June 12th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Today is Loving Day!

Mildred Loving, born Mildred Jeter, began dating her husband, Richard Loving, when she was just 11 years old and Richard was 17. In the early years of their marriage, Mildred and Richard were arrested several times together. The reason? Mildred was black and Richard was white. In 1958 it was illegal for them to be married in the state of Virginia. Apparently, Virginia has not always been for lovers.

Threatened with  imprisonment, the Loving’s changed history when they challenged the Constitutionality of Virginia’s marriage laws and in 1967 won the day when the Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. From that day forward, every state, including those in the south which had laws forbidding it, were required to recognize interracial marriage.

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

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Posted in change
November 9th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Once again…again…I returned to Walter Brueggemann’s  “Prayers for a Privileged People” during my morning reading/devotional. I found this prayer meaningful today. For what reason, I do not know.

A Prayer of Protest

Since our mothers and fathers cried out,

since you heard their cries and noticed,

since we left the brick production in Egypt,

since you foiled the production schedules of Pharaoh,

we have known your name,

we have sensed your passion,

we have treasured your vision of justice.

And now we turn to you again

whose precious name we know.

We turn to you because there are

still impossible production schedules,

still exploitative systems,

still cries of pain at injustice,

still cheap labor that yields misery.

We turn to you in impatience and exasperation,

wondering, “How long?” before you answer

our pleading question,

how our petition,

since you are not a labor boss and do not set wages.

We bid you, stir up those who can change things;

do your stirring in the jaded halls of government;

do your stirring in the cynical offices of corporations;

do your stirring amid the voting public too anxious to care;

do your stirring in the church that thinks too much about

purity and not enough about wages.

Move, as you moved in ancient Egyptian days.

Move the waters and the flocks and the herds

toward new statutes and regulations,

new equity and good health care,

new dignity that cannot be given on the cheap.

We have known now long since,

that you reject cheap grace;

even as we now know that you reject cheap labor.

You, God of injustice and dignity and equity,

keep the promises you bodied in Jesus,

that the poor may be first-class members of society,

that the needy may have good care and respect,

that the poor earth may rejoice in well-being,

that we may all come to Sabbath rest together,

the owner and the worker,

the leisure class and the labor class,

all at peace in dignity and justice,

not on the cheap, but good measure,

pressed down,

running over…forgiven.

Posted in change, church
July 18th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

A Needed And Important Repost:


Sooner or later every leader will have to deal with someone – or a group of someone’s – who are reflexively oppositional. Most of us know what to look for, but if you don’t, here are a few profiles.

  • The person who is against every idea, sometimes even their own.
  • The person who when presented with a any idea, first tells you all the obstacles or hurdles involved.
  • The person who during the implementation phase of anything new determines, at the first glitch, that the entire program is unworkable.

I could give you more, but you get the idea. There are some folks, that no matter what, will react negatively to any and ever idea, proposal or change. In a certain way, these folks can be helpful. We all need people who can look down the road and help us avoid some of the pitfalls. But mostly, without redirection, the reflexively oppositional are a drain our emotions, progress, and morale. As a leader, you need to know that the reflexively oppositional exist; they will curtail and undercut any opportunities for growth and development and then ultimately blame the leader when things don’t get better. If one thing is true about the reflexively oppositional, it’s that nothing is ever their fault. Now that you know that, what should you do? Here are a few ideas:


  1. Teach! Believe it or not, many of the reflexively oppositional have never been taught to brainstorm and develop ideas. Find a conference or teacher that can help Negative Nellies how to brainstorm. In the short term, at your next meeting, ask your team to bring $20 in $1 bills and you bring a large bowl. During the brainstorming session, whenever someone says, “we can’t…” or “that won’t…” they have to put $1 into the bowl. After about 6-months use the money to do something fun with your staff or buy gifts.
  2. Redirect! I did this just this week. When a new idea or initiative is proposed, make sure that positive comments are shared. As my wife says, “Any dumb dog can tell you why something won’t work.” Ask your team to give you 5 positive and possibilities before they can say anything negative. When someone complains, stop them, and say, “Now tell me something positive about __________.” People aren’t wired to think this way, so we have to be constantly redirected. The people on your team that can’t ever be positive will learn that you’re not a worthwhile destination for the negative.
  3. Project. As a leader, you must focus on projecting the positive. Sit down with a journal or notebook and map out all the successes you and your team have had, then remind people of them. This past week, I sat down and listed the successes we’ve had in my brief at Redwood Church – building renovation, incredible small group launch, Men’s Fraternity, reconnection with our mission point in Haiti, relaunched Women’s ministry, increased mid-week attendance, Sunday morning message discipline,  etc…. These efforts required prayer, time and hard work. Don’t lose them to the archives of memory. Keep them close to inspire you and your team.
  4. Give it Over. Many of the reflexively oppositional are so because they feel they are never listened to or don’t have enough influence in the organization. Give it to them. Give them a large responsibility and the freedom to run with it. Many an oppositional worker has been humbled by the experience of having to lead and produce something from beginning to end. Handing over responsibility allows them to unleash their full potential. And you never know, they may be a lion of a leader who just needed an opportunity. For this to work though, they have to be responsible for all aspects of a project. It’s easier to gripe when you’re only responsible for 6% of a project. Give it over.
  5. Hire Differently. The simple truth is that you don’t want to work with everyone, regardless of their competence or lack thereof. If you’re in an industry that requires innovation or if you’re a possibility thinker, you MUST surround yourself with the same kind of people. You’re looking for “What if…” people, not “We can’t people.” We can’t people have never innovated an industry, grown a market-share or otherwise changed the world. You don’t want them! During the hiring process ask outlandish questions and see what responses you get.

The Reflexively Oppositional will always be with us, it’s our challenge to manage them well. Many Debbie Downers are critical-thinkers that organizations need, but their comments and affect need to be harnesses. Hopefully, leaders can help one another out.

How do you handle the reflexively oppositional in your organization? If, like me, you have been oppositional in your past, how did you break free?


June 22nd, 2012 | 3 Comments »

As a congregant you have a significant role to play in helping your preacher preach better. In the last post, we talked about time and the effect lack of time can have on sermon preparation. Think about this: After Seinfeld went off television, Jerry Seinfeld decided to retire all his old stand-up material (watch the movie, “Comedian”). He spent the next year crafting a new act. After a year, Seinfeld had 30-minutes worth of material.


Guess what? Your preacher does 30 minutes every week!

Could he or she speak shorter? Probably. But here’s my point: Many of us have been in church so long that we’ve forgotten or never understood what we were asking of our preacher in terms of the speech act itself. Your preacher, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, can’t simply use the same “material” over and over again and be effective. Read the sermons in the book of Acts. They are strikingly similar and mercifully short. Churches asks their minister to speak a fresh word every week and sometimes to speak multiple fresh words throughout the week. Hear me correctly, this isn’t a preacher complaining about his job. Complaining is fruitless. It is, however, one preacher asking you to help your preacher preach better by understanding what they are up against.

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March 12th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

Reconciliation is the heart of the gospel. People have tried to have me think it’s something different. They’ve tried to tell me it’s about answers to 16th Century theo/political questions. They’ve tried to tell me it’s about saving the American family. They’ve tried to tell me it’s about 5 acts of worship. They’ve tried to tell me it’s about sin. They’ve left me unconvinced!

It’s about reconciliation. God reconciles us to Himself so that we can be reconciled to one another. It’s full-circle reconciliation!

Why do I believe this? Because the central issue at play in the New Testament is reconciliation; the bringing together of Jew and Gentile. This is in the backdrop of all of Paul’s letter and the overarching context of why he writes. It was Paul’s great work.

The apostle writes in Ephesians, for example, about why Jesus came to earth. He writes in 2:14, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,  and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

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