Mission Possible

One of my “minor” projects this summer was participating in the making of this trailer for Luther Seminary. In so many ways this was out of my comfort zone, yet the people (at Luther and outside) put us all at ease and made it fun.

Why did I do it? Well, as you will see, it is not because I believe I have a budding acting career or that I’ve always wanted to have a role in a Tom Cruise movie. I did it for two reasons. First, I think most of us (at least those of us over 21) take ourselves too seriously. So pushing our limits and imagination is good every now and then, and to top it off, we could all use more fun in our life. This project was serious and playful at the same time. Second, I do believe in the project – and that we as Christian public leaders have a mission and it is possible. I will say more about this next Wednesday, as I get to preach on this topic in chapel (tune into Luther Seminary chapel at 11:00 am Central time if you want), but for now it is enough to say: God invites all of us – pastors, church staff, lay people, moms and dads, kids and grandparents – to be ambassador’s of God’s love. We do that in big ways and small ways; from pulpits and at the playground. This mission is not about growing a church, or a seminary, it is about creating a movement of love in our world. #LutherSemGive

Enough for now, I’m off to my real job…teaching!

Turning

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As the leaves on the trees begin to turn vibrant shades of yellow and orange and the sun sets on September, I’m reluctantly letting go of summer and reflecting on these past few months, in particular my 51 biking adventures throughout Minnesota.

Some of you know what I am talking about; I’ve done a lot of biking this summer and conned many of you into joining me. But for those that don’t know, here’s the scoop.

In June, days before my 52nd birthday, I was out riding my bike and was reminded of all the great places we have to bike here in the Twin Cities. So I decided, on a whim really, that it was time to explore these many and varied bike routes in the state of MN. So the next day I called my parents and invited them to join me and my daughter for a ride. That day we rode the Greenway and Cedar Lakes trails, I took a photo, posted it in Instagram, and bike #2 was in the books. The adventure had begun.

My goal was 52 different rides, and my only rule was I had to bike different routes each time. Because my “normal” mode of biking was training for races (usually on the same course) this goal seemed pretty lame, maybe even weak, but starting simple I figured I could build from there.

The first few rides were easy, as I tried out some of the paths I knew but hadn’t ridden for awhile. But it wasn’t long before I needed to expand my horizons. So, I did two things: got some maps – one of which I marked each route after my ride – and I talked with people. To my goal and rule, I discovered I needed to add something else – a postureexplorer mode! Explorer mode was about being open, and required both doing research and trying new things along the way. Sometimes explorer mode helped me find new trails and beautiful park reserves, sometimes it was forced on me by construction and detours. At times it was the result of being at a fork in the road “and taking the one less traveled.” A few times it brought me to a dead end. Overall explore mode opened up new territory and the desire to visit again.

This goal, rule, and posture helped me develop a new skilladaptability. Adapting became central to everything and helped me reframe all kinds of situations. For example, I learned to adapt my expectation of time – what started as “oh this route will only take me an hour” often turned into 90 minutes plus travel time. Therefore as the summer progressed I learned to leave the end time open so I didn’t feel pressure. I also learned to adapt to the surroundings – a popular trail on a Saturday morning has more traffic than a less popular one on Monday morning; roads are slower than paths; and feeling rain in the air usually means a storm is brewing. And biking with people and by myself are different, so I learned to adapt my pace to be in sync with those I was traveling with. Some days I pushed it with hard core bikers and other days I had a leisurely ride with people more interested with what’s going on around them. The whole continuum was fine with me, because in the end, it was great to bring people into the adventure with me.

Practicing this skill help me name a second rulehave fun! Be it a solo ride along the river on a 90 degree day or an outing with relatives “up north” or chatting with a friend while going around the lakes, I wanted, personally and for my fellow adventurers, to enjoy the ride and remember something good about the adventure. (And I learned it is really OK to have fun be a rule!)

Saturday is bike #52100 miles around the greater Twin Cities. Most of the trails I will already have been on sometime this summer; a few connecting roads/trails will be new. A few of you may see me in your neighborhood, feel free to join in a few miles if you like, but know this…Minnesota is a great state for biking and invites us all into various adventures. This summer, biking was mine.

I’ll share more about the lessons I learned this summer…and give some links to great trails near and far…but until then I invite you to enjoy the turning of summer into fall and to wonder about your own adventures.

Ready or not…

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I’m not ready.

As the sun set tonight, so does summer 2016.

As the sun rises tomorrow, another season begins.

Three of us will head off to school bright and early. A new schedule, new weekly rhythm. New students to meet; new learnings to discover; new goals to attain. This new season is exciting and it comes with its own joys. Yet tonight it is not the future I’m concerned about, it is what’s past and unfinished.

The summer house projects are not done, in fact we have piles of dirt and landscaping rock in the driveway waiting for their permanent home in our front yard.  I have more bike paths to explore and want more hot summer nights. The weather has been beautiful. And there are the writing projects that aren’t yet complete. As a person who loves checking items off my list, my summer checklist isn’t done. I am not ready for summer to come to a close. Yet ready or not, here it comes.

Tonight dreams for this season, and the images I had of summer 2016, all move from hopes to memories … from what’s ahead to what has past. Sure, there were great parts of the summer. Big moments, like watching the Olympics, having a family reunion, and going on a mission trip to Louisville. And there were fun, ordinary days, like biking around the Cities, impromptu fires in the backyard with college kids, and going to Twins games. But this day is always melancholy for me. The melancholy comes not from the value of the summer (the summer can be great or awful, it doesn’t matter). The melancholy comes from the passing of it.

You see summer is my favorite season and it is always hard parting ways. The sun rises later and sets earlier, the jackets come out and the leaves turn brilliant colors, and the hours of my day have more demands in the fall. Soon enough I will come to embrace the gift of fall, but tonight I recognize the end of another chapter, another summer season come and gone. And unlike  the shift from fall to winter or winter to spring, the change from summer to fall can be marked on my calendar. Scheduled, yet still abrupt, summer concludes on Labor Day. This year it ended with four of us gathered around the table for dinner, a Netflix  movie, and an early bedtime.

Thanks summer 2016 for the lessons you taught me, the space you let me explore, and for the many people I shared memorable moments with. The memories are stored in my phone and in my soul. To all who were apart of it in some big or small way, thank you.

 

Anyone, and everyone, can lead!

This afternoon I have the privilege of spending time with the camp counselors at Green Lake Ministries. For those who don’t know, Green Lake Ministries has three camp sites, two in southern MN and one in northern MN. Over the years I have known many people who have served in this ministry in some capacity. They entered with a role, short-term or long-term, a heart of Jesus, passion for serving God and eager to be a leader in outdoor ministry. The completed their time of service, months or years, more deeply rooted in faith, with Christian community supporting them, and with enhanced leadership skills for serving God’s church.

What can I say to these 50 adults preparing for another exciting summer of ministry? What difference can I make? What word can I share that, sometime in July when they are tired or next October when they are lonely and questioning faith, will be remembered and matter?

Bottomline – nothing! So rather than be profound, or offer the top ten things outdoor ministry leaders need to know, I’m going to say this – You are already a leader! You have already received a call. Now live into it! Everyone is called to be a leader, because in our world today living a Christian way of life, following Jesus and loving our neighbor and caring about the world God created, is being a leader. Sure some of us lead on a small scale and others lead on a larger scale. Some of us see ourselves as leaders, others of us just call it being a disciple of Jesus. And leading can happen anywhere – at any time.

I’m hoping, at the end of my 90 minutes, a growing number of people in the room believe they are called to lead and that it is not about them, but about God working in and through them. And it might seem odd, at times, or it might feel awesome. That actually doesn’t matter. Leading is seeing an opportunity, an opening to make the world more like the world God imagines it to be, and then going for it. Doing something, being with someone, recognizing someone, praying for peace even in the midst of suffering or violence. All of us, 15 months, 15 years, 50 years, can lead. Will you?

As I was doing some last minute prep, I opened my computer and Facebook came up. I scrolled through and stumbled on two videos that made this point real. If you need encouragement, or a push, today, take some time and watch these stories of two people offering up a bit of themselves for others. It’s amazing.

Your story could be next!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FCBS5AZ%2Fvideos%2Fvb.175637412461671%2F1411639895528077%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=560

The other is about a man who was having a bad day and was moved to buy a women sitting in her car in the parking lot flowers. (If you can find the link, post it or send it to me.)

And if you want the notes from my presentation, you can get them here:

http://wp.me/P3aRO2-rD

 

 

refine

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For the past several years I have decided on a word that would guide me throughout the year. Based on that word I set goals – annually, quarterly, and monthly – and each day I record one or two things I did that day to advance my goals. At the end of each month, each quarter, and the end of the year I reflect on my actions in relationship to my goals. It’s not a public practice (although I’m currently letting the cat out of the bag), but every now and then I find it helpful to talk about it with other leaders. Today is one of those days.

My word for 2016 is refine. There are several questions I use to make decisions about things that will have longer-term effects on my life. The questions are nice to have because often times I have to make important decisions in a short amount of time and from these questions I can easily rule out some opportunities and just as easily say yes to others. (It’s the middle ones that I struggle with – and often that alone is a sign it’s maybe not the right thing.)

In the past two days I have exercised my questions and made decisions that helped me refine my work. Ironically, the work is not in my paid job, but centers around places I volunteer my time and gifts. One was a yes to a new role, which meant leaving another role; one was a decision to simply step away. One decision I knew was coming, another came unexpectedly. Both feel good and align with my goals for this year and the places I want to make an impact.

I share this with you not to brag or build myself up, but as a leadership lesson I am working on. To truly lead, leaders have to have a sense of direction. For many of us, that direction use to come from external sources – employers, community organizations, family expectations. Today we lead in a world that has flattened and become more complex. Many of us know our employers will be only one area where we can make a difference, so we also invest our time and energy in other places. Many of us see our homes and families as places to experiment and reimagine family life and meaning. And many of us know that our world provides opportunities to lead outside of our work and our homes, and we capitalize on those opportunities. But in that, we can become confused, overwhelmed, and stressed. Having focus certainly helps us navigate all the arenas in our life with purpose and meaning.

I don’t have a neat and tidy way of making decisions. But I have developed some habits for making short-term and long-term decisions that allow me to lean into the places most meaningful for me as a leader, as a mom, and as a person of faith.

I’d love to know if you have developed some simple processes or tools that help you. Share them in the comments below and we can all learn from each other.

 

Reset in New Jersey

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For the past 3 days, over thirty church leaders from Lutheran and Episcopalian congregations reimagining confirmation. We explored our driving questions as ministry leaders, we wondered about the driving questions of God’s people in the past, and we named the brokenness and joys of our world…all before we started talking about confirmation. Then we engaged theconfirmationproject.com research, especially the portraits of multiple approaches to confirmation with various purposes and talked with youth themselves. We prayed together, celebrated the Lord’s supper, gathered for conversation over food and drink, and became one expression of Christian community.

Today, we return home. On one level, not much will change. Many will lead confirmation ministry tonight in their home congregations. Many are preparing sermons for Sunday. And then there are the committee meetings, administrative details, and pastoral care needs to attend to. On one level it will look the same.

But on a deeper level, we leave knowing the church is changing and believe God is in the midst of it. We are renewed for another week, month, season of ministry. Scattering across the Northeast this afternoon, we know there are kindred spirits wrestling with similar ideas, praying for the real needs of the world and our churches, and open to God’s promises breaking in. And on that level, we are not the same. Hope lurks like spring on our doorstep. It longs to find a home in us. And we long for it, just as we are uncertain that the winter winds are done with us.

Today, I invite all of us to pray for our youth, our world, and our churches as we navigate this change of season.

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Let the Summit Begin!

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We are the church and today we are living into our calling!

Today I join 40 people, from 40 networks, to discuss, imagine, and pray for faith formation within the ELCA. Our goal for the next two days is to connect, align, and collaborate existing initiatives in the ELCA around faith formation ministry working with children, youth, young adults, and their families in order to cultivate a culture of faith formation within our church, congregations, and ministries.

We have been having formal and informal conversation about this for years. We have prayed for coordination, leadership, and support around such work. And today…we take these conversations a step further. Please pray for us in these next two day…and the months and years ahead.

Follow the conversation online – #formingfaithelca

Safe Containers

I have been working on a book project studying congregations and nonprofits innovating and experimenting. What a great project in these changing times. I love hearing the stories of leaders and congregations/nonprofits leading with faith and hope.

One of our findings was these communities gave a lot of attention to cultivating community and attending relationships. It sounds so simple, and perhaps obvious, but this finding highlights both the importance of relationships in our lives and how we hunger and thirst for such spaces in our lives.

Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability lifts up the importance of not only relationships, but also spaces, or as she calls them safe containers, for us to be our selves. Be it our home spaces, work spaces, or schools, we need safe spaces to discover who we are, our ability to lead, and for us to learn.

I invite you to watch this great video on safe containers and then commit to cultivating some safe container in your life.

And then … LIFE

Here I sit, on the other side of Easter. No more Lent, no more focusing on despair, no more walking to the cross. So now what?

The theme for our Easter sermon on Sunday was life, like living…actual heart-beating in our chest living. Before worship I went on an early morning walk and noticed life – spring sprouting, worms on the sidewalk, grass turning green. It’s hard to miss it, yet we do, rather I do, all the time.

So what would living, like really living look like in your world these days? If death had no hold on you, what would change in your life?

I’m not sure I know what that looks like for me yet, but I do know I’d risk more, I’d spend more time working together with others for the common good, and I’d listen to other people’s stories (because most people have very interesting stories).

Each of these ideas surfaced as I surfed Facebook and these videos caught my attention. Maybe, on this side of Easter, they might get your attention too.

http://blog.ed.ted.com/2016/03/24/how-educators-can-apply-innovation-methodology-in-everyday-projects/