Women work two-thirds of the labor hours in the world, and they get paid less than 10% of the wages. And they own less than 1% of the property.

· There are 33 million refugees throughout the world

· The gap between the rich and the poor is growing. In 1820 the ratio was 4 to 1. In other words, the wealthiest person was four times as wealthy as the poorest person. In 1913 that ratio increased to 11 to 1. In 1950 it rose to 35 to 1. And in this last decade it rose to 75 to 1. So now, the wealthiest person is 75 times as wealthy as the poorest person.

· The biggest gap is found in China. The U.S. is in second place.

· The joblessness rate in the U.S. is now 10%. In the urban core it is over 30%

· The average church member gives 2.6% of his/her income. During the Depression Americans gave 3.3%.

· Just 2% of our giving goes overseas.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cutting the Cord

Last month I cancelled my cable TV service. I've hesitated writing about it because I wanted to make sure we didn't go through any sort of withdrawal. I'm happy to report that we've been fine. We haven't really missed it that much, but I know that we are going to enjoy the $65 savings every month.

On our back TV (our playroom) we have a Wii, which gives the ability to watch Netflix. This is primarily what the kids watch. They have their favorite shows on there, and so with that combined with a VCR and DVD player, they are all set. On our main TV in the front room we have an over-the-air (OTR) antenna so that we can watch our local channels, plus we have a DVD player and a Roku XDS.

The Roku is pretty amazing. Our favorite channels are Netflix, Hulu Plus, HGTV, Newscaster, NBA, Pandora, BaebleMusic, and Mp3Tunes. I also have an external hard drive hooked up so that I can listen to my music and watch movies that were on my PC. Out of all of those channels, the only thing we pay for is Netflix and Hulu Plus (about $18).

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Strengths Finder 3

In this final post I want to give some thoughts on how the Strengths Finder workshop from a few weeks ago is impacting the life of our church. Last Sunday night at our Partners meeting I shared one of my favorite quotes. It's from Gordon Cosby, who founded The Church of our Savior.

The greatest impact on the world comes about by small, highly committed and disciplined communities of people focused on outward mission, inward transformation, and loving, accountable community.

I see church as a team, and in order for a team to live out this quote, everyone on the team needs to understand one another's strengths and weaknesses. As Paul said, when one part of the body is unhealthy, then the body as a whole is unhealthy. It has been exciting learning more about my teammates. I know what I do and do not bring to the table, and when it comes to some of our key leaders, I feel the same way. But now I feel that I have a handle on this with the rest of our team members.

The key now is to see this begin to be lived out. We have encouraged everyone that the first step is seeing how this impacts each of us as individuals. Then, if you're married, ask the same questions in relationship to your marriage. After that, bring it to your community group. These are our core teams, and so seeing how this fleshes out in those relationships will be key. Not only are they great places to experiment, but there can be great feedback provided by these close relationships.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Strengths Finder 2

This study has provoked a lot of conversation between Mandy and I. Here's why: she and I are about as opposite as you can get when it comes to our strengths. As ministry partners, this is awesome, because it means great compatibility. As spouses, it means the same thing, but it is oh so incredibly difficult.

Mandy has the rarest theme in America: discipline. She loves predictability. She is always asking the question "Why?" She is very focused and analytical, and is a super achiever. Me on the other hand: not so much...on any of this. I am just fine flying by the seat of my pants, making changes as I go. I don't like predictability. I prefer adaptability. See the tension!

Through our 11 years of marriage, we have most often seen these major differences as major weaknesses in one another. We certainly have not seen them as strengths. And we certainly have not changed this after a few weeks of conversation. But just realizing there is a a conversation to be had has made a world of difference. I appreciate Mandy's strengths more today than I probably ever have before, and I believe this is going to continue to have a great influence on our marriage!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Strengths Finder 1

Two weekends ago our church brought in Mike Dauphinee for a Strengths Finder workshop, which is based on this book by Tom Rath. All of us took the online inventory before the workshop. The idea is that as each of us on the team understands our strengths, it will make the entire team work better.

In this first post I want to give a reflection on how this has impacted me personally. Then, in future posts I'll reflect on how this impacts my marriage and my church.

I took this inventory about nine years ago, but I knew it had probably changed some. Below are my five themes, along with the "balcony" (potential) and "basement" (extreme) for each.

1. Self-Assurance - People who are especially talented in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.
Balcony: self-confident, strong inner compass, risk-taker
Basement: arrogant, self-righteous, over confident, stubborn

2. Activator - People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.
Balcony: self-starter, fire-starter, energy source, fearless
Basement: ready-fire-aim, loose cannon, speak before you think, in left field (because others haven't caught up)

3. Arranger - People who are especially talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.
Balcony: flexible, organizer, juggler, aligning and realigning tasks to find the most productive configuration possible, efficient, conductor
Basement: lack of structure, too flexible, don't follow the existing rules or procedures, constantly changing priorities, lack of vision

4. Adaptability - People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to "go with the flow." They tend to be "now" people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.
Balcony: flexible, comfortable in times of change, easy to get along with, go with the flow
Basement: directionless, indecisive, sheep, inconclusive, whimsical

5. Command - People who are especially talented in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.
Balcony - charisma, direct, driven, inspirational, easy to follow, clear, concise
Basement - bossy, know-it-all, domineering, rude, abrupt, short, strong-willed, inflexible, stubborn

It's funny that what sticks out more than anything are the extremes of the theme, or what we continued to come back to as the "dark side" of the gifts. I have seen this in my life so many times. But this study has more than anything helped me to be confident in the way that God has wired/gifted me.

Mike defined a strength as any task we perform that makes us feel strong. Therefore, a weakness is any task we perform that makes us feel weak. This is key. In most of our jobs we all have to at times work out of our weaknesses, but the problem comes when this becomes the primary way we work. Some people have no idea what makes them feel strong. Others know but have not been in environments where they've been given this freedom.

This makes so much sense to me, and though I feel like I have been somewhat operating in these strengths, I believe that I will do so even more from now on.