Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time to get fit

I'm not into New Year's resolutions. January 1 is in many ways a bit contrived. What's the difference in starting something 1/1 and starting something 12/18? Why put off until January what you can start now, right? Or maybe it's simply my way of not having to own up to any changes in my life. If I don't make a resolution, I don't need to worry about living up to it, right?

The truth is, I've gotten a little flabby in a few areas of my life and I'm recognizing that I need a specific and concerted effort to get back in shape. Yes, Charles Barkley, I know round is a shape too, but it's not the shape I want to exemplify in my physical body. I've reflected on this a bunch lately, especially in relation to my family history of high blood pressure and heart issues. I'm now 6 months into 30, and I think it's time I get back into a regular routine of physical exercise. I'm going to sit down and figure out the most effective way of tracking that online - without grossing anyone out.

The other area I'm owning up to is financial flabbiness. At one time, I was all over my finances. We never had a credit card we didn't pay off each month (save for large purchases we paid off in a few - and had a plan each time). Well, in the last 5 years, after going to seminary and having 2 kids, that's all changed - and I hate it. So, I've got 2 plans: 1) Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. I'm just not sure if I should save $10 and purchase on Amazon, with my credit card, or purchase in the store with cash. 2) A clergy tax seminar which will hopefully get some other stuff straightened around for us 'cause I'm a little concerned the IRS is going to come after me. I'm now way beyond the EZ file and a little concerned 'cause being a minister & dealing with taxes is not easy.

So... now that I've told "the world" about these two areas of flabbiness, I have everyone out there to be accountable to get in shape. Hmmm... this might have been a mistake...

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm in the right "business"

We were on our way out of town - not far, just to family for dinner - yesterday afternoon, when I got the kind of call you really only get as a pastor, on my cell. It was the kind of "drop everything and tend to this" situation that everyone has from time to time, but not entirely. As we drove back into Columbus, I told Bridgette - "Being a pastor means certain sacrifices. But I'm telling you this, I'd rather make a sacrifice for a situation like this, than simply because I've got a big project due, or a major client is coming into town. This is real life."

I've had tons of moments over the years, since recognizing that ministry is where my heart was, as well as God's call. And this is just one more of those moments that said - there's nothing else I would rather be doing, than being in ministry...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Predatory Rant

I came home the other night to see this "check" sitting on my kitchen table. It didn't take me long to recognize what it was - a scam. I've gotten a half-a-dozen of these or more in the past. They're for various amounts, usually ranging from $5 to $15 and sometimes in quirky amounts. The Dollar figure is always prominent and it's the first thing you see. When economic times are tough, or anytime, when you receive an unexpected "check" in the mail with your name on it... well, it's nice. Problem is with all of these things - there's fine print.

Sure enough, with this one like all of the rest, there's a clause in there (not on the actual check, mind you) that says "by endorsing and cashing this check, payee is registering for XYZ service with annual/semi-annual payments of $XYZ" - and that amount is always significantly higher than any money you get on the check. Yeah, you usually get a 30 day "free trial offer" - but good luck in getting out of that before they make you pay something. Anyway, instead of simply ripping up the check and throwing it in the trash, I called the number.

I spoke to a very polite woman named "Heidi" on the phone. I explained that I knew she was just answering the phones, that she really had nothing to do with this, but that I knew the call was being recorded and I needed a few seconds to vent. And vent I did. Because the simple fact is that this kind of "marketing" is predatory in nature. It prays on the idea that for every person who reads the fine print, there's going to be 1, 5, 10, who simply cash the check - especially when money is tight - even if they know what they're signing up for. And then their credit card gets billed for $50 - and that's all it takes. Bam!

I didn't call them back because I was concerned for myself. Truth is, I'm not going to go for those "free" offers because they take too much time & effort to get out of anyway. I called and said my rant because there's tons of people who DO get preyed on and we need to speak up for them. It's crap like this that makes me ask the question - "As a follower of Jesus Christ, how can ANYONE believe in Laissez Faire Capitalism?" I'm shaking my head in disgust right now...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Utilizing your book shelf

The other day, Brennan dropped by my office. For the life of me I don't remember all of the details - but he ended up climbing into my bookshelf and I think he "pretended" to take a nap. When I came back to the office Wednesday after our staff Christmas potluck, that's exactly what I wanted to do - take a nap. Unfortunately, I'm a little big for that spot in my bookshelf. Funny thing about my bookshelf - it contains almost as many books that I haven't read as books that I have. I found myself getting into the habit a few months back of stocking up on books that I wanted to read, or others said I should read, but unable to keep up. I've even found myself "recommending" books with the caveat "I haven't read this, but others say it's great, so give it a read." I love to read, it's not that I don't enjoy it, but I find that I'm either too tired to be able to read in the evening, when I've got "time" - so I veg in front of the TV. Or, I end up reading "other" stuff (like or Detroit Free Press, etc). This only makes me realize that my bookshelf has become underutilized. I think it's time to take it back - not back to the store, but back from the brink...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Coming of Age - leadership and the young

I hope our esteemed Moderator takes no offense to this, but I've recently been prompted to think about some things in regard to the hectic schedule our denom has put on him, in his role as moderator. For those of you unfamiliar, the moderator's role is to... moderate the discussion, facilitate the meeting. In the local church, the pastor moderates the governing body of session. In the Presbytery (the elected body that includes many churches from a geographic area), a moderator is elected to preside, usually for a 1 year term at the monthly/bi-monthly/quarterly/annual presbytery meetings during the business/discussion time. In the (formerly) annual meetings of the entire national body of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a moderator is elected from the members as well. Now, meeting only every-other year, a moderator is elected for 2 years, and they travel to various meetings, churches, conferences for 2 years representing the national church. For this post, people actually offer their names and kind of "run" - the election happens as the first order of business at a General Assembly. In essence, it's like having a mini political campaign for the Speaker of the House. Fortunately, a lot less time, money & effort is put into these races than the US Presidency. But I digress...

What Bruce Reyes-Chow, our moderator has caused me to contemplate, is the whole idea of young leaders and the transitioning of leaders. It is also particularly appropriate as we welcome a new President in 5 weeks who is significantly younger, with a younger family, than anyone since 1960 & JFK (help me out if I'm wrong - I'm Canadian don't forget). The fact that the Republican VP candidate had just had a baby, also put this question before me, but it's not just about family...

Here's the thought - "maybe, there's something to be said for biding your time & learning, apprenticing behind good men & women, before taking on the mantle of leadership at an age & stage in life where it is fitting." Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to take anything away from anyone who is ascended to leadership as a 20something, 30something or whatever. I love to be able to look at the face of our moderator, the president elect & others in leadership and say "they're young like me, that's awesome! Maybe they'll have some great ideas about how to do things better." But at the same time, I come face to face with the question of timing. And I come face-to-face with the issue of leadership models. Quickly...

Leadership the "very old" way kinda looked like this - you rose to power with strength of will or arms and held on until someone pried it from your cold-dead hands. Leadership the "old" way meant that you chose a successor and once you'd done everything you wanted to, you handed over the reigns to someone else so you could go and have fun. In both of these situations though, the leader was often autocratic and entirely in control. For the "younger" people, this caused frustration and anger over being left out of decision-making (Vietnam, teen-spirit "angst") - and they either dropped out, or took it on as a challenge and attempted to rise quickly and take power by force. But, with the rise of new communication technologies in the late 20th & early 21st Century, including social media, the world is not simply shrinking, it is becoming flat - the corporate "ladder" is somewhat of a misnomer. Think Al-Quaeda, think the Starfish and the Spider - this is the new way of leadership and it poses some interesting opportunities.

In the old style with power being focused in 1 person, it required that person to be everywhere, be involved in everything and make final decisions. That kind of time commitment and brain power just doesn't fit if you've got a family & young kids to raise. That is, unless you're willing to sacrifice them (which is an entirely different post). So, if we're going to participate in structures that continue to utilize that kind of model of leadership, I'm personally in favour of allowing us young people to wait to ascend to high levels of leadership. Wait, learn, bide your time, be apprenticed, raise your kids.

However, if we're talking about participating in other structures, structures that are less hierarchical, where power is based less in an individual and more spread through a collective, this opens up the opportunity for young leaders to emerge - because they don't have to be everywhere, don't have to be all-knowing and don't have to be all-powerful. (Wow, did I just compare hierarchical leadership to challenging God's authority - oops!) At the end of the day, I'm hopeful that THE Church, as well as our national & local churches, will be able to accept a more Kingdom oriented idea of leadership and structure. I think that's the only way we can allow young people to bring their gifts and talents to places of leadership without having them sacrifice their families...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Time to be convinced - Twitter

Ok, if you're at all checking in or following my blog here, you've probably noticed I haven't had much to post - not quite on a regular basis over the past month. There are many reasons for that. In some ways, I feel like my life's gone a bit faster these past couple months - the addition of a second little guy certainly has helped that along. But in addition to that, I was recently turned on to Twitter. The brilliance of Twitter is that it allows you to send out 140 character text messages to anyone and everyone who's interested in following you. You, in turn, can hear from anyone and everyone that you'd like to receive updates from. You can do it via the web, you can have it update directly to your phone - like Twitterific, the iPhone/iPod touch application.

My friend Rhett blogged about it recently - here - and he referenced this great video, that is really the answer to "so, why should I Twitter" - check it out here:

For me, it's about time. I can send out a tweet in about a minute. It doesn't have to have an enormous amount of significance, it can be simple. I can post pictures of things that are happening, and I can see what's going on with friends who live far away. I can also get updates from Sports Teams I'm a fan of, or News from networks, or even follow Famous People that are down to earth & funny. Certainly there are tons of other reasons - like you can set it to update your Facebook profile at the same time, but when it gets right down to it - I like to know what my friends are up to and share with them what's up with me. So, if this sounds interesting, sign up and let me know - I'd love to know what you're doing...