30 October 2010

Juvenile, Childish, Idiotic Politics

"Stupid is as stupid does." So said Forrest Gump. If this is true then Colorado Senate candidates Ken Buck and Michael Bennet are acting in pretty STUPID WAYS. Call it juvenile, childish, idiotic.
       Yesterday, public TV channel 12 said that there is more money flowing into this Senate campaign than any other Senate race in the United States. Millions and millions of dollars being spent on destroying each candidate's credibility and personal integrity.
       Like many people in Colorado and around the country, I am so sick, so tired of this political season. I'm counting the hours until Election Day (coming Tuesday). Let's get it over with and perhaps we can recover some sense of civility

27 October 2010

The Greatest Leaders Did Not Have to

This idea came to me today. I'm not sure why it has not until now. Here it is:
The greatest of all leaders did not have to be.
       What I mean is that true greatness is not about having to be great. The great leaders of history often shunned the spotlight, did not call attention to themselves, were not ego driven by having to lead, did not have messiah complexes.
       This is the essence of HUMILITY - becoming one who serves and does not seek to be served.
       One who gives away because he or she knows they cannot hold onto it anyway.
       One who sacrifices greatly for the sake of the cause (to quote Mr. Spock, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.")
       I have known only a handful of such leaders: My mentor and colleague Homer who I knew from Geneva days 25 years ago is one of them; My friend David who I am privileged to spend time with nowadays is another one.
       These people are leaders not because they have to be, they are leaders because God elevates people to positions of authority as they humble themselves.
       From my perspective this is true greatest.

25 October 2010

On Heroic Leadership

This week I am going to start to read two books with identical titles. They are both called, "Heroic Leadership." The first is by Chris Lowney and focuses on the leadership of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits. My friend Brian Rice of Leadership Connextions has turned me onto Ignatius and his exercises.
       The second book was published in the past 4 or months and is by William Cohen. The sub-title is "Leading with Integrity and Honor." Cohen is a retired Major General of the U.S. Air Force. This book is his 54th published work!
       Cohen looks at heroic leadership in military contexts and how those characteristics and lessons can be applied to other situations such as in corporations and non-profits.
       I love reading about heroic leaders. They inspire me and call me to a level of living that is truly fulfilling.
       To observe a leader who is humble, self-less, full of integrity, true to his or her own core values ... is thoroughly life-giving to me. Christian organizations and the Church need many more heroic leaders.

24 October 2010

Max DePree on Movements

Max DePree was the CEO of Herman Miller furniture in Michigan. He has also chair of the Board of Trustees at Fuller Seminary for many years. From my perspective DePree is one of the greatest servant leaders of the 20th century.
       In 1997 DePree wrote a little book called, "Leading Without Power." It did not get much press, did not sell too many copies. I found it profound at the time, and even more appropriate in 2010.
       Here is what DePree has to say about "Movements," something that is spoken about a lot these days and is the new cool thing in Christian mission circles.
"A movement is a collective state of mind, a public and common understanding that the future can be created, not simply experienced or endured. Many of us never have the good fortune to belong to suh a group, where becoming is a way of living and working together.
       Movement are easier to recognize from the inside. There is a harmony in relationships and a constructive conflict of ideas. There is a palpable unity as the people there implement their vision. There is a rhythm of innovation and renewal. There's a sense of urgency - movements are never casual. Alongside the normal tensions of organized life, there is a high level of trust."
So the question is, Have you ever been part of something that is TRULY a movement? Hmmmm.....

23 October 2010

Josh Hamilton Inspires Me!

Josh Hamilton is the centerfielder for the Texas Rangers baseball team, which just won the American League pennant and will play in the baseball world series.
       If you ever wonder if a person is beyond redemption, beyond hope, then you need to know the story of Hamilton. If I did not believe in God his story would cause me to do so.
       Here is his story as told to ESPN some time ago. Click HERE to be blown away!
       I'm pulling for the Rangers in the World Series because of Hamilton. You go Josh!

21 October 2010

A Holocaust's Survivor

A couple of days ago I heard Marion Blumenthal Lazan speak at Cortland State. She is a Holocaust survivor, having been born near Hannover, Germany, deported to the Westerbrook detention center in Holland when she was 4 years old, and then being transferred to Bergen Belsen. She was 9 years old when she was liberated. She has written a book, Four Perfect Pepples, about her life in the camps.
       The more I listen to Holocaust survivors (at least Jewish ones) the more I hear similar themes. Blumenthal was typical:
* First, the experience was horrifyingly dehumanizing on so many levels.
* Second, there are small parts to her story when God's mercy was incredibly evident, even though she credited it to luck or chance.
Third, she has not forgiven the people who caused her so much suffering.
       After the session I hung around for a while and wanted to chat with her. She had been signing books for about an hour and I watched her be incredibly generous and engaging with the Cortland State students. She posed for photo after photo with each of them.
       So there I was with Marion Blumenthal, who today lives on Long Island with her husband Nathaniel. Only about 30 minutes from where I grew up.
       I asked her if she thought Simon Wiesenthal had ever forgiven the German officer, as recounted in the book The Sunflower (Marion had referenced this in her talk). She stared down at the table, pensive, turned to me with a sad expression of resignation, and slowly said, "How could he? I don't think he could ever forgive that Nazi officer."
       I responded, "Even though the German officer, on his death bed, confessed to his sin and expressed his deep remorse and how long he was?"
       "Yes," Marion responded, "even then he cannot be forgiven."

19 October 2010

The Church that keeps chugging along!

Last night I had an evening at Grace Christian Fellowship, my home church from 25 years ago, to give an update on my family, ministry, and to talk about Islam in Europe. Some 40 people showed up, which is about twice as many as I thought would! A lot of the people I know by face but not by name. Wonderful folks.
       I love GCF - its people, its vision, its history, elders, staff. The church has stood with us as partners in ministry for 25 years! A quarter century! Investing in the Kingdom of God through us - impacting the world in Geneva, Budapest, Amsterdam, beyond.
       I love the spirit of the people at GCF - down-to-earth, kind, steadfast. The best man from my wedding and his family have lived in Cortland all these years and are part of GCF. On Sunday Dan and I spent time walking around the 12-acre piece of land his family bought recently and will develop over the coming years. I got in "on the ground floor" of this new vision for this family!
       GCF is a church on mission. They have been for a lot of years. It's a really solid community, a pretty typically structured church. Nothing really flashy about them. And that's what is so powerful. They are there to serve Christ and to bless people.
       So, dear friends at GCF, I love you guys and count it a privilege to be a missionary of the church.

18 October 2010

German Chancellor Merkel Speaks

Check out this strong statement about the failure of Europe to integrate people into their cultures in the past 50 years - a major stance against Islam in Europe:

Click HERE.

17 October 2010

Autumn in Central New York

I am not the most observant person of nature. Beauty in nature often does little for my soul - not sure why. One exception is when I come to Central New York each Autumn and observe trees turning colors.

16 October 2010

Slowing Down in Small Town America

I spent yesterday driving around small towns in the Adirondack Mountains with my friend Jim. We had a wonderful time together – stopping at a self-service pumpkin patch, visiting the General Stores in a couple of villages, going to the Friday Fish Fry at the Oxbow Inn.
       It was a day for an entirely different pace for us – city guys that we are. Small town America is so unique –
* It is truly QUIET here
* People know each other’s names and tell each other (their) stories of life
* Inanimate objects – such as buildings and tractors and plows and houses and parts – are a major topic of conversations
* I realize how tense and fast-paced I live because of the context with unhurried small town living
       As attractive as these small towns are in some ways, I probably could not live in one of them. The town of Piseco, NY has about 250 voters, according to the waitress at the Oxbox Inn last night. There was 4 times this number in my church in Amsterdam! Somehow I think living alongside only 250 people would be a bit claustrophic for me.

15 October 2010

A few days of fun

Yesterday I drove about 200 miles from northern New Jersey to Cortland (New York). I headed west along Interstate 80, drove through the Pomono Mountains, and turned north on Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania and came to Cortland. It is a spectacular drive at this time of year - changing colors of trees from green to bright red and orange, to yellow to brown.
       Today I have some more fun - I'm driving to Utica (about 90 miles north of Cortland) and picking up my friend Jim. Together we will go to Piseco Lake in the Adirondacks where his mother has owned a cabin for many years. We will spend an overnight together - rumor is we will go to the local Fish Fry on Friday night, probably drink a Genny Cream Ale at a local pub. Great fun!

14 October 2010

A Bagel in New Jersey

There is nothing quite like having a bagel made in the greater New york City area. Best bagels in the world in my opinion. The myth is that it has something to do with the water here, which makes very little sense because I think New York City water is pretty dirty.
       I don't really care too much about WHY on this matter. All I know is thatI am sitting in Oakland, New Jersey at my friend Ed and Ann's place and feel like I am in Bagel Heaven. Ann bought fresh bagels from some local place. Put on a bit of schmeer, have a good cup of coffee from the fancy-dancy coffee machine, now I am ready for the drive to Cortland, NY.
       Oh, by the way, I did not come to NJ just to eat bagels! The seminar last night at Emergence on Islam in Europe went very well. Great interact, comments, and questions from people. Really engaged group. It was a good day.

13 October 2010

Today at Emergence in New Jersey

People say that Paris (and France actually) is the "graveyard of church planters" in Europe. If there is a graveyard of church growth and church planting in America it would have to be the Northeastern states - New York, New Jersey, most of the New England states.
       It is arguably as difficult to get a hearing for the gospel in the Northeast of the U.S. as it is in most European cities. That's why I am so honored to know a handful of churches in the Northeast that are full of grace and truth and love and mercy. To borrow a phrase from one of them, they are "plowing a counter-culture."
       One of these communities - called Emergence - is in Wayne, New Jersey. I'm facilitating a discussion today at their mid-week gathering on "Islam in Europe." It starts at 7:30 pm. Come out if you are in the area.
Steve H (left) and Ryan B @ Emergence
If you are like me (a good Northeastern guy from Long Island), "church" is kind of a weird thing. In one sense it's totally normal if you come from a traditional Catholic or Protestant background. But even then, most younger people have left religion behind long ago. I know that's the case where I grew up.
       So, for my friends and strangers somewhat close to Wayne, NJ, you should know that Emergence is weird but in a really good way. It's down-to-earth, not stuffy, people have doubts there, the pastors wear jeans (see photo) as does everyone else. If you don't have a regular church home, and if you have questions about faith in God, check out Emergence on a Sunday. They meet at 9:00, 10:15, 11:30 am and at 6:00pm. All the services are the same.
       OK that's enough preaching for this blog!

12 October 2010

Tomorrow I Head East

Tomorrow I leave for my annual trek to Central New York. I try to go to Cortland the second week of October every year. Here's one reason - nature's beauty at this time of year. Have a look ...

11 October 2010

02 October 2010

Iranians and the Kingdom of God

A couple of weeks ago I had a phone conversation with my friend Wes who is a church planter in Glasgow, Scotland. He told me about a number of Iranian asylum seekers who have come to faith in Jesus.
       Quite the amazing tale indeed!
       Here is an excerpt from a newsletter of one of the team members of the church plant: Building friendships through community meals and football (soccer) sponsored by a
local church in the northeast part of Glasgow, several Muslim Iranians accepted our invitation
to join our church gatherings on Sundays. They continued to come along for the community
and care that they received, and took an interest in this Jesus that we spoke so passionately
I’m thrilled to share that this summer we saw three of them accept Christ and get
baptized… and they simply can’t get enough church, Bible study, or Jesus!!! Their joy in
Christ is humbling and I can barely type this without weeping. They want to be discipled
and trained to share Christ w/ their ‘Iranian brothers,’ and I’m starting a bi-monthly Bible
study with them to help in the areas of growth and evangelism!!!
       Here is a few photos of the Iranians:

01 October 2010

Back to Blogging

I have had some significant times of travel in September - Los Angeles, Spokane, and most recently to Amsterdam and Madrid for 10 days. So I have taken a hiatus from blogging.
I am now back at it and will be posting regularly - I hope. Please check in to see what's happening.