Monday, November 29, 2010

End of Thanksgiving Weekend - Wikileaks

Thanksgiving Weekend has come to a close.

I had a great break - and a productive break. Thousands of leaves raked from the yard. Several great National Geographic Documentaries watched (including subjects on Alexander the Great, Lewis & Clark, Auschwitz, and Yellowstone.) A great book read, that I had actually checked out for my daughter - Be The Change - and (!) I made progress through two commentaries on Leviticus and Numbers - and a third one underway as well.

I had an odd, odd, odd dream about a book I read several months ago - Eccentric Existence. I have no idea where the dream even came from as I have had no conscious thought of the book in months! Dreams - so odd. The dream focused on the idea that it should be "ex-centric existence" as we were to move ourselves out of the center - theologically. Where did that come from? So odd, these dreams we have.

But . . . I am prompted to write a few words tonight more about the recent spate of news coming out in the form of the "wikileaks." These leaks are troubling - it seems to me - at so many levels. I think much of what gets "exposed" will not be terribly secret - as much as it will "expose" our own anxieties and fears - at the national level.

I work with a great bunch of colleagues who I love. Recently though, I came walking upon them and heard my name used specifically - and the conversation changed immediately as I came into view. I have no idea what they were discussing. They were smiling - and I trust them - and I know they trust me - so I do not believe it was anything ruinous or malicious. And, perhaps they weren't really talking about me - but I was just a "single member" of some larger issue. The point is this, while I trust my colleagues and have no idea what they were saying, it still bothered me that I came upon them talking about me . . . and I don't know what they were saying. I have told myself that it is not a big issue - because I really do not believe it is - no doubt we all get talked about by numerous persons every-single day. No doubt my students - every single day say things they like, and loathe about me. No doubt parish persons communicate on numerous days in a given week things they think I have done well - or poorly. And, I am sure there is reason to speak poorly of things I do poorly - or say unfairly and so forth. I am far from perfect. (Just ask my wife or kids who endure my everyday failings!) But, knowing that we are being talked about - and that it is not all favorable, shapes how we think about ourselves and how we think about ourselves in relationship to and with others.

And, I fear the wikileaks will only cause many persons - and many national leaders - to be more suspicious and suspect of one another - and more guarded and unkind one with another.

We live in a world that needs to see and discern more peace and harmony and open-ness and love - not less of it.

We live in a world that needs to discern the absence of power struggles and the advent of peacemaking.

May it be the case - as we enter the season of Advent that we wait expectantly - and live faithfully - into the reality of what it means to be humbled one-to-another.

In the spirit of this humility - I wrote a letter to a long-ago-high-school friend earlier tonight. His choices in life have differed from my own. I have been FB friends with him for quite a few years - but believe it might be the case that - many years ago - given choices he made - I may have said something unkind, unfavorable or unfair to or about him. I do not believe I did - but I wanted to be sure. So I sent him a personal message tonight - confessing my failures in communication and owning responsibility for the fact that I need to love better and speak only words of grace and charity in all ways.

To any who might read this - let me encourage you - with me - to let this season of Advent - and the Wikileaks be reason to cause and reflect in your own words - in your writings - in your emails - in your conversation - would you be willing for your private words to be held up to public scrutiny?

God grant us - and our world - Peace.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What we celebrate at Thanksgiving

We should celebrate when we have reason to give thanks.

But, we should also be-wary that what we celebrate as "good" in our life may be the result of something disproportionately bad in the life of another.

A few years ago I visited Plymouth Rock with my wife. I was surprised - at first - to see a statue commemorating the genocide of Native American Indians, as the result of English persons coming to colonize this New England (now America.)

I remembered the stories today and found this link from the news this week - here.

Some of the persons that I work and live with might be troubled by my remembrance of the Wampanoag today. I am not troubled by that. We need to remember them. I think too many persons too quickly pass over and forget stories of violence. To fail to remember the stories is to fail to remember the history of violence that has been part of who "we" are as Americans - and who we are as humans.

When we fail to remember the violence of our past, we are more prone to repeat it.

One of the most compelling issues of the Christian conviction is found in the claim of the Christian Gospel. That God. Being Human. Submitted Godself as Humanself, to death. To become Victor over Violence by becoming Victim to Violence.

There is powerful implications to God's Holiness characterized in these ways in the Hebrew Scripture, most prevalent in the 11th Chapter of the book of Hosea.

My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man-- the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.

At Thanksgiving - I celebrate many, many, many reasons to "give thanks" in my personal, family, friendship, professional life!

But, I humbly remember that my life's joy - when it has come at the cost of other persons lives, honor, dignity - is not "fair" - just, equitable or Christian.

So, at this Thanksgiving - I give thanks, but I mourn, too - with others - for the failures of human persons to extend goodness and charity, kindness and benevolence to others.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lecture on Adult Learners and Use of Technology

I think the link at the bottom of this - which redirects to a lecture (1hour 2 minutes) -  has implications for how we (1) teach adult learners and how we (2) think about the future of education and technology.

I don't know how to "scale" this to you as a ten out of ten on lecture - as I find that different persons learn different things - but I found the information credible, amazing, interesting, and "futuristic."  

Presented by:  Dr. Mark David Milliron serves as the Deputy Director for Postsecondary Improvement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, leading efforts to increase student success in the US postsecondary education sector. He is an award-winning leader, author, speaker, and consultant well known for exploring leadership development, future trends, learning strategies, and the human side of technology change. Mark works with universities, community colleges, K-12 schools, corporations, associations, and government agencies across the country and around the world. In addition, he serves on numerous other corporate, nonprofit, and education boards and advisory groups.

It's from the most recent WCET Connect Conference -

HERE's the LINK:

If the link doesn't work go to:

About half way down, under View the General Session Presentations, click on the WCET Media Site webpage.   Listen to the Keynote Presentation by Mark Millron.  I think you will enjoy it.

I get to study and "sabbath" with former students, now dear friends!

Oklahoma clergy group awarded grant from Columbia Theological Seminary

Posted on Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BETHANY, Okla. (November 16, 2010) - Southern Nazarene University faculty member Marty Alan Michelson, Ph.D. was selected by the Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary (CTS) as part of a six-member clergy group from Oklahoma to receive the Lilly Endowment, Inc. funded S3 (Sabbath, Study, Service) Project grant. Along with Michelson, the other Oklahoma group members include Eli Pagel, Jeremy Graham and Wendell Sutton of Mid-America Christian University, Rev. Levi Jones of Piedmont Church of the Nazarene, and Rev. Stephen Vandervort of Wenatchee Church of the Nazarene. Each participant in the group is a graduate of SNU, invited into the cohort application process by Michelson.

The purpose of the S3 Project is to provide funding that offers peer groups of clergy and other church professionals an opportunity to collaborate and construct ministry-strengthening learning experiences related to Sabbath, study and service. The CTS selection committee chose the group from Oklahoma based on the age and Christian denominational diversity of the group's members as well as the strength of the group's proposal. The Oklahoma clergy group will join five other groups of colleagues from around the U.S. 0n the campus of CTS in February 2011 to form the 2011 cohort group of the S3 Project. Collaboration will continue through 2012.

When asked about expectations for participation in the S3 Project, Pagel responded, "The S3 Project offers a remarkable blend of opportunity and challenge. It offers the opportunity to have a funded study project that many dream about, but few have the opportunity to pursue. It offers the challenge of collaborating with peers over an extended period of time on a project."

The Oklahoma group plans to use the S3 Project as an opportunity to nurture conversation based on reading and study to cultivate new concepts for practical church ministry in each of the member's separate parish locations. The group members have already begun written collaboration, and at the completion of their study, they will seek publication of their collective ideas and ministry focus through appropriate publishers.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chicago - Catholic Theological Union, Christian Scholars Group and the International Council of Christians and Jews

Too many things going on in the past few days to capture complete reflections - so consider these thoughts as brief notes along the way.

  • I'm impressed with the work the Catholic church is doing to effect change and shape peaceable conversation with and among Jews.
  • I've never before realized how "small" the church of the Nazarene is as I've not only had to introduce myself personally, but denominationally to several persons in the past few days!  I realize I am not a minority, but I have felt something like it here.  Delighted to be here as one who adds a distinct perspective to conversations that are primarily among the largest groups - Catholics, Jews, and Lutherans.
  • Had a delightful meal with an Conservative Jew who insured where we ate (a non-kosher restaurant), no one would notice (though she maintained a kosher meal herself!!) that someone at the table had bacon.  Thankful for her willingness to sit among "goyim" (gentiles) - and yet, found it curious and funny that in my own tradition I might have to feel the same way about sitting at a table where someone at the table might be consuming liquor.  Not sure what to say about it - just the curiosity that in our unique faith traditions we have different things that make us "unclean" or are perceived as "wrong/bad/sin" - and they are so very different.  Bacon or Liquor.  For different communities of faith, reading the same Scripture (!), these different things really do matter!
  • Catholics "get" Christian art.
  • Worshiped at a gorgeous, wonderful "cathedral" - the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago.  But, it "felt" hollow as a mere 40 people were there at the start of the service with perhaps another 20 arriving late.  The space - physically and with "choir" singing - literally felt empty.  What does it mean that some places of "aesthetic" beauty for worship lack vibrant communities to "fill them"?  I know I have experienced a greater "feeling" of "intimacy" and "spirit" among the equal number of persons I normally worship with - in a setting at my home congregation where most are poor, former addicts, and have been homeless. 
  • Sitting earlier today (and will be again for next two days) among a room full of key, significant leaders of significant organizations in and around the U.S., Europe and Israel.  Not sure how I deserve the invitation - or if the invitation will come again - but feel humbled and honored to do my part to attempt to find my way to best advocate for others in advancing a peaceable future.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

(In)tolerance among clergy in the 21st Century

It is nearly the end of the 2010 – and we’re safely into the 21st Century!

Consider these words: 

“Intolerance has been too prevalent as of late, and many clergy of different denominations are [responsible] with its growth.  The whole spirit and office of religion is to make [humans] merciful and humble and just.  If such teaching was preached by the pastors to their own congregations and the [responsibility] of others left to their own clergy, God would be better served and human society governed more in accordance to His holy commandments.”

The quote is from a respected Jewish woman in Philadelphia, written in 1844!  (I edited the words for clarity, “chargable” to “responsible” – “man” to “humans” – and “charge” to “responsible.”)

I am not certain that this quote applies equally in our time in all places in the U.S. – but I am certain it has continued applicability in all too many places in the U.S. today. 

It seems to me the spirit and ethic of the prophets of Hebrew Scripture and Jesus of Christian Scripture intends to create believers (Jews or Christian) who shape humans as individuals – and within society – to be “merciful and humble and just.”  Or, as the prophet Micah in chapter 6 writes the same words, in different order, “What does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:8) 

I had opportunity today to explore these themes with Mary Christine Athans, B.V.M. -  based on her article just published in the U.S. Catholic Historian, Vol. 28, Spring 2010.  What a delight to be in the conversation with Christine – but how unfortunate that a disparaging note about U.S. clergy and denominations from the 19th Century remains all too true as we proceed into the 21st Century. And, even greater tragedy - that we may still not be able to discern the message of the prophets from two thousand seven hundred years ago! Or from Jesus two thousand years ago. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning with & from ecumenical leaders at DUKE

I have spent a number of days, over a period of months - on retreat and in learning and fellowship with persons from a variety of faith traditions. In our shared program of learning through DUKE Divinity’s Faith and Leadership Program we have talked about many things! Too many to list!

We have shared ideas about traditioned innovation, vibrant institutions, reconciliation, adaptive leadership and thinking institutionally. We have played together and prayed together. We have read good books – and shared the knowledge we have gleaned together. We have shared meals and fellowship. We have learned the value of telling stories, while sharing our stories one with another. We have grown and learned from one another.

In the midst of it all – I am reminded of how “big” and vibrant the Church is in all its manifestations. I am reminded that the Kingdom embraces various aspects of leaders and leadership to cultivate and direct faithful institutions in the work of the Kingdom.

I have developed friendships with Adrienne, Herb, Wes, Kirsty, Rob, Keith, Phil, Sarah, Kate, Laura, Nicole, Kevin, Sharon, Kiely, and Elizabeth – not to mention leaders from DUKE including Bill, Tamara, and Dave.

I have come in direct working relationship with key persons from various institutions and from places around the U.S. including: Notre Dame Mission Volunteers, Nehemiah Christian Center/Apex School of Theology, Reformed Church in America , First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte, Presbyterian Church (USA), General Assembly Mission Council, Western's Center for Continual Learning Western Theological Seminary, North Avenue Presbyterian Church, Columbia Theological Seminary, Hope College, Massachusetts Council of Churches, United Church of Christ, Iowa Conference, Calvary Baptist Church of Denver, CUE (Chicago-United-Eden) Seminaries, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

Together we have discerned the following list of things that constitute the most vibrant issues for vibrant, engaged, living, institutions. As you will see from this comprehensive list – the responsibilities for faithful institutions is not simple or easy. But, vibrant institutions can become reality and I hope to be part of vibrant institutions and vibrant communities of faith for my entire life’s journey.

Our list (in no particular order) – What makes a Vibrant Institution:

Provide a place to stand/foundation
Strong individuals
Perseverance in darkness
Clear mission
Articulated purpose
Clear values
Practical application
Action oriented
Disciplined – communal participation
Vision bigger than self
Embody Trust
Cast articulate clear vision
See beyond self
Clear communication patterns
Clarity of mission
Connect to history but not bound by it
Process of initiation
Welcome newcomer with open arms
Stories of success
Room to be vulnerable
Clear expectations
Sense of history
Marks of distinction from other institutions
Sharing burdens
Clarity about what institution is not
Owning brokenness
Nurture, Challenge
Agents for transformation
Access to things
People to encounter
Extravagant welcome
Makes demand on and for
Forms my lifestyle and habit
Encourage people to improve
Evolution and Adaptation
Teachers of tradition bearer of ritual
Rethink power structures
Engaging physically, emotionally intellectually and spiritually
Clear communication patterns
Relational vitality
Ability to resolve conflict
Reconciliation forgiveness experienced
Love and care
Laughter and playfulness
Honor word
Ritual symbols
Training preparation learning
Bearers of traditions
Laboratories for learning
Incubators for leadership
Forms and structures our traditions
Cultivate thinking communities
Mentors and disciples
Clear vision
Right people
Acquired wisdom
Healthy turnover
Space for innovation
Places of reconciliation hope and lament
Foster relationships
Build on and pas on knowledge across generations
Convey a craft culture around along with their ends
Broaden and add to the lives of those they serve
Exists for more than themselves
Inspiring trust
Outwardly focused

Sense of joy
Emerging leader focused
People oriented
Leadership form among
Community identity voice
Holding place
Ask questions
I felt empowered
Afforded a voice
Life giving
Financially support
Everyone has a place at the table
Know my name
Institutional memory
Dream makers – spread and sending
Forward thinking
Inspire loyalty and stewardship
Sense of well defined identity
From the shadows to the future
Raising leaders from within
Accountability - mechanisms in place
Encourage change, risk
Admit brokenness
Atone – take action
Connect to context in ways that work for them
Portability – transcendent
It has a story – compelling narrative. If you can’t tell the story of your organization in a way that is compelling, it will die – not thrive.


Now I must journey on with these insights!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Former Students, Future Friends, Fantastic Life

Several months ago I gathered with my colleagues from the School of Theology and Ministry at SNU to meet with the class, on a weekend retreat - "Introduction to Ministry."  The class, taught by one of my colleagues and offered every Fall to incoming students (freshmen and transfers) is an orientation to what it means to think about and be a minister in the various capacities that constitute Christian Service and discerning one's vocation in ministry.

On retreat we have a Q&A session when the students get to ask anything.  At the end, my colleague asked us if there was anything supplementary that we would like to share.  Looking out at a group of some 40 (or so) students in all their unique diversity and with all their special gifts and talents I said something like this, "Some of my best friends in life - and the people I most routinely converse with on Facebook or through other social networks are former students.  I look forward to the fact that in the next decade - some of you will go on to church ministry, academic pursuits or various world regions - and you will become my best friends."

I note that because I'm at DUKE in Durham, N.C. as I send this post.  Yesterday I had the opportunity to be with Megan Pardue and her husband Keith - and we spent a great full day together - eating pizza, going to the beach - sharing our lives together in ministry thoughts, family conversations, jokes, travel, and just "nothing."  In fact, I joked with Keith throughout the day that he kept trying to make our conversation have a telos and we didn't need one!  We had a GREAT day!  See the pics here!!  I could not be more proud of who Megan & Keith are - for their contributions, for their conversation, for the way they think about being Christian in vibrant and meaningful ways!

Though I was not with him yesterday or today - as he's out of town - I am right now co-writing a paper with another former student - who is also at DUKE, Logan Kruck.  He and I will present our paper together in the Spring at the Wesleyan Theological Society meeting.  What a thrill to be working in harmony and synchronicity with former students who have competence and skill!

And today, I'll worship with a friend from my shared and collaborative work through Duke's Faith and Leadership Program - Herbert Reynolds Davis.  Then, I'll share coffee with a  mentor in my own life - my former teacher - W. Stephen Gunter.  He taught me many things when I served as his Graduate Assistant many years ago - and I continue to learn from him as he, many years ago - transitioned from being "just my teacher" to becoming *also* my friend.  And, he remains someone I learn from and glean from.

And, I anticipate wrapping up the day with dinner or dessert with Amber Gingerich Crispell - who was a "child" when I was a Children's Pastor in Colorado Springs.  She and her family - and her extended family - were key members - witnesses and workers! - in the church where I served.  Amber and her husband, who I have yet to meet, Dave - are finishing their program of study here at DUKE where he will complete his M.Div this academic year.  Amber's cousin, Kevin, also a former "child" when I was Children's Pastor in Colorado Springs - was a student at SNU - and lived with us off and on in between and before and after semesters on occasion. 

My life is filled with key relationships of meaning - that give me vitality, hope - from former students - and from my own former student days!

What a blessing to see the hope and possibility of former students who become future friends - as meaningful relationships are developed, and shared friendship is extended in open and hospitable ways!

And, what an absolute thrill to be a participant with others - these particular and specific others - as we attempt to do our best - together - to reflect and embody the life of God's Kingdom!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Participating with Scholars - Jewish Christian Relationships

I am delighted to have received invitation to meet this Fall with the Christian Scholars Group for their biannual meeting in Chicago.

Though the invitation comes simply to be a kind of external participant to how this membership group works, I am thrilled.

The Christian Scholars Group (CSG) is an ecumenical gathering of Christian scholars that has been studying a wide range of topics pertinent to Christian-Jewish relations. Its members have written some of the most influential works on the subject. The CSG meets annually under the auspices of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning to discuss the research being conducted by members and the latest developments in the field.

I had opportunity to meet Rev. Dr. Peter Petit, who has given me this invitation - while working at Oxford this past summer. Peter and I have separate but unique connections in several ways - personally and professionally - and I have been nothing but thoroughly impressed with who he is as a gracious person, a formidable thinker, and a clear communicator.

I will be traveling with SNU students to the land of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan again in early 2011. This gives me opportunity as a professor to engage students in unique ways – and gives opportunity for networks of relationships that can expand the scope of how SNU graduates collaborate with other programs, professors, and universities.

The purposes of the Christian Scholars Group include fostering scholarship concerning the relation of Christianity to Judaism, providing a forum for constructive criticism of work-in-progress on this relationship and engaging in collaborative projects that might also serve as a resource for others concerned with Christian-Jewish relations. While an invited membership is for scholars, the work of the Christian Scholars Group takes place for the church as the group seeks to assist churches in reconsidering and reformulating their teaching regarding Jews and Judaism, and the Christian-Jewish relationship.

While meeting in this extended way with the CSG, seeing how they work and who they are, I will also participate in a consultation meeting with the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) including Chicago Theological Union’s annual Shapiro Lecture, being presented this year by the ICCJ president, Debbie Weissman of Israel.

Only God knows how these relationships can help foster my personal and professional growth - as I continue to try to nuance and discern in my life how to embody and reflect a life that extends good to the all, extending justice and peace.