Ambrose, The Pacific

My friend Morgan lent me this book, part of the mini-series campagin about the second world war, in the pacific theater.  It is really a history of the war seen through the marines and a bit of the navy, with a little wee bit of the army thrown in.

It’s not the more popular and known part of the second world war, so it was interesting to me and I actually learned a lot.  It isn’t Band of Brothers part 2 either; the story has a whole different structure and reasoning.

It’s a little tedious at some points and takes about 100 pages to really get going, but the story is one that must be remembered and these vets suffered in ways we cannot even imagine.  This book will really move you and give you a new appreciation for the marines and for the men and women who have and do serve in the forces.

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Sloan, Flirting with Monasticism

Karen Sloan is a campus minister in Connecticut and a protestant who is conversant with monastic practices.  This book, Flirting with Monasticism: Finding God on Ancient Paths is a description of her journey of discovery into the world of monasticism and what she discovered there.

It is the first book I have read on monasticism written from a female perspective.  It was helpful me.  In a funny irony though, Sloan ended up flirting a lot with a specific monk and there was a romantic sub-story through the whole book that was just distracting.  All the same, this book had a lot of good material for someone interested in monasticism, its history and current practice and it’s relationship to the Christian faith.

Here’s some flirty quotes:

  • p.17, “Around eight hundred years ago, Dominic de Guzman…gathered and trained communities of priests and brothers to follow a monastic simplicity as itinerant preachers of the gospel…Ministering in urban settings often required intelligent and systematic explanations of faith, causing the well-educated Dominic to make sure those in the order studied extensively at the best universities in Europe.”
  • p.19, “a Dominican priest would ask me incredulously, ‘You mean you just showed up at seminary and started studying?’ “
  • p.131, “Those in orders are also keenly aware that parts of the life of faith are mysterious.  There cannot always be explanations, but only an invitation to enter the mystery.”
  • p.137, “all the people who said they had to do something else first when Jesus called them to follow Him, never ended up following Him.  Those who did follow, dropped everything and followed immediately.”

McNeal, Practicing Greatness

If Reggie McNeal writes a book I am reading it.  It’s that simple because Reggie McNeal is that much of a help to me.  Another bonus is that he is published by Leadership Network, which consistently puts out material that is helpful to me as a leader in our church.

This book, Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders is another great contribution from McNeal.  He calls leaders to humility, effectiveness, and a willingness to serve.  He describes the path to this description of greatness through the disciplines of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Self-Discipline, Mission, Decision Making, Belonging & Aloneness.  In the end McNeal will allow that leadership is a gift, some are born with it, some not so much; yet, being a great leader is an intentional choice, which, sadly, too may leaders opt out of.

Here’s some meaningful and encouraging quotes for you:

  • p. 1, “Humility derives from the leader’s awareness of where his or her source of strength lies…because greatness in the spiritual world cannot be pursued without cultivating God-consciousness”
  • p. 4, Great leaders didn’t “just have great hearts; they had great capacity to deliver.”
  • p. 4, “Great leaders bless people.  They inspire and encourage.  They help people become more than what they have been, maybe even more than they thought they could be.”
  • p.4, “Bad leaders are a form of evil…Bad leadership is not always the result of bad character or intentional malevolence.  It can result from simple incompetence.”
  • p.16, “Since leadership is mostly about managing relationships, this self-understanding proves crucial to leader’s effectiveness.”
  • p.26, “Great leaders can detail their call.  It is not guesswork for them, nor is it subject to revision, nor is it confined to a job description or the amount of salary it brings.”
  • p.36, The kinds of issues and situations that ministers deal with combined with the overwhelming desire to help people (a psychological component of many people drawn into the helping professions, including the ministry). brew the conditions conducive to depression.  This is why Archibald Hart, former dean of the School of Psychology at Fuller Seminary, often says that surviving the ministry is a matter of surviving depression.”
  • p.50, “Three ‘brain killers’ deserve special attention: (1) negative people, (2) disorganization, and (3) second-guessing decisions.”
  • p.65, “all leaders who engage in lifelong learning evidence two characteristics.  First, they are intentional about it…they know what they want to explore and have a strategy to get there.  Second, these leaders’ learning journeys are designed to expose them to new ideas…They devise new learning opportunities.”
  • p.122, Quantum physics provides the underlying scientific foundation for the postmodern world, just as Newtonian physics supplied the understanding of the universe that supported the modern era…Scientists of the quantum variety see the universe not as a giant thing but as a complex network of relationships.”

Maxwell, Leadership Gold

The last book I read in the mentoring network I was in with Nelson Searcy was this John Maxwell book called Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading.  My earliest experience with John Maxwell was at a conference where his main talk was ended with a repetition of ‘Breathe America, Breathe!’ which was apparently quite moving for the Americans in attendance, but confusing for the 10,000 Canadians at the same event.  It was awkwardly hilarious.

Notwithstanding this faux-paus, Maxwell is such a huge help to me and has a lifetime worth of small tips and tricks about leading and growing people so that they can be the amazing people that God dreams for them.  It helped me continue to shape my philosophy of leadership into more and more of a serving posture – where leadership is influence by asking, ‘How can I help you?’  I dream of making The Grove a church where we take people (and leaders) to the best, most effective place they have ever known – so that they become energizingly awesome and growth takes place (in people and in the church) because more and more people are asking, ‘How can I help you?’

It’s a great book if you don’t have time to read a bunch and want to polish and develop your leadership skills because of the short chapters and the straight to the point approach.  Each chapter also has action exercises and mentoring moments, along with online content.

Here’s a small bit of great quotes:

  • p.3, “Taking people to the top is what good leaders do.  Lifting people to a new level is a requirement for effective leadership.”
  • p.4, “Few leaders are successful unless a lot of people want them to be.”
  • p.4, To gain credibility, you must consistently demonstrate three things: Initiative (get up), Sacrifice (give up)  and Maturity (grow up).
  • p.22, “When leaders respond correctly, everyone wins.  When they respond incorrectly, everyone loses.”
  • p.44, quoting Howard Hendricks, “Don’t put live eggs under dead chickens.”
  • p.115, quoting Charles Spezzano, “Translate the dollar value of the house, car, or anything else into time, and then see if it’s still worth it.”

Creps, Off-Road Disciplins

Earl Creps has directed doctoral programs and planted churches, so when he writes a book on spiritual leadership, I get interested.  Darrell originally picked up this book and motivated me to as well.

In Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders, Creps presents 6 personal disciplines and 6 organizational disciplines that he sees in missional leaders and missional churches.  It is a helpful book, but I would actually recommend it for boomer leaders who want to be intentional about developing leaders for the next generation of the church.  Many boomer leaders are developing younger leaders for the attractional church, and frustration ensues when those they are trying to invest in are drawn to a more missional approach to church and leadership.

Creps talks about his exposure to what he calls postmodernism, uses chance encounters with individuals to demostrate his generalized claims and believes that it took place in the 1960’s.  When an older leader reads that, they often want to think, “Hey, I remember the 60’s – I’m postmodern too.”  When younger leaders read that they often think, “1960’s…that’s 50 years ago right?  50…”)  Yet, I think this book is trying to be more practical, so we’ll try not to deconstruct the whole thing.

Here’s some quality words:

  • p.28, “The reverse engineering POV (point of view) recognizes that a teenage devotee of Manga comics hears the gospel differently from a thirtysomething advertising executive, or a middle-aged English literature professor.  This chapter argues that, in part, postmoderns have it right: POV is everything, and one of the most useful ways to develop a missional POV is to back it out of culture.”
  • p.33, quoting Soul Searching from Christian Smith of Notre Dame, “our findings suggest to us that religious communities should also stop…presuming that U.S. teenagers are actively alienated by religion, are dropping out of their religious congregations in large numbers, cannot relate to adults in their congregations, and so need some radically new ‘postmodern’ type of program or ministry.  None of this seems to be particularly true.”
  • p.119, allowing hard-liner sentiment from any brand to command most of the attention within a group diminishes the contribution of the moderates who hold the potential for harmony in their hands.”
  • p.169, “How are what we called Smallville leaders and Law and Order leaders going to coexist?”

Cordeiro, Leading on Empty

It’s sad to me how often you hear about pastors burning out and getting out of ministry.  It seems to happen way to often, and makes me suspicious that the way pastors are pastoring is broken.  I’m not looking to place blame (on pastors, on congregations, or on culture); what I hope for my life, and for others, is to find a way of living as a pastor that doesn’t destroy you.

So, I picked up Wayne Codeiro’s book, Leading on Empty: Refilling your tank and Renewing your passion as a part of this quest.  Of course, as the lead pastor of a church plant I am conscious of burn out because of the long hours and high intensity of the work, so I wondered if I am in danger of burning out.  Thankfully, I got more depressed reading the book.  It describes some really sad stuff, that isn’t me, but gives some really good indicators of when you need to check your pastoral health.

Codeiro also writes on the importance of sabbaticals in pastoral ministry – not so that the pastor can have a break, but actually so that the church can enjoy more effective ministry.  It’s something I’ve had inklings of for a long time and Codeiro really gave some good thought to it.  I’d recommend this book to young pastors, even before they are in danger (perhaps 2 years into ministry) and to experienced pastors who find themselves joyless in ministry.

Here’s some great stuff I found,

  • p.21, “It is a gift to be able to launch an inspiring vision.  But unless you manage it along the way, it can turn on you, and soon the voracious appetite of the vision consumes you.”
  • Psalm 69:1,2
  • p.91, A really helpful section on balancing the things that fill my tank and the things that drain my tank.  Really this exercise is already making a difference in my life.
  • p.154, In 1 Kings 4:4-5, Solomon actually made official the office of a friend.  As he appointed his cabinet, he added one more office: ‘Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the army; and Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Azariah the son of Nathan was over the deputies; and Zabud the son of Nathan, a priest, was the king’s friend.’

Catch Up!

It’s been 2 whole months since I posted anything on this blog!  Yikes – for me, blogging is a quasi-spiritual discipline for three reasons, it forces slow down and reflection, it allows me to review myself and my input/output cycles and it gives an ‘on-demand’ structure to my growth (structure when I feel like I need it).

So, I’ve got a stack of books here to blog on, but I thought I’d give a blow-by-blow of my summer first, some cool stuff has been in my life and it’s fun.

  • June 12&20: I went to a bunch of grad parties.  They were pretty fun as they were the last kids who went through the invert program (a spiritual development class for freshmen) when I was a youth pastor.  For a long time I have been wrestling with the difference between the resources poured into the way the evangelical/western church does youth ministry and the results, especially the lack of continuing faith in young adults.  Invert was our attempt to find better ways of making real live radical Christians for life.
  • June 20: I preached on the stoning of Stephen.  like 70 verses.  it was insane!
  • June 29: We got family pictures done by our friend Melissa (WEBSITE).  They turned out so fun.  I love them because they remind me over and over of how awesome our little family is, and I don’t mean in comparison to your family, I mean our family is awesome because they are “us” and I like that (for the record your family is probably awesome to, because they are “you”).
  • July 2: Our 11th anniversary.  We went up to Portland and stayed at a swanky hotel from priceline.  It was a lot of fun.  It’s easy when you marry someone fun!  We went out and walked and went to powell’s books too.  It was perfect.
  • July 17: I got to do the wedding of my friends Evan and Chelsea.  I really like them.  They have that rebellious streak that Jesus can do really really dangerous stuff with, and they believe in themselves as much as Jesus believes in them.
  • July 19-22:  Our annual conference for churches in our denomination in Oregon and Washington.  Since I was ordained last year, I got to sit in the regular seats and vote and stuff.  There was one hilarious vote in which 2 of us voted no and every other person in the room voted yes.  It was classic.  This was an encouraging bunch of meetings, even though I had to take a couple breaks and walk around – sitting through 4 days of meetings is hard on my noggin.  It’s fun to reconnect with other leaders and to share and encourage each other.  God is doing some really fun stuff in our little corner of the world.  Also, I got voted onto the Board of Church Extension, so I get to help with new church planting and i was asked to serve on the Ways and Means committee, which means I now know where the money comes from and where it goes for our denominational group.
  • July 26-30: The Grove hosted it’s Day Camp this week, on site at the middle school where we meet.  It was an encouraging week, while being an extremely busy week too.  I liked seeing new Grovers connecting and serving together, and the kids were a riot.  I got to do the teaching parts of the daily chapel service.  Teaching 8 year olds for 7 minutes is wildly challenging.
  • August 1-6: I got to be the main session speaker at our high school camp for our churches in Oregon and Washington.  It was a super blast.  The kids have so much passion, and many of them are really working on letting Jesus guide their lives.  I got to challenge them in new and interesting ways.  It was also nice to have large blocks of time for studying in such a beautiful place as Triangle Lake.  And, to have large chunks of time to talk ministry and life with so many young leaders.  And, lastly and most painfully, I learned to wakeskate (wakeboarding without any bindings, basically being dragged behind a boat on a piece of wood!), which was amazing.  I did a little jump and then tried to spin but ended up facing completely backwards and being dragged along…every muscle in my upper body was sore – that’s how much fun it was.
  • August 9: Had my best softball game every.  Scored every time up to bat, got to play two innings of third base, threw two guys out, almost threw out a guy at first on a grounder to right field and pitched an inning, which included a strikeout!  I’m ready for the bigs!