Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Fidelity of Betrayal

Towards A Church Beyond Belief
by Peter Rollins

Indirectly approaching the Word

"As most of us know, the Bible is often approached as a text that lays bare the mind of God, as that which supposes that by reading the book faithfully we can uncover the intentions, ideas, and desires of the Creator. In contrast to this, I am charting the idea that we ought to approach the text as actually manifesting the felt concealment of God. Here the central Word of the text is never directly grasped as a source of knowledge, but rather is encountered as a life-transforming event.

The point then is not to engage in a hermeneutical approach that would seek to somehow expose the mind of God, but rather to embrace a radical hermeneutics (a reading that sets the text free from the idea of a single correct meaning) that seeks to ultimately move beyond the desire to reduce the text to descriptive statements, inviting instead an ongoing transformative dialogue with the text. This way of reading the Bible asks much more of each individual reader, and offers the professional Bible critic much less authority.

For the idea of the Word of God as a description of the central Event that dwells within the words and yet is not of them (just as Jesus was in the world but not of it) helps us to understand that however interesting the work of the bible scholars, the theologians, the fundamentalists, or the intellectual skeptics may be, the true depth of the text is not to be discovered by following their exacting methods.

What happens when the depth of the text is thought to be swallowed up in a rational approach like this is an externalization and objectification of faith. Here the words are analyzed, contextualized, and grasped by those who are not necessarily taken up by the depth of the event housed within them."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Creating A World Without Poverty

Social Business and the Future of Capitalism
by Muhammad Yunus

Winners of the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE (Muhammad Yunus & Grameen Bank)

"At Garmeen Bank, we had to develop our own definition of poverty so that we would be able to measure our success in helping people rise out of poverty through microcredit....so we developed a ten-point system that describes specific living conditions. Once a family has succeeded in clearing all ten of these hurdles, then we at Grameen Bank consider them to have escaped from poverty. The the ten points are:

1. The bank member and her family live in a tin-roofed housed or in a house worth at least $370. The family members sleep on cots or a bedstead rather than the floor.
2. The member and her family drink pure water from tube-wells, boiled water or arsenic-free water purified by the use of alum, purifying tablets, or pitcher filters.
3. All of the member's children who are physically and mentally fit and above the age of six either attend or have finished primary school.
4. The member's minimum weekly loan repayment installment is around $3.
5. All family members use a hygienic and sanitary latrine.
6. All family members have sufficient clothing to meet daily needs, including winter clothes, blankets, and mosquito netting.
7. The family has additional sources of income, such as a vegetable garden or fruit-bearing trees, to fall back on in times of need.
8. The member maintains an average annual balance of $75 in her savings account.
9. The member has the ability to feed her family three square meals a day throughout the year.
10. All family members are conscious about their health, can take immediate action for proper treatment, and can pay medical expenses in the event of illness.

The important point is that poverty must be clearly defined so that an anti-poverty program can have a clear target clientele and one or more clear objectives to attain."

OPENHAND Children's Home KENYA

"You may not change the whole world but you can change the whole world for one person."
Elisabeth Harnes

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Spirit of Adventue

"They landed with nothing......I don't know whether it was a divine stupidity or a great faith that let them do it. Surely such venture is nearly gone from the world. And the families did survive and grow. They had a tool or a weapon that is also nearly gone, or perhaps it is only dormant for a while. It is argued that because they believed thoroughly in a just, moral God they could put their faith there and let the smaller securities take care of themselves. But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units - because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back."

John Steinbeck

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mana Deschisa Romania Receives $117,000 Grant

Great news from Open Hand Romania!

Marshall called and reported that the grant they applied for through the Timken Corporation -a global manufacture of ball bearings - with a plant in Bucharest, has awarded Mana Deschisa a $117,000 grant for the ongoing development of their new Campus & Therapeutic Centre located in Campina, Romania.

Mana Deschisa is one of the few organizations that offer long term residential housing, therapy, education, discipleship and vocational training to homeless and hopeless young adults from the streets of Romania.

Since 2000, Marshall and many dedicated Romanian citizens have established from scratch, a faith-based ministry and outreach to some of the most disadvantaged and addicted young adults from the streets.

Education for the 'students' begins around a family style dinner table, and includes chores, studies, therapy, health care, vocational training, and paid jobs while completing related work projects - all leading to the goal of helping these folks become healthy, well-adjusted and productive members of society.

The community focused new campus includes plans for environmental friendly and sustainable buildings, with sports facilities, plant and tree nursery, large green house, conference centre, guest facilities and student homes for guided living.

Thanks to the generous Timken Foundation grant, Mana Deschisa will have lots of momentum and traction in realizing the dream of a commuinty campus that can accomodate lots more men and women that want an opportunity to get off the streets of Romania.

Well done Marshall and Mana Deschisa. Our Open Hand tribe in Indianapolis hopes to help supplement this grant by raising more matching funds that can be used to meet the growing challenges of your running budget - allowing you to recruit and pay for ongoing qualified staff.

More updates soon,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Parker Palmer on the "community of truth"

"Truth is an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline."
Parker Palmer

"We invite DIVERSITY into our community not because it is politically correct but because diverse viewpoints are demanded by the manifold mysteries of great things.

We embrace AMBIGUITY not because we are confused or indecisive but because we understand the inadequacy of our concepts to embrace the vastness of great things.

We welcome CREATIVE CONFLICT not because we are angry or hostile but because conflict is required to correct our biases and prejudices about the nature of great things.

We practice HONESTY not only because we owe it to one another but because to lie about what we have seen would be to betray the truth of great things.

We experience HUMILITY not because we have fought and lost but because humility is the only lens through which great things can be seen - and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.

We have become FREE men and women in the fellowship of community not because we have privileged information but because tyranny in any form can be overcome only by involving the grace of great things."

from The Courage to Teach

Emergent Theology & The Open Hand Tribe

Peter Rollins is doing the serious work of theology while rooted in a faith community (rather than an academic institution) in Northern Ireland. He is expressing one of the most hopeful expressions to date of Christian theology within a postmodern context.

Peter has a B.A. in Scholastic philosophy, and M.A. in political theory and criticism and a Ph.D. in postmodern theory. He is the founder of the Ikon community in Belfast and a working philosopher who believes that the emerging church presents a singular, unprecedented opportunity to transform the theological architecture of the Christian community.

Here are some thoughts from his book How (Not) To Speak of God which put words to concepts that we have been wrestling with for the past twelve years in our Open Hand community.

The Ikon community and Open Hand international community:

  • represent neither a conservative nor a liberal perspective
  • think of a doughnut which has no interior, but is made up entirely of an exterior
  • so Ikon / Open Hand have no substantial doctrinal centre
  • we do not tithe to the "organization", no do we look to it for pastoral support
  • rather we encourage relational tithing and relational pastoring whereby we give to one another materially and emotionally
  • even those who organize and help run community events see the role of leadership as helping support, serve and develop the relationships that organically arise from our groups
  • while our communities, as an abstract idea, are neither lliberal nor conservative, these perspectives are each represented in the actual beliefs of the various people who attend
  • one way we find unity amidst diversity is via our rejection of the temptations of consumption and repulsion
  • consumption connotes the act of eating and relates to a way of engaging with someone that seeks to make them into part of our own community (attempting to compel the other to think and act as we do)
  • repulsion represents the other side of the coin, by which we utterly reject that which is different and treat it like an enemy - scapegoating those who are different and excluding them from our community
  • we instead engage in complementary approaches that create a space in which genuine discussion and heartfelt disagreement can take place and we are committed to creating a space in which we are able to challenge the way in which we hold the views which we hold
I finish by quoting from Peter, " By creating a space for in-depth discussion alongside a space in which we can set aside these discussions in order to affirm one another, Ikon seeks to short-circuit the revulsion/consumption binary in favor of loving dialogue." Amen

Check out the Ikon website! Just type Ikon commuinty....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Church on the Other Side

Organizational structure is like a pair of shoes. You fit the shoes to the feet, you don't make the feet fit the shoes. K. Caldwell

Highlighted below are several principles of this new ecclesiology as outlined by Brian McLaren in his book The Church on the Other Side

1. When good people start fighting and acting badly (especially folks who genuinely like and love one another) it may be a sign that the structure is no longer adequate...and the interpersonal struggles are symptoms of a systemic and structural problem in the organization. It is unwise to spiritualize conflict or demonize the opposition.

2. A functional structure tends to promote growth, which eventually makes the current structure obsolete, with yesterday's successes and progress leading to today's organizational failures and problems.

3. Every trade-up in new structures requires some to give up power and freedom, which in turn creates pain and requires grace and humility. As new life flourishes, someone is or has been dying and in some way experiencing "labor pains."

4. The Holy Spirit is our resource guide in the process of re-engineering structures. The Holy Spirit does not mandate new wine in old skins - which no longer stretch to fulfill their purpose - or new wine in no skins, but rather new wine in new skins.

5. Bible calls us to seek wisdom, which can be defined as "the ability to decide when structures should be preserved and protected, and when they should be adapted or replaced."

6. Plan on restructuring every time your church doubles in size and write it into the bylaws, then the church can anticipate the need for change while facilitating rather than obstructing structural changes.

7. A healthy church can balance the need to conserve expertise (by valuing seniority, tenure, and past contribution) with the need for fresh blood and new ideas. Both expertise and energetic innovations are needed in times of rapid and radical change.

8. Structural roles in a healthy church will be designed with the concept of spiritual gifts and personality theory in mind. Structures won't work when the roles they create don't match how people are actually wired; neither do they work when the roles change, whether quickly or gradually. Do we want to save the person in a certain role and change the structure, or keep the structure even though it will cost us the person (through a firing, a resignation, a nervous breakdown, or burnout?)

9. Control is less important than catalyzing positive action. William Easum distinguishes control structures from permission-giving structures. "The top-down oppressive approach of bureaucracy is on its way out. In its place are emerging permission-giving networks. These networks are freeing and empowering people to explore their spiritual gifts individually and in teams on behalf of the Body olf Christ." The question is not - How can our structures control, but How can they be catalytic?

10. We need an ecclesiology that acknowledges latent periods without guilt. The fact is, down times are important for many reasons, not the least of which is that without them there are no up times. All life runs with times and seasons, ebbs and flows, work and rest, expansion and consolidation, death and birth. Our ecclesiology should embrace it.

11. We need an ecclesiology that is streamlined, simple, and less exhausting and time consuming. By adding program to program, never practicing strategic abandonment, we reun ourselves ragged and eventually despise the church for abuse and neglect. (burning us out)

We need to go back to the drawing board and conceive of new approaches to structuring church life. Ed Simon calls them "organizational architectures."

"We need a new generation of organizational architects. But to get there we must first correct basic misunderstandings...It is not just rearranging the organizational structure. We have to design for the long term - based on understanding interdependencies. Most changes in organizational structures are piecemeal reactions to problems. Real designers are constantly trying to understand wholes."

Perhaps the perfect structure is just about any that is flexible enough to become a better structure tomorrow. Conversely, the "perfect structure" that claims to be the right one, immune to improvement is actually one of the worst structures possible.

Like our closets that are full of outgrown clothes, so our church files should be full of outgrown structural diagrams. Those diagrams were not failure, they fulfilled their purpose for their time.

Venture Philanthropy / Philanthro-capitalism

Mana Deschisa Romania 2000 - 2011 (click on picture for larger view)

For the past decade Marshall McKenna has been pioneering a strategic partnership with the for-profit marketplace as he expands the Mana Deschisa outreach to the homeless young adults of Romania.

Perhaps you are familiar with the term "social entrepreneurship", a notion that seems to be generating increasing interest in the overlapping spheres of business, philanthropy, missions and social-welfare here and abroad. It is also closely related to the concept of "venture philanthropy" or "philanthro-capitalism" as examined in several publications including The Economist.

This is an evolving global phenomenon and can simply be defined as any person or organization that utilizes earned income strategies to pursue social objectives, simultaneously seeking both a financial and social return on investments. There is even an emphasis on a "triple bottom line" that includes:

1.) a favorable financial return on investments
2.) a strategic community impact
3.) and a better community and environmental quality of life

This includes not-for-profit sector people and organizations (like Mana Deschisa and Open Hand) with a strong problem solving and results orientation doing the following:

  • diversify income revenues using market means to generate surpluses that can be applied to ministry operating budgets while addressing long term sustainability and consistently producing collateral benefits like employment opportunities, vocational training, etc.
  • linking the felt needs of disadvantaged communities with strategic for-profit economic development initiatives
  • creatively fulfilling the mission and vision of the ministry while utilizing non-traditional avenues that sensibly balance risks / rewards
  • selectively borrowing and implementing strategic ideas and tools from the for-profit global marketplace
  • establishing problem solving networks via supportive multi-national partnerships with private sector individuals and corporations
This includes members of the for-profit private sector that are thoughtfully examining how business fulfills social and community responsibilities, and who are doing the following:

  • imagining how to responsibly integrate social and environmental values into business and investment practices in ways that complement the marketplace and produce measurable returns
  • incorporating philanthropic and community development practices into their business strategies
  • creating profitable partnerships with not-for-profit organizations through cause related marketing, social marketing, joint venture projects, etc.
  • complementing their disciplined "market labor" with meaningful volunteer "gift labor" benefiting the disadvantaged and underprivileged citizens and children of the world
The ultimate purpose of these combined efforts between the not-for-profit and for-profit worlds is to generate sustainable smart growth while transforming and impacting the lives of everyone involved.

Due to persistent and ongoing financial challenges and responsibilities of operating a growing, dynamic ministry, Marshall and the Romanian leadership of Mana Deschsia wear many hats; one as directors of the outreach to the homeless young adults and another as business and commercial investment managers for social entrepreneur's seeking profits in Romania through foreign direct investments of venture capital.

Marshall and his indigenous staff speak the language, understand the culture and needs of the local communities, know the value of property and commercial buildings, and have successfully negotiated many profitable commercial real estate projects in the past decade. In turn they have secured properties and land for their outreach to the homeless while developing the necessary expertise and professional connections with local banks, lawyers, agents, public administrators and governmental authorities. They have an impressive track record of making profitable investments for a growing list of international investors who see great development opportunities in Romania.

In return for Marshall and his colleagues successful management efforts in these joint ventures (selecting land for purchase, negotiating, executing and securing local construction management, etc.) a percentage of the profits are designated for the Mana Deschisa ministry. This revenue stream in combination with donations and gifts are exactly what is needed for sustainable growth and financial long-term stability.

Ultimately local jobs are created, along with vocational training for the former street folks as they earn a living wage in anticipation of becoming mature and responsible adult citizens. Mana Deschisa currently employees some of their "students" in the commercial real estate and construction opportunities launched in cooperation with various venture capitalists.

Contact Marshall today at manadeschisa@yahoo.com for more info on ways to get involved.

Social Entrepreneurship

Here is an excerpt from Paul Hawken's book Blessed Unrest.....

"Google - the $ 1 billion Google Foundation addresses poverty, disease, and climate change but has forsaken nonprofit tax status under IRS regulations in order to put money anywhere it wishes, whether in for-or nonprofit enterprises. The Google Foundation can make money, lose money, donate money, or invest money, whatever it takes to accomplish its social mission."

"Social Entrepreneurship - In the past decade, critics of the environmental movement have taken it to task, citing the worldwide collapse of ecosystems as proof of its ineffectiveness. What may be happening is the opposite. Although the momentum of damage and exploitation continues to accelerate in both the social and environmental arenas, the activity addressing it is increasing exponentially and has broken out of its traditional institutional boundaries. Emblematic of this shift is the growth of social entrepreneurship, which refers to activist who use entrepreneurial methods to address systemic social problems. Social entrepreneurs are innovative risk takers who use ideas, resources, and opportunities to tackle problems and produce social benefit. Although they can work in both the for-profit and nonprofit realms, their success is measured by social profit; monetary criteria are used where applicable to gauge the sustainability of their programs.

The practice of social entrepreneurship extends back to the public health movement during the Industrial Revolution and would include such notables as Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, and M.K. Gandhi. The greatest single practitioner of social entrepreneurship has been Bill Drayton of Ashoka. The best-known practitioner of social entrepreneurship is Muhammad Yunus, the creator of microfinance and microcredit, the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Despite the recent publicity, the work of most social entrepreneurs remains largely unnoticed."

In our own Rhino tribe we are cheering on Marshall McKenna and the Mana Deschisa Romania ministry as one of the leading edge pioneers of social entrepreneurship in Eastern Europe. More on that soon. Well done Marshall!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Helping a Troubled Family

For all of us in the Open Hand tribe and beyond that have participated in the ongoing home-based counseling work with families in crisis (referred to us by the Child Protective Services) here are encouraging words Rod first penned over a decade ago:

"Look for whomever is the most Self-Differentiated: this is not necessarily because they do "good" things. Who is able to express their own voice in the family apart from the togetherness pressures? This person is KEY to the system's health. They might be the person able to UNDERSTAND what you are all about even if they do not / cannot agree or cooperate.

Listen as much as you can but only focus on process. This means watch for the HOW and WAY (manner in which things occur) not the WHAT, the WHY and the WHO. Remembering that all behaviors have meaning but not all meaning is necessary for your understanding. In other words knowing that all behavior has meaning on your part is more important than uncovering the meaning behind a client's (family's) behavior. Remember that one person's behavior in a family is somehow everyone's behavior (to a lesser degree including yours!) I am thinking here along the lines of everyone is in a way implicated with all social problems.

It takes MONTHS to build a relationship even in the BEST of circumstances with WILLING participants. Your work is hard because you are going against every natural grain in the manner in which relationships work. F is supposed to avoid you, J is supposed to stand you up etc. Your arrival at the door is the most brazen act of relational suicide you could commit. It is a MIRACLE you get allowed in at all. The client's natural mechanism scream "Enemy" because of the role within which you function within the system. Once you overcome that you CAN do good work and be really in relationship but it is almost deemed not to LOOK like what the system is asking for. What the system (CPS) is asking for is the equivalent of wanting a square sphere or a round triangle. Somethings are just not possible but what is possible is BETTER by far! What is possible is ...... people begin to see they captain their own ships...and..

You are likely to do the best work when:

+ you yourself are differentiated (this is no light call. Please study this most misunderstood concept). It is not just BEING DIFFERENT,

+ when you take no sides (even against the system i.e. CPS, Jevenile Justice, Dad, Mom,)

+ when you are non-anxious about the anxious family and anxious system,

+ when you are playful without malice, sarcasm, or pretension,

+ when you track process and help the family or individual to track process,

+ when you nourish your own needs with loving care."

Rod E. Smith 11-03-99

Thanks for the encouraging words Rod. They still ring true today after a decade of helping hundreds of troubled families in Indianapolis.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Queen Elizabeth I 1533 - 1603

Reflections for the Women of our Open Hand tribe:

She was one of the first truly independent and successful women in the realm of male dominated society and politics.

She helped change the society's idea of women's capabilities - planting the seeds for the empowerment of women.

She served at a time when her country was in a financial mess, due to gross mismanagement by past monarchs.

She favored a Protestant Church revival, but believed it could be achieved gradually and without bloodshed with the Catholic Church.

She was attacked and excommunicated by the Pope and Rome issued numerous decrees calling for her demise.

People of her own faith like the famous Scottish preacher John Knox attacked her for being a woman who was a leader of men.

She was disinherited by the two men she loved most, her father Henry VIII and her brother Edward VI.

She wielded her hard-won power by striking a balance between male/female characteristics, she had sensitivity, compassion, and openness to counsel and yet she was bold, decisive and as visionary as any king.

She had the heart of a King and the body and soul of a woman, she was a powerful negotiator and courageous in war.

"I have used time, which ordinarily accomplishes more than reason does."

She was content to allow her people freedom to believe what they wanted in the privacy of their own souls and turned a blind eye to those who practiced a different faith....she was tolerant!

She focused on the common ground of her people and their shared nationality to foster the beneficent idea of toleration.

She had the ability to cultivate and maintain a vast network of personal relationships... orchestrating a wide range of contacts, measuring: trust with prudence, intimacy with authority, openness with protocol.

She lived deeply and was the best informed person in her kingdom and probably all of Europe.

She nurtured personal relationships with the influential people in her sphere.

She defied stereotypes of a woman ruled by changing emotions - by setting a supreme example of integration of traditionally "masculine" and "feminine" strengths.

She showed us the benefits of balance in all relationships... with emotional intelligence.


Comfortable with authority
Confidential with information
Waited patiently for the right moment
Tolerant of other people's points of view
Calm in crisis
Not easily intimidated
Diligent in study
Could delegate responsibility
Sound financial manager
Strong sense of purpose
Self-aware and sensitive to others
She had a passion with a purpose!

"She always recognized that we can free ourselves from intimidation while accessing our personal power by embracing the scepter of responsibility...remembering that we are free to choose our response to any situation and that 'we teach people how to treat us.'

Go and do likewise.

Summarized by O'Steven from Discover Your Genius by Michael J. Gelb

Hospitality and Henri Nouwen

Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit. It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of the guest to find their own.

From Reaching Out by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Tending and Befriending

The Female Response to Stress: Tend and Befriend

Bunny Alexander recently forwarded this to us. Thanks Bunny!

A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research - most of it on men - upside down.

"Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible," explains Laura Cousino Klein,Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. "It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just "fight or flight." "In fact," says Dr. Klein, "it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the "fight or flight" response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead.

When she actually engages in this tending and befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. "This calming response does not occur in men," says Dr. Klein, "because testosterone - which men produce in high levels of when they're under stress - seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen," she adds, "seems to enhance it."

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha!" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. "There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded", says Dr. Klein. "When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were on to something."

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the "tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain whay women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. "There's on doubt," says Dr. Klein, "that friends are helping us live."

Taylor, S. E., Klein, L. C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R. & Updegraff, J. A.
Femaile Response to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I Dare You

The word 'risk' derives from the early Italian risicare, which roughly means "to challenge or dare", and in this sense, risk is a choice rather than a fate.

The actions we dare to take, which ultimately depend on how free we are to make choices, really define what it means to be a human being.

As always, I challenge you!!!! Let it rip, risk it all....

I dare you,
Again and again and again.....Amen!

I have seen enough to know

I have seen enough to know
that person sitting in the chair next to yours on the beach.
I have seen enough to know
that sometimes we are oblivious to our own blindness.
I have seen enough to know
that self-confrontation lets a self see what it normally can't see.
I have seen enough to know
that maturity involves establishing and extending emotional sight.
I have seen enough to know
that we pass on our successes and failures to succeeding generations.
I have seen enough to know
that as we mobilize our self to do what's necessary it becomes a gift to others.
I have seen enough to know
that the futures we want are not in our pasts.
I have seen enough to know
that the present is where the final working out of our past takes place.
I have seen enough to know
that as we resolve the past in the present we rewrite our family legacy.
I have seen enough to know
that integrity driven leaps of faith actually enhances our capacity to love.
I have seen enough to know
that marriage holds our partner's happiness hostage and the ransom prices is personal growth.
I have seen enough to know
that we can't demand safety and security if we plan to make headway in life.
I have seen enough to know
that clean pain is a doorway to a world where hope exists.
I have seen enough to know
that the person sitting next to you on that beach could be your spouse.
I have seen enough to know
that when couples say 'yes I will' and 'I do' it's really for the next three generations to work out.
I have seen enough to know
the real challenge is if you can see yourselves in those chairs together.

I can.

Scott's Spiritual Disciplines - circa 2003

I recently came across Scott's challenge for our Open Hand tribe back in 2003:

Hebrew 10 - Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.

1 Timothy 4 - Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.

January = Outburst
Practice 'Uncommon Kindness' at least one time during the month and not get caught.

February = Spiritual Exercise
Daily pray lavish blessing upon someone that irritates us or someone that doesn't like us.

March = Spiritual Exercise
Spend one day alone at a retreat house with a Bible, a notepad, and God.

April = Outburst
Go out of our way to help someone in a practical way. Look for opportunities to serve and volunteer before being asked.

May = Spiritual Exercise
Ask God to lead us to a person that is searching for Christ.

June = Outburst
Speak one kind, encouraging word to at least one person per day.

July = Spiritual Exercise
Offer to pray for one person in a public (non-religious) setting.

August = Spiritual Exercise
Go an entire month without gossiping, slandering, or putting down another person.

September = Outburst
Mail notes or letters to ten different people and offer encouragement, challenge, and gratitude for who they are or what they have done.

October = Spiritual Exercise
Pray through the entire book of Psalms during the month.

November = Spiritual Exercise
Once a week get alone and adopt the mindset that this is the last day of my life. Write down one thing that isn't important and one thing that I must do....then do that thing.

December = Spiritual Exercise
Identify one negative feeling that has hampered our life and seek to renew our mind in that area.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Hidden Wholeness

Being Alone Together - A Community of Solitudes

The Journey Toward An Undivided Life

Welcoming the Soul and Weaving Community in a Wounded World
Parker Palmer

"Let the person who cannot be alone beware of community. Let the person who is not in community beware of being alone." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Simultaneously - we need solitude and community to check and balance what we learn in the other and together they make us whole, like breathing in and breathing out....

Solitude = does not necessarily mean living apart from others, rather, never living apart from one's self. It isn't about the absence of other people - its about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others...

Community = does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others, rather it means never losing awareness that we are connected to each other - not about the presence of other people, but about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone...

Space = we can create a space between us that is hospitable to the soul, a community of solitudes where we can be alone together....spaces designed to welcome the soul and support the journey are rare

Community too often means in our culture a group of people who go crashing around the woods together scaring the soul away, from congregations to classrooms we preach and teach, assert and argue, claim and proclaim, admonish, and advise and generally behave in ways that drive everything original and wild into hiding....intellect, emotions, will, ego may emerge but not the soul.

Circle of trust = know how to sit quietly 'in the woods' with each other and wait for the soul to show up....we are not pushy but patient, not confrontational but compassionate, not filled with expectations and demands but with abiding faith in the reality of the inner teacher.

Unconditional love = people who help us grow toward true self neither judge us to be deficient nor try to force us to change, but accept us exactly as we are...it surrounds us with a charged force field that is safe enough to take the risks and endure the failures that growth requires - drawn forward by love into our own best possibilities....

Relationships = in a circle of trust combine unconditional love with hopeful expectancy, creating a space that both safeguards and encourages the inner journey....and we are freed to hear our own truth, touch what brings us joy, become self-critical about our faults, and take risky steps toward change - knowing that we will be accepted no matter what the outcome.....amen.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wee Ariana's Blessing

Our Open Hand tribe invites you all to the blessing of Ariana Powell on Sunday, 28th of June at the Reynolds home. We will have a pitch-in bria /feast and everyone is welcome to begin the festivities around 5:00ish (a bit earlier than usual for those with infants and toddlers).

A Medieval Celtic Anointing Prayer for wee Ariana

Thou Being who inhabitest the heights
Imprint Thy blessing betimes,
Remember Thou the child Ariana Powell of our tribe,
In the Name of the Father of peace;
When the community of the King
On her put the oil of anointing,
Grant her the blessing of the Three
Who fill the heights.
The Blessing of the Three
Who fill the heights.

Sprinkle down upon Ariana Thy grace,
Give Thou to her virtue and growth,
Give Thou to her strength and guidance,
Give Thou to her flocks and possessions,
Sense and reason void of guile,
Angel wisdom in her day,
That Ariana may stand without reproach
In Thy presence. Amen!

The first anointing is in the name of the Father, representing wisdom,
The second anointing is in the name of the Son, representing peace,
The third anointing is in the name of the Spirit, representing purity.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Mid-brain Crisis"

I have noticed over the past few years that several of us middle age folks have experienced what I would call a 'mid-brain' crisis as opposed to the more common garden variety 'mid-life crisis'.

Modern science shows us that the body-mind connection is very powerful and active, especially in the middle age of human life. Jung called this crisis "an updraft from the unconscious" seeking some type of resolution in what he called the 3rd stage of life. Something stirs (growls) and we become irrationally motivated by the hidden mid-brain to seek a resolution to the mysteries that make us each unique. For some unknown reason these unresolved and hidden hauntings and abrasions that are uniquely part of our biology find a way to work themselves upward into our conscious awareness via the cortex. But then what?

Following quickly comes the pain, the infection, the discomfort, the crisis. I guess we are naturally wired as human beings to finally process (or not) this extreme body ache that accompanies our deep remembering (awakening). This invisible gravitational field that pulls us into unexpected and often unplanned orbits is not to be denied and you can see it in the very biology (body language) of the one so moved. It's as if the mid-brain is locked and loaded. I suppose its kind of like when an object in space gets too close to a gravitational force field and is sucked into a different orbit. There is no turning back.

Anyway, I don't know what I am talking about, but Jung did. The good news is that many of us don't deny the force field, but cooperate and go along for the ride, not knowing where it is taking us. We allow the neo-cortex (and our creative imaginations) to calm, collect and soothe the mid-brain during this jarring journey. The danger for some of us is that we impatiently get side-tracked into a mindlesss 'mid-life crisis' and allow the primitive brain to simply run wild like a naked two year old at the beach.

When we give ourselves and others permission to ride the currents of this updraft, the end result is often that we come home a changed person, more at peace, healed (somewhat), challenged (a lot), resurrected (unconscious brought to consciousness), and ready for life's next adventures.

The Chinese pictures for 'crisis' are two symbols - the first is the one for 'danger' and the second is one for 'opportunity'. Combined they tell the story of a person having a measured response (powerful words) to life's challenges and emerging from a cocoon environment to a rebirth. Amen!

I say well done to those who have been through this 'mid-brain crisis'. Nothing get easier in life, just our ability to be more fully present and accounted for. We may lose weight (and sleep) on this challenging journey, but actually become heavier. Space travel through strong gravitational fields has a way of adding mass while re-arranging our chemistry. We will never be the same......

Enjoy the Challenge,

Monday, June 8, 2009

Measure of Faith

I am reminded of what Gerald may has written about faith and grace in his book entitled Addiction & Grace

"We always retain some spark of capacity to choose. We can use the ember of freedom to choose to risk ourselves in the goodness of God or to continue to strive for our own autonomy or to give in to the powers that oppress us. I am convinced that nothing whatsoever determines the choices we make at this primal level. Here, finally, the choices are totally up to us, we really are free.

....whenever we feel absolutely powerless, we have the most real power. Nothing is left in us to force us to choose one way or another. Our choice then is a true act of faith. We may put our faith in ourselves, or in our attachments, or in God. It is that simple.

....faith choices are enacted through the cellular activity of our brains, but they are not predetermined by that activity. There is no evidence that they are predestined in any way by other cellular patterns. Grace empowers us to choose rightly in what seem to be the most choiceless of situations, but it does not, and will not, determine that choice.

....for this reason, the purest acts of faith always feel like risks. Instead of leading to absolute quietude and serenity, true spiritual growth is characterized by increasingly deep risk taking. Growth in faith means willingness to trust God more and more, not only in those areas of our lives where we are most successful, but also, and most significantly at those levels where we are most vulnerable, wounded and weak. It is where our personal power seems most defeated that we are given the most profound opportunities to act in true faith.

....the purest faith is enacted when all we can choose is to relax our hands or clench them, to turn wordlessly toward or away from God. This tiny option, the faith Jesus measured as the size of the mustard seed, is where grace and the human spirit embrace in absolute perfection and explode in world changing power.

....true faith choices therefore always feel like risks; they just go on, involving deeper and deeper levels of our being. Each choice remains difficult; what really becomes conditioned in this process is simply our willingness and readiness to take the risks of faith. They never stop feeling like risks.

....the measure of faith, then, is the degree to which one is really willing to risk the truth of grace.


Containing Anxiety

Under threat we act automatically. Survival is everything. We slide toward the immature side of the continuum. We are impatient. We blame, relieving our own pain by focusing it on others. We use either / or thinking. Stuck in our anxiety, we err on the side of shortsightedness. How can we shift to the other side of the continuum?

1.) Have a plan. (refer back to your core goals, strategies and structures)
2.) Express problems in terms of relationships / triangles. (be aware of emotional processes)
3.) Know and recognize what triggers anxiety in yourself and in your organization.
4.) Deal with anxiety as it surfaces at a conscious, responsive level (rather than merely reactive and instinctual behavior)
5.) Be willing to invest in your core goals, strategy and structures.
6.) Always be on the lookout and mindful of identifying strengths and resources available to you.
7.) Create options and imagine what could be. (infinite range of possibilities between extremes)
8.) Remain on the side of challenge (with the ability to tolerate pain, threat, sabotage)
9.) Follow the plan. (see point one)
10.) Ask questions.

Notes from Peter Steinke

Friday, June 5, 2009

Religion without religion

....'Christianity exhibits the structure of a religion without religion. Belief thus has an important place; however, it is ultimately subordinate to the event that it points toward. The result is the idea that living within the event that is testified to in Christianity is more important than the affirmation that one is a Christian, or in other words, the event contained in the affirmation of God is more important than the belief in God.

There is an anecdote about the theologian Karl Barth that may help to clarify this idea. It is said that after a seminar one day a woman asked Barth if it was true that the serpent, spoken of in the Torah, literally spoke. In response Barth turned to her and said, "Madam, it does not matter whether or not the serpent really spoke; all that matters is what the serpent said."

Peter Rollins The Fidelity of Betrayal - Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Monday, June 1, 2009

Womenomics - Make More Money

Women Rule

New studies indicate that the female business management style is:

1.) Lucrative (not soft), transformational and essential for success
2.) Produces 1/3 higher returns on equities (companies with women in senior management)
3.) More cautious than men with a focus on long term (men take more risk/short term focus)
4.) Less competitive - consensus builders, conciliators, collaborators

Transformational leadership style = heavily engaged, motivational, and extremely well suited for the emerging, less hierarchical workplace of tomorrow.

Work world is evolving into a more fluid, more virtual structure with more demand from female management skills involving essential emotional intelligence skills.

WOMEN ON TOP: (education levels, purchasing clout, management style)

a. they receive more college and advanced degrees then men
b. they control over 80% of all consumer spending (electronics, health care, cars)
c. they know how to market to other women

Pioneering OPEN HAND Women - Create a female friendly working environment, in which the focus is on results, not on time spent in the office, efficiency (not schmoozing), getting the job done = however that happens best = in a 3 day week, at night after the kids go to bed, from Starbucks

FREEDOM & FLEXIBILITY - women know that giving employees freedom and flexibility increases productivity - allowing everyone to make more money.

Key to the Future = HIRE MORE WOMEN