Parallel Universes July 29, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Core Values, Integrity, Religion in the U.S., serving those in need.
Tags: Christian Community, Stewardship, Values
I sat listening to two older couples talking at my favorite coffee shop. I was working on a presentation for an Urban Ministry Strategy seminar I will be attending next week, and I have been immersed in the demographic and ethnographic realities of poor inner city life for a few weeks. Plowing through statistics on poverty, crime, domestic abuse, and violence among youth perhaps made me more sensitive to the musings of my older companions. One gentleman was talking about a bad investment he made that resulted in losses around $3,000. He lamented that it was “irritating, but just a drop in the bucket.” The woman from the other couple replied in consolation, “Well, we spent more than twice that on our recent vacation!” I sat wondering what percentage of our population would find the loss/spending of $3,000-$6,000 just a drop in their bucket? I have been reading case after case where a few hundred dollars is often all that divides the housed from the homeless, the fed from the starving, the doctored from those with no medical healthcare. I also wonder about all those who have $3,000 to lose with little more than a yawn, and how willing they are to share with those for whom $3,000 is a sizeable portion of their annual income?
Too Busy to Learn July 12, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian Education, Church Leadership, Congregational Life, Critical Thinking, spiritual practices.
Tags: anti-intellectualism, Christian Community, Church Leadership, Spiritual seekers, Values
Yesterday, I had the great honor to launch a new learning academy in our annual conference — something we have been talking about for a long time, but for a variety of reasons couldn’t get launched earlier. We are attempting a conference-wide, ongoing Leadership Learning Academy for clergy and laity that focuses in four broad areas: spiritual leadership development, congregational vitality, relational excellence, and cultural competency. As a flagship training, we are looking at Small Groups for Transformation — training trainers to teach effective small group process. This isn’t a formulaic “seven easy steps to small group ministry,” but a college level deep dive into lifelong learning, developmental theory, group dynamics, facilitation, and communication. The first class was a blast for me — I had a great time. It is small — seven students on the first go-round — and I haven’t received feedback from everyone, but at least three of the participants thought it was great. Not just enjoyable/popular great, but beneficial/valuable great (which is always a concern of mine — sometimes confusing popularity for value…). But even more telling than those who said “yes” to participate are those who have been asked but had to say “no”.
The form of the “nos” come in three varieties:
- This is really great and I want to participate but I am simply too busy.
- I am glad we are getting serious about learning, but this topic has no interest for me.
- I have better things to do with my time.
Each of these answers trigger a response in me, and please hear that I am receiving all three as legitimate and acceptable answers, but they raise issues and thoughts in my head. I share the thoughts through a series of questions and comments.
Live Together the Fruit of the Spirit June 25, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Uncategorized.
With this week’s lectionary reading from Galatians, I am receiving numerous requests for the use of this hymn. Consider this express, written permission to reproduce and use. Click on the hymn for a downloadable, reprintable .pdf. (Oh, and my name is Dan R. Dick, not Dan K. Dick…)
The Joy of Learning June 13, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian Education.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Christian Education, Learning
One of the major changes made to the Wisconsin Annual Conference gathering each June is the addition of a learning day. It is ironic how much resistance I met when I first suggested the idea (“that’s not what people come to conference for,” “people won’t want to add an extra day to conference,” “nobody will be interested in workshops at annual conference,” etc.) considering how popular it has become in just 3 years. The first year we had about 125 show up, the second year we topped 300 and this year we had 600+. Originally, learning day was to be the first day of conference, but it got changed to the last day — a move that met with the universal opinion that no one would stay for it, thus it was doomed. Well, nanner, nanner, nah, nah — lots of people came and lots of people loved it. I am already getting calls asking what will be offered next year.
Wisconsin has a very odd and confusing view of learning. Our clergy vehemently fought to reduce required continuing education to next to nothing (1 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credit a year = 10 total contact hours and can be achieved by reading one (1!) book of the individual’s own choosing…) and both clergy and laity attend workshops to collect certificates — but they don’t do anything with what they learn (I met a woman at our conference this year who proudly told me she completed her twelfth advanced lay speakers/servants course. When I asked how she was using what she learned, she looked at me like I was crazy and told me, “I’m not going to lead anything, I just love taking the classes!”)
The Contentment Decision May 31, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Faith Sharing, spiritual practices, Values
I have been reading some interesting studies recently that confirm research I’ve done in The United Methodist Church on morale, satisfaction and contentment: our happiest people are happy by choice, not by chance. This is a hard message for people who live from a basic victim mentality who feel the world is against them and that they simply cannot be content in a world that treats them so poorly — but luckily, this is a tiny minority (though quite loud!) that does not represent the whole. Most people are passive and reactive, not understanding the power they have to choose their emotional state. While the majority do not feel victimized, they do feel that the conditions of their emotional well-being are beyond their control. Many resist the idea that they are responsible for their own happiness, but apparently it’s true. Among those who self-report contentment, happiness and satisfaction — as well as those identified as happy or content by others — an overwhelming percentage (between 80-90%) report making a conscious decision to be happy, positive, and joyful. The source of contentment for the truly content is internal, not external — they do not expect the world to bend over backwards to make them happy; true happiness comes from within.
Leadership Made “E”-z May 23, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Uncategorized.
Okay, I hate hokey little mnemonic devices — even when they work. It is something in my wiring, and I hate it even more when I come up with them, so I apologize in advance. But as I have been preparing a number of presentations recently, I note with some alarm that my key principles are all starting with the letter “E”. And I don’t consider these lightweight principles that need to be twisted into shape to fit the list. Check them out yourself, and see what you might add. Just remember kids, today’s letter is the letter “E”.
Why Is Peace So Hard? May 17, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Ecumenical & Interfaith Unity, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Unity, Values
I am writing today from Atlanta (Georgia, in case you were wondering) at the conclusion of the three-day Ecumenical Korea Peace Conference. This has been an amazing — and deeply educational — few days. I know the basics on the post-WWII Korean history — told from the United States perspective. I have been to Korea twice — once in 1994 and again in 2012. The growth and change in that eighteen years was unbelievable. I’ve been aware of the past couple years of “news” coming out of North Korea, and like most Americans have been deeply troubled. The I came here and talked to a whole lot of people from both North and South Korea. Incredible how little I actually know about anything Korean…
I have been exposed to a steady stream of partial information, mis-information, skewed information, facts and factoids, and a boatload of filtered and fabricated mythology about a country torn apart, divided, dis-integrated, and living in distress. Families separated two generations ago that to this day cannot be reunited without unbelievable sacrifice and hardship. My ignorance of the situation is much greater than my perceived knowledge. I mean, I know the Koreas are still “at war” — armistice is a far cry from peace, and a peace accord has never materialized, ending the Korean War. The need for a peace treaty is critical. And our current sanctions against North Korea are hurting all the wrong people. The sanctions are the most unChristian acts of a supposedly Christian country. None of these opinions have been impacted by this conference — other than to pump up the sense of urgency. No what I take away from this time is a clearer understanding of all the ways it has not been in our interests to end this conflict — we are making WAY too much money to actually work for peace. The demonizing and vilification of North Korea as a media coup is even more sickening than I expected. “Axis of Evil” anyone? Bad judgment and ignorance gets painted as insanity and evil — a much more compelling vision that keeps the misinformed flock glued to the news channels.
Muddled Maturity May 10, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Core Values, spiritual practices.
Tags: Christian Community, Christian discipleship, spiritual practices, Stewardship
Every once in a while I strike a chord — I have received emails daily about the past couple posts on “mature” Christian spirituality. It seems everyone wants to use their own personal spiritual level as the definition of maturity — which is very normal and human. If we could conceive of something better, we would be doing it. If we are doing something a particular way, it is because we believe it is the best way to do it. Every eight year-old in the world thinks he or she is doing eight exactly right. It isn’t until he or she turns nine that eight isn’t all that much. Every person is as mature as they can be in the moment — when we see more mature ways to engage, we grow into them. Maturity is a process, not a destination. The terms “less mature” and “more mature” are actually better than simply “mature” and “immature.” And maturity is not an “it” but a complex weaving of “its.” Let me explain:
Growth Imperative May 8, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Congregational Life, Core Values.
Tags: Christian Community, Christian discipleship, Spiritual seekers, Values
The Christian faith is about growth and maturing. In recent posts, I’ve talked about “mature” faith, and the response has been interesting. Many frame the term “mature” as judgmental, exclusive, and unkind — when compared to “less mature” or “immature.” But developmental and qualitative growth — improvement, strengthening, seasoning, evolving — is best described in terms of maturing. Indeed, there is a value judgment in assessing one behavior as mature against another as immature. Yet, we are all aware of the differences between a mature and an immature response to disappointment, failure, pain, or loss. The more mature response is generally very clear. It doesn’t mean an immature response is bad, it is simply… less mature.
And spiritual maturity is essential for a healthy spiritual relationship — with God, in Christian community, and with those we seek to serve and love. I have yet to find a congregation torn apart by maturity. The most toxic and destructive behaviors come from the least mature spiritually. Where a process for maturing is not provided, the less mature rule. And when the less mature call all the shots, it is amazing how “the mature” often respond — more often than not, like the spiritually immature. It seems that immaturity exerts a greater influence on maturity than maturity exerts in reverse. But this actually make sense — there are way more less mature than mature.
Fickle Fairyland Faith May 3, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Critical Thinking, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Faith Sharing, Myths
I won’t share the convoluted audit trail that leads to this post, but a series of unrelated incidents all point me back to this particular story. When I was in Nashville, I related to a young, well-meaning Christian who went from ultra-committed and ultra-pious to uber-atheist in the blink of an eye. When I was going through my own divorce, he invited me to lunch to try to talk me out of it. He patiently informed me that this was the most heinous of sins, I would never be forgiven nor forgive myself, that I was tempting God and risking eternal damnation. I honestly believe he was doing this from a deep well of concern and a weird form of kindness. He held a very clear and simple vision of Christian faith — do what is right and God will bless you; do what is wrong, and watch out!
It was not a full six months later that we sat together in reversed roles. He and his wife lost two children in a very short period of time — one to illness, one to depression and suicide — and the strain was too much for their marriage. They were engaged in a sad separation on their way to divorce. My young friend spat out his anger and frustration: “The IS NO God. If there were a loving God, He wouldn’t be doing this to me!” I tried to temper his responses, but it was no good. He was through with God, because God wasn’t treating him fairly. His life, when placid, calm and stable meant God was blessing him. His life turned upside down and filled with tragedy, pain and suffering meant there could be no God. There was nothing I could say that he wanted to hear. His myth of the fairyland called “faith” had been destroyed.