31 August 2010

Highlight video from CA Conference

Here is a video overview Christian Associates' Connect conference in Germany this month. Kudos to Eric Schrotenboer who shot tons of footage and did a fabulous job putting this together.

CA Connect 2010 Highlight Video from Christian Associates on Vimeo.

30 August 2010

Selling Things I Thought Important

I love Craig's List. You can sell lots of things on it - cars, jewelry, computers, various services, electronics. Wonderful for this Jew!
       I've gotten into selling things on Craig's List which have been laying around our house collecting dust. Things I used to put a lot of value in. Today I sold a camera we had bought in 1998 in Los Angeles. I have no idea what I paid of for it, but we got years of use out of it (including Carly and Steven taking photography class in high school with it). For the past 5 years it has sat in storage and we have done nothing with it.
       Today a family who has a high school student taking that photography class bought the camera from me. For a whopping $75.
       A little less clutter around the Newman household today. Feels good.

28 August 2010

I am "Premier" Class on United - cough, cough

This week I received my "Premier Class" Mileage Plus card from United Airlines, because I have flown more than 25,000 miles this year.
       Wow, I feel so much better about myself because I am Premier! And the next hurdle is "Premier Executive" class if I fly 50,000 miles this year.
       Oh boy oh boy oh boy, I can't wait!
       Nowhere in our Western Culture is "class" more evident than on airlines. People in business class sit in wide seats, are served hot meals, drink booze for free.
       People in economy class ... well, they get bupkis (an apt Yiddish word which means NOTHING).
       The most convicting thing about this is that I buy into the hype also. This week I labeled myself "Premier" because United Airlines did. I can't wait to fly again on United, just so I can board before other people and maybe get a warm wash cloth for my face. I'm not proud of this, by the way, just processing honestly!
       I think it would be pretty cool if I get upgraded to business class (because of my premier status) that I would go to someone in "cattle" class (I mean economy class) and give them my seat up front. No strings attached. A random act of kindness.
       I fly to Grand Rapids on Tuesday, back to Denver on Wednesday. If I get moved to business class I will try to switch seats with someone in economy class, just to see what happens. I'll keep you posted.

27 August 2010

The Gospel of Dangerous Lovers and Psycho Scientists

If you are going to be a Christian you have to come to terms with part of Jesus' story being downright shocking and almost embarrassing for his followers. Here's one example, which I am speaking on this weekend: John 6:53-59
       Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

I have titled my message, "Sorry if this freaks you out." But I want to change it to "The gospel of dangerous lovers and psycho scientists." Inspired by a song we are doing and film clip we are watching during the service. People may be more confused after the serve than before. But that can be a good thing ... I hope!

26 August 2010

Serving My Alma Mater

I attended a little known State university in Central New York, in the town of Cortland. I was there at Cortland State for 4 years and graduated with a bachelor's degree in English and Journalism. It was a great time in my life, and incredibly formative in so many ways.
       So recently when I was asked to consider becoming part of the Board of Director for the Cortland State Alumni Association I said yes. It's time for me to give back, especially because Cortland State is part of the public higher education system in the U.S. And in my opinion, the public education option is not a great one for a lot of students today. Some of that has to do with state budgets being cut and less money going to public higher education. Some of it also has to do with private universities having vast sums of money to make those schools financially competitive with public school.
       Well for the next couple of years at least I am diving into serve with my Alma Mater's alumni, and I am very much looking forward to it. I will be in Cortland in mid-October for an association meeting and I'm sure I will have a more complete perspective after that.

25 August 2010

Some of the Best Lyrics Ever

There are many amazing songs, in a variety of genre, spanning decades. I love music. I'm a class rock fan especially - Springsteen, U2, The Eagles, ZZ Top.
       In my humble opinion, among the greatest lyrics ever penned come from Bruce Cockburn's song, Lovers in a Dangerous Time. Herewith some of those most profound words:

When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime
Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
Got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight

       The band at Lookout Mountain Church is doing this song next weekend (Aug. 28-29) when I preach. I figure these lyrics preach better than just about any sermon!

24 August 2010

Catching up on 20 years with Nabil and Sarah

There are people in our lives with whom we just click. Even when we don't see them for many years when we finally visit with each other we pick up where we left off so long ago. So it was this past weekend with our friends Sarah and Nabil.
     They live in Beirut (Nabil is of Lebanese decent) where he is the vicar of All Saints Church. We knew Sarah from our time living in Geneva, which is now more than 20 years ago. We attended Crossroads Church together and were part of the singles ministry there.
       Sarah and Nabil reminded me that if my families has "roots" anyway they are in multi-cultural and international settings. Their church community in Beirut has some 30 nationalities, a quite transient group which is always coming and going from that volatile part of the world.
        I dreamed last night that we had moved to Beirut and were doing ministry with Sarah and Nabil in their community. It was surreal, as dreams often are. Perhaps even more so as I think of being a New York Jew living in Lebanon. Sounds like the beginning of a joke!

23 August 2010

A Sad and Hopeful Day

Today is both an incredibly sad and hopeful day for me. In the wee hours of the morning Susy and Carly pulled out of the driveway in our van to head west to California. Carly starts at Westmont College this week. I am stunned by the range of emotions I feel - from sheer joy to grief, from sadness over the loss I feel to the hope I feel for Carly's bright future.
Age 19 (Germany, August 2010)
       I'm sure it has much to do with the dad-daughter relationship and the fact that Carly is my first born. I never thought I would feel like the dad in the film Father of the Bride but I do. And she is not even getting married! How will I be when that happens? Maybe this is the warm-up.
       This move to Westmont is great for Carly, and I am so proud of her. She is the traveler in our family - born in Pasadena (California), ages 1 through 4 in Budapest, then 10 years in Holland, 5 years in Colorado, and now moving onto new adventures.
       One of my favorite photos of Carly is from our time living in Holland. She is standing on our bike shed "in victory" in the middle of the winter, ready to dive into her world!
Age 12 (Holland)

      Well, Car, this is your time girl! Give yourself to this world, bless people, shine grace as you have in this home!
I Love You - Car Car,
~ your sad and hopeful Dad ~

22 August 2010

Facilitating Financial Peace University

Earlier this year I co-facilitated a Financial Peace University class with some folks I have become fast friends with. I'm facilitating another FPU class in Denver beginning September 8th.
       Dave Ramsey has become kind of trendy over the past couple of years. He has a program on Fox Business and has a talk show on the radio. His book, "Total Money Makeover" has been a huge success.
       He teaches about the "seven baby steps" to Financial Peace. They are not rocket science. The steps are pretty basic: have an emergency fund, get rid of credit card debt, save for retirement, give abundantly.
       This is like, "Personal Finance for Dummies." Well, I have concluded that we Americans are flat out dummies when it comes to our personal finances. That's why I lead an FPU class. To help some folks (myself included!) be a little less dumb and little more smart when it comes to resources.
       It's a good practice a couple of times per year to ask ourselves the honest question, "How am I really doing with money?" Rich or poor, we have to be asking this question.

21 August 2010

On Consumerism

If we are going to have an indepth, meaningful conversation about stewardship we must firmly address the matter of consumerism in the Western World. It is pervasive, rampant in America. None of us are immune to it. People of faith are consumers just as non-faith people are. We are victims and perpetrators, we spurn things and crave them. 

Check out this 4-minute video about Red Stripe beer and consumerism.

Advertising Noise from PressWhore on Vimeo.

20 August 2010

Ted Haggard and Brokenness

I observed from afar (Colorado Springs to Denver at least) the debacle of Ted Haggard some time ago. I have not even begun to make sense of it, although I am writing a manuscript about the underlying issues in "Bad Leadership." So I am wrestling deeply with these examples.

Here is a recent short three-minute video of Haggard. I won't comment on it for now. This is just food for thought. Anyone brave enough to comment on this?

Q IDEAS | Ted and Gayle Haggard from Q Ideas on Vimeo.

19 August 2010

Philip Yancey's Upcoming Book

One who has been touched by grace will no longer look on those who stray as "those evil people" or "those poor people who need our help." Nor must we search for signs of "loveworthiness." Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.
~ Philip Yancey, What's So Amazing About Grace

I was thrilled to hear that Philip Yancey's new book will be released in October. It is titled, What Good is God? I have been impacted by most of his books in profound ways, especially The Jesus I Never Knew.

Over the past few years I have had the privilege of getting to know Philip, and his wife Janet. We attend the same church in Colorado. This much I can say about getting to know Philip: As big as his name is, he remains humble and as down-to-earth as can be. No pretense, no ego.

So when I read Philip's words about grace, or forgiveness I know it's the real deal. Philip writes so eloquently about such deep truths because he wrestles with them and seeks to live it out in his faith.

I'm counting the days until I can get the new book!

P.S. - Read an account from Eric Alexander about hiking with Philip in Colorado. Check it out here.

18 August 2010

Fidelity in Leadership

"Fidelity" is a word which is out of favor in the 21st century. We know the word INfidelity a lot better. Quite sad really.
       Mr. Webster defines fidelity as: the quality or state of being faithful. Now that rings true. Faithfulness.
       This reminds of my friends Marty and Carty (pictured at right in the middle). They have served with Christian Associates in Europe for 22 years. In a few months they are moving to America.
       2-2 Y-E-A-R-S!!!! Like more than two decades.
       And ... they planted churches in Amsterdam, then Barcelona, and now in Lisbon. That's what I describe at fidelity.
      We had opportunity at Connect (Christian Associates' staff and leadership conference) to hear how God is leading Marty and Carey. We laid hands on them and prayed for them, sending them out on the next step in the journey. I could not be more thankful for these two.
       People often ask, "What is good leadership? What's it look like?"
       It looks like Marty and Carey.

17 August 2010

Reflections on Our Time in Europe

In Fulda, Germany (August 2010)
We returned a few days ago from Europe. We had a great time as a family visiting friends in Amsterdam and then spent a week at a retreat center northeast of Frankfurt in Germany.
     Susy and I met 25 years ago in Geneva and sort of "grew up" in Europe. We have walked together along cobblestone roads in many a European city - Budapest, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice, Paris, Brussels, among others.
     So it was with some nostalgia that we strolled along the streets of Fulda, Germany one day last week. I had forgotten how relaxing it can be to just wander around, stop and get a cup of coffee, and do some "people watching."
     We even managed to take a "tourist" photo of us in a garden next to the Catholic Church in town.

16 August 2010

Stewardship and 100 Who Believe

Some time ago we launched a campaign - hopefully a movement - we call 100 Who Believe. It's not that wildly original, but we hope it will propel Christian Associates into the future work God has for us.
We are asking people to make an investment of $50 or $100 per month. We are looking for 100 people -
* who believe ... that we are on the verge of something explosive in God's economy;
* who believe ... the Church should be different and can be a sent people;
* who believe ... an investment like this is ultimately a spiritual exercise more than a financial one.
Now I mention the 100 Who Believe because we in Christian Associates did something last week at our conference which you don't see in most other Christian agencies.
We asked our leaders and then the rest of our staff to consider being part of the 100 Who Believe. Yes, we asked missionaries who are not exactly rolling in money to contribute, to sacrifice, to be sort of counter-culture for the missionary culture. After all, missionaries receive money; they don't give money! Right? ...
Our Europe Advancement Team leader took the lead in this, sharing that he and his family were stepping up to give. Other staff have done so also.
This is a very big deal. A year ago when we launched this effort I asked the founder of CA, the new President, and the Operations Team Leader if they and their families would give to the 100 Who Believe as a kind of "statement of faith." All of them began to give, as did my family.
Let's face it - $50 is not a lot of money. Only a little more than a mustard seed. But you know what Jesus said about mustard seeds?

So I am asking everyone and anyone who has a heart for something explosive to happen for the Kingdom to give to the 100 Who Believe. If you are interested go to: www.christianassociates.org/Table/Campaigns and click on the "Give Now" button in the bottom right of the page.

15 August 2010

Proud to be a Parent of a TCK

Third Culture Kids - quite the unique bunch. My kids are TCKs. What is it? Here's a definition:
David Pollack says, "TCK refers to someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture." Third Culture Kids are also referred to as Global Nomads.
So why I am writing about this? We just returned from Christian Associates' CONNECT conference. Susy and I facilitated an Exchange session on raising Third Culture Kids. The really cool part of it was that 6 TCKs (including Carly) came to the session and parents asked them all sorts of questions for the hour. We were really proud of them as they processed about their experiences and the rich lives they all lead!
TCKs navigate a lot of things - constant transition, a lack of belonging in one place, the depth of relationship with other TCKs where they find themselves "at home." They are a unique breed of person. Well done, Carly and Steven and the other CA kids!
Carly (in black jacket, third from left) with other TCKs at Christian Associates' CONNECT conference in Germany last week.

09 August 2010

Seminars at Connect

I am at the Christian Associates CONNECT conference in Germany this week. At the moment I'm sitting in one of the seminars, entitled, "How to handle your money during tight times." It's an hour long session.

08 August 2010

George Steinbrenner and John Wooden meet in Heaven

     I don't exactly know what heaven will be like, and I don't exactly know who will be there. But I wonder what it was like when George Steinbrenner died 40 days after John Wooden. Did they meet in Heaven? What might they have said to each other?
Coach John Wooden
     Two "success" sports figures. Immensely successful. One known as a man with great humility. The other known for his humbrus and self-absorption.
     Wooden was the man who would have been just as content if he had never won a national basketball championship. His 10 titles with the UCLA Bruins is unmatched.
     John Wooden was always known as "coach." That's how he will be remembered.
Boss: George Steinbrenner
     Steinbrenner was the man who would stop at nothing for the next championship. He would sacrifice people, the team, and his own integrity to grasp the next championship ring. His New York Yankees won 7 World Championships and 11 Pennants in his tenure os owner of the team. That was not enough to George.
     George Steinbrenner was always known as "boss." That's how he will be remembered.

(From the Preface of a manuscript I am writing on moral leadership.)

06 August 2010

The Newmans Back in Amsterdam!

Steven, Susy, and Carly at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
My family is in Amsterdam for the week. I arrived today after being in Germany for a couple of days. Susy and the kids have been here for a week already.

This weekend we are seeing a bunch of great friends. I arrived just in time Friday to join the birthday party for our friend Nico. WONDERFUL TIME!

CORRECTION (5 hours after original post): The photo was taken in front of the Rijksmuseum rather than Central Station. I think I need to visit Amsterdam more often so I know what I am talking about! Ha.

05 August 2010

Airline Barf Bags

I flew on US Airways to Frankfurst yesterday/today. A while ago US Airways allowed CBS TV to advertise on the barf bags in their airplanes. Now how stupid is that? A US Airways spokesman said this at the time:
      "The airsick bag is not used like it was in the past -- primarily with turbo-prop aircraft and cabins that weren't pressurized -- so the negative connotation of the sick sack has gone away."
      I don't know about you, but when I got on the plane from Philadelphia to Frankfurt and saw the barf bag all I could think was, "Hope I don't have to barf into that thing."
      By the way, I think one of the most awkward moments of life is after you barf into one of those bags and then call the flight attendant to give her/him the bags and its content. What do you say? "Here's my vomit. Could you throw it away for me?"

04 August 2010

Today is a Travel Day

I've got a long day coming up. Morning flight from Denver to Philadelphia, a few hours in Philly, then flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I arrive at 10am local time, 2 in the morning back in Denver.
       I'm much more motivated about traveling, because my family is already in Europe and I will see them Friday night in Amsterdam.
       For the next week I will post from Europe. Check back. It should be fun.

03 August 2010

A Philanthropic GIANT

Warren Buffett is one of the heroes of the philanthropic world. I have a keen interest in stewardship and philanthropy. Studies show that wealthy people in the USA (those earning more than $200,000 per year) give less than 2% of their wealth away. Warren Buffett is a radical exception.
     Here is the the beginning of his "Philanthropic Pledge" which became public earlier this year:

    In 2006, I made a commitment to gradually give all of my Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic foundations. I couldn't be happier with that decision.
    Now, Bill and Melinda Gates and I are asking hundreds of rich Americans to pledge at least 50% of their wealth to charity.
    So I think it is fitting that I reiterate my intentions and explain the thinking that lies behind them.
    First, my pledge: More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day. Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures.
    In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.
Well done, Mr. Buffett. May I have one ounce as much generosity as you display.

02 August 2010

I Laugh, or I Will Cry

A lot of people have commented about this photo of me. They wonder what I am laughing so hard about. The photo was taken at Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks of New York. It was October and I was speaking at a men's retreat of my home church, Grace Christian Fellowship in Cortland.

We were all standing on the boat dock close to the lake when one of the guys was dared to strip down and jump in the lake. Mind you that it was October in upstate New York and the lake was probably 50 degrees! Well the guy did it, and I laughed so hard that I almost peed my pants. And someone shot a picture of me.

The photo has an additional meaning for me. I have realized that I must either laugh at some things in life, or cry over them. Sometimes I do both. But my sadness over poor stewardship and even worse leadership that I have observed in various contexts can be overwhelming sometimes. So this picture reminds me to laugh hard when I can.

01 August 2010

Notes from My Edge

Today is August 1st and I am starting a new blog. I had a blog for about 2 years after I moved to America from Europe. Since then I have not blogged, but now I am starting again. I have titled the blog, "Step Up to Life" which is a reference to a company I started with some friends almost a year ago (see www.stepupenterprises.com).

I'm concerned about three things which I want to give voice to here:
   1) Our stewardship of life - time, energy, money, etc.
   2) Leadership - how we exercise it, what truly great leadership looks like
   3) Next steps - everyone has a next step and I'm interested in people take next steps in healthy ways

This blog also serves as a journal of "notes from my edge." These notes are part of a manuscript I am writing on leadership. I'll share some of that along the way as well. So I hope you will be helped and encouraged by a few reflections here.