Friday, January 23, 2009

The challenges, pains, rewards of leadership

I benefitted from spending a few days with ministry colleagues this week at Wabash College. Part of our time was spent discussing the ideas in Leadership without Easy Answers with each other and with the book's author, Ronald Heifetz.

Heifetz was a great conversation partner for us: thoughtful, engaging and genuinely interested in hearing our leadership concerns and theological considerations. In sum, Heifetz message was that the challenges of leadership, along with the pains of change, must not diminish anyone's eagerness to reap the rewards of creating value and meaning in other people's lives. Leadership is difficult, and worth it.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Spirituality = Happiness?

I’m not yet sure of the study’s parameters or details, because I haven’t made time to read the study in depth, but I am interested in its findings: Children between the ages of 8 and 12 who feel that their lives have meaning and value and who develop quality relationships are happier. The authors of this study from the University of British Columbia assert that their findings are in keeping with those from a long line of studies indicating that for adults, college students and older teens, spirituality – defined loosely as a sense of purpose, meaning and value, and sense of connection with others – is directly linked to happiness. With more spirituality, the thinking goes, comes more happiness.

What do you think?


Friday, January 09, 2009

College students today

Almost 2 million first-year college and university students are heading back to schools around the country this month. Many of them were born around 1990 when headlines sounded more than a little familiar: Big Three car companies were facing declining sales and profits; a president named Bush was increasing the number of troops in the Middle East in the hopes of securing peace; fluctuating fuel prices were causing airlines to, well, fluctuate their prices.

While the headlines of now and 1990 might sound similar, according to an annual poll by Beloit College in Wisconsin, the general mindset of this year's college freshman is quite different from the faculty preparing them to become the leaders of tomorrow. Dubbed the "Mindset List," this annual poll provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college.

For instance, the class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world. It is a multicultural, politically correct and “green” generation that has hardly noticed the threats to their privacy and has never feared the Russians and the Warsaw Pact.

Intersting stuff, huh? Here's the rest of the list:

1. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.6. Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.7. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.8. Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce “tax revenue increases.”9. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.10. Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.11. All have had a relative–or known about a friend’s relative–who died comfortably at home with Hospice.12. As a precursor to “whatever,” they have recognized that some people “just don’t get it.”13. Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.14. Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.15. Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.16. Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.17. Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.18. WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.19. Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.20. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.21. Students have always been “Rocking the Vote.”22. Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.23. Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.24. We have always known that “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”25. There have always been gay rabbis.26. Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.27. College grads have always been able to Teach for America.28. IBM has never made typewriters.29. Roseanne Barr has never been invited to sing the National Anthem again.30. McDonald’s and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.31. They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.32. There has always been Pearl Jam.33. The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.34. Pee-Wee has never been in his playhouse during the day.35. They never tasted Benefit Cereal with psyllium.36. They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.37. Authorities have always been building a wall across the Mexican border.38. Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.39. Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.40. Balsamic vinegar has always been available in the U.S.41. Macaulay Culkin has always been Home Alone.42. Their parents may have watched The American Gladiators on TV the day they were born.43. Personal privacy has always been threatened.44. Caller ID has always been available on phones.45. Living wills have always been asked for at hospital check-ins.46. The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.47. They never heard an attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”48. Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles.49. Soft drink refills have always been free.50. They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.”51. Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.52. Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs.53. The Royal New Zealand Navy has never been permitted a daily ration of rum.54. The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.55. 98.6 F or otherwise has always been confirmed in the ear.56. Michael Millken has always been a philanthropist promoting prostate cancer research.57. Off-shore oil drilling in the United States has always been prohibited.58. Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.59. There have always been charter schools.60. Students always had Goosebumps.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Prayers for times of recesssion

Earlier this week the Church of England published two new prayers: one to comfort those who lost their jobs in the financial crisis; and one for those who have seen colleagues laid off and are troubled by feelings of stress and even guilt about still being employed.

The one for laid off workers, called “The Prayer on Being Made Redundant,” according to the Church, “helps to put into words the anxieties of those who are losing - or who have already lost - their job in the wave of recent redundancies.” I include the full text below, but want to highlight these words: “Hear me as I cry out in confusion, help me to think clearly, and calm my soul.”

The most potent line of the prayer is this: “As life carries on, may I know your presence with me each and every day. And as I look to the future, help me to look for fresh opportunities, for new directions.”

That’s a moving and meaningful line for all of us, laid off or not. Rather than being complacent, I hope I am consistently looking for the new ways God would use me. How can I respond to God’s direction to make the difference in the world that God desires?

The second prayer, titled “The Prayer for Those Remaining in the Workplace” addresses feelings of guilt and fears of increased workload that often come with layoffs. As you’ll see below, it begins with the heartfelt concern many of us feel, “Life has changed: Colleagues have gone - redundant, out of work. Suddenly, what seemed so secure is now so very fragile.”

At another point, this prayer asks, “Who will be next? How will I cope with the increased pressure of work?”

John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds and chairman of the Church of England's stewardship committee, said in a statement that the prayers emphasize the church is there for people in times of crisis.

“This is a pastoral initiative,” he said. “We need to be on the lookout to support those facing redundancy. Neighbourliness is so important in crisis situations, whether it's offering people new prayers to God or by simply being there with a listening ear.”

It's not just in Great Britain that those fearing for their livelihood are turning to prayer.

Employees and executives waited in the cold on the first working day of 2009 to enter a Tokyo, Japan, shrine dedicated to commerce on Monday, praying to the god Ebisu-Sama to keep their businesses afloat in a new year with a grim economic outlook.

Many of us just celebrated Epiphany – a time reminding us that God is present and loving in times of crisis, times of celebration and times in between. I’m thankful that the Church of England has given us words to name that presence. I hope you find the prayers meaningful.


"Redundant" - the word says it all - "useless, unnecessary, without purpose, surplus to requirements."

Thank you, Heavenly Father, that in the middle of the sadness, the anger, the uncertainty, the pain, I can talk to you.

Hear me as I cry out in confusion, help me to think clearly, and calm my soul.

As life carries on, may I know your presence with me each and every day.

And as I look to the future, help me to look for fresh opportunities, for new directions.

Guide me by your Spirit, and show me your path, through Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.


Life has changed: Colleagues have gone - redundant, out of work. Suddenly, what seemed so secure is now so very fragile.

It's hard to know what I feel: sadness, certainly, guilt, almost, at still having a job to go to, and fear of the future.

Who will be next? How will I cope with the increased pressure of work?

Lord Jesus, in the midst of this uncertainty, help me to keep going: to work to the best of my ability, taking each day at a time, and taking time each day to walk with you.

For you are the way, the truth and the life.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Colleges increasing student aid in recession

Recessions are, by nature, uncertain times. This is especially true for families with children in college.

Thankfully, many colleges are creating additional student aid programs or expanding existing ones. Other colleges are providing additional student counseling or extending grace periods for tuition payments.

These are welcome advances, in my view, and I hope more will follow!


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Young Adult Book of the Year

Okay, this was written by a colleague. Do you agree? -- Nathan

"Breaking Dawn" by Stephenie Meyer - Some of you may be groaning at this pick, saying to yourself: "I am so sick of everything Twilight, blah, blah, blah, and I HATED Breaking Dawn; it was terrible in every way, so why in the world is it on this list, much less being called the #1 Spiritual YA Novel of 2008?" Well, I'll tell you why: It's #1 because of the Zeitgeist factor, zeitgeist meaning "spirit of the age or time." Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series is a contemporary, cultural phenom because it's a whisper on everyone's lips--the young, the old, the boy, the girl, the Dad, the Mom, the cranky husband, and the swooning wife--even if the person whispering has no idea what Twilight even is. It's the new Harry Potter, everyone is going crazy for it, and it has taken on a life of its own. Hence, the zeitgeist factor.