Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rene Girard

My Ph.D. Advisor at Iliff School of Theology, Dr. Mark K. George introduced me to Rene Girard in the 1990s.  I'm glad he did!! 

Girardian Theory informed my dissertation and first book.  And it informs the way I think about issues of violence and non-violence, peacemaking, and being Christian.

A new book on Girardian theory was reviewed at Metanexus.  Check out the review to learn more about Girardian Theory.

Prayer, Ecclesiastes, Children’s Books & Leadership

A few quick entries on several recent books read.  I wish I had time for longer reviews, but with final papers in classes to grade, and summer sessions to prepare for, it’s best I get a few quick reviews noted and move on!

Greatest_prayersA former learner went to hear Walter Brueggemann lecture in another city, and that learner bought a text for me, had Brueggemann sign it, and gifted it to me!  What a delight.  Brueggemann, who of course does not know me (though I’ve met him and go to his sessions at the annual meeting of the SBL – and believe I have read nearly everything he’s ever published) wrote to me, “To Marty ~  Glad we share this teaching business.”  Delightful.  The text is Great Prayers of the Old Testament, published in 2008.  I was surprised I had not seen it or read it already, in fact!  In the text, Brueggemann reviews the prayers of 12 persons, from Abraham through Moses, Hannah and Hezekiah – to Job.  Many great things in this text – all of which are more or less included in other books or writings by Brueggemann elsewhere.  That means, if you’ve read him before, you might not find much “new” here.  But, that being the case, there is new material here and, more importantly, the format and shape of this text is different than Brueggemann’s other commentary works.  This book would be, in my estimation, a great text to use, by a pastor, for a “Sermon Series” on prayer in the Old Testament!  That might seem like a “Well-duh!” kind of statement, but for those who read this blog, let me offer this as a specific suggestion.  This text as the frame – supplemented by other exegetical and interpretive aids, would prove a small investment in cash, for crafting a great series of sermons in the importance and import of prayer!  I’d love to hear the sermon series if anyone chooses to do this!

If you don’t own a commentary on Ecclesiastes – here is the one you should own – in the Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary series, and written by Peter Enns.  The text is thoroughly and decisively Christian in orientation – which is somewhat hard to pull off in particular ways, given the type of “meaningless” wisdom given by Qoheleth.  Enns reviews the core issues in the book though, without being typological or Christocentric in quirky ways – and he has a solid review of other examinations of Ecclesiastes in his literature review and methodological characterization of Ecclesiastes.  I will note in my review here, I did not read pages 30-110 of the text, though I skimmed these pages.  These pages are the “critical commentary” section of the book – and I was reading the text for it’s full review of Ecclesiastes, more than for it’s nuanced interpretation of select verses/words in a chapter-by-chapter analysis.  No doubt I’ll come back and review Enns work in these pages later – but everything else Enns does is well done, thoughtful, theological, and Christian.  Having noted my favorable review of this text, I would actually counsel a pastor/teacher to have another text on Wisdom literature (including Ecclesiastes) in their library – the text by William P. Brown – Character in Crisis.  I read this text years ago – and it is not a commentary.  Rather, it offers a perspective on discerning issues of character formation, moral development and ethical instruction for young persons (or any person) as discerned in Wisdom Literature.  A must read for thinking about pedagogy and parenting and instruction from the perspectives of ancient Israelite Wisdom!

The Gospel According to Moses was recommended to me – and I read most of it.  I’ll let anybody read other reviews of the biography/narrative on sites like amazon.com for people who have interest.  After reading the first several chapters of the text, I got bored with it.  My notes would include the fact that I thought the stories were too long – and therefore, they got boring or dull.  And, in truth, several of the ways that the author overly reads a heavy-handed-Christological-typological analysis of Jesus embodied and existing as Christ in OT stories seemed, well .  .  . heavy handed.  I am thoroughly Christian and fully believe in the means by which God has revealed God’s self in stories of Jewish and Christian literature.  I fully believe the ethic and discernment of Jesus is found in Ancient Israelite literature, as God has given revelation there!  That being said, this author’s interpretation of Christ in and through certain passages, stories, contexts, did not line up with how I understand God’s Revelation.  Not a bad text, but, I found myself skimming chapters after the first several.

In an effort to try to encourage one of our children to read more, I have picked up several Children’s stories – and read them or audiobook read them, to encourage her reading and to be able to dialogue with her about what she is learning and so forth.  I’m delighted to report that two of my most enjoyable recent reads – both in audiobooks that were read so very well, came from these stories.  Go to the links at Amazon.com to read full reviews and get the narrative descriptions – there is plenty there that will save me from typing here.  The Invention of Hugo Cabaret is a great text, and great audiobook.  I loved it, and my daughter enjoyed it.  It functions like a graphic novel in some ways – and the audiobook includes great sounds, narration, stereo effects.  A winner. 

Single_shardWhile my daughter did not like this  next story (neither of them did, in fact – and one of our girls is a reader!) – I loved A Single Shard.  I actually audiobook “read” it as I hiked in Costa Rica – and I will admit, I got tears in my eyes, and even wept – at several points in the story.  Admittedly, this is perhaps from the stories of “conflict” and “overcoming” that involve the main character – an orphaned boy.  And, admittedly, my tears no doubt came from my own issues of having adopted our girls, and thinking about their lives in light of this story.  Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the audiobook and was touched by its narrative, I learned about clay-making, pottery making, and some history of Korea, too!  I’ll come back and read A Single Shard again someday.

I re-read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni – as I get ready to read his most recent text, The Advantage – that is on my “wait list” at the local library (review forthcoming).  I don’t think you have to read all of Lencioni’s text – to “get” what he is doing.  A discernment of key concepts can be gleaned in the chapter titles and in any good review of his text.  I do like his “fable” though – as it helps set the context and makes his points memorable.  And, I enjoyed audiobook reading his text again as I hiked in Costa Rica.  I was able to think more about leadership, and enjoy the cloudforest, trees, trail, animals, streams, and birds all together!  That’s a treat!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Discerning a Call to Ministry - Statistics on BurnOut in Ministry.


The is reposted from THIS LINK.

The author, Tony Stolzfus has also authored the book:  The Calling Journey:  Mapping the Stages of a Leader's Life Call.

Links directly to the author, Tony Stoltzfus, include   here - and -  here - and - here.
The 18 risk factors for pastors shown below are given with statistics that show where pastors are at today. You may be surprised or even shocked at some of the realities of ministry leadership. But this doesn’t have to be you. Make the choice to build a life of character and excellence that will let you hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


1. Accountability
Research has shown that a key characteristic of leaders who finish well and fulfill their destiny is that they have established a “constellation” of accountable, growth-oriented peer mentoring, mentoring and coaching relationships in their lives. Don’t miss out on what the body of Christ has to offer – you cannot fulfill your destiny alone!
Fact: 37% of all pastors admit to having acted in sexually inappropriate ways.
2. Feedback
Many leaders lose effectiveness by losing perspective on their own abilities or their situation. Perspective adjustment is easy if you get regular healthy feedback. The lack of a feedback channel can lead to a significant rise in the amount of conflict you deal with. If you don’t provide a healthy way to give feedback, all the feedback you get will be unhealthy.
Fact: 70% of all pastors feel they have a lower self image than when they began pastoring.
3. Focus
How much of your time goes to what’s really important and strategic, and how much goes into busywork, firefighting and the need of the moment? The inability to maintain focus on long term goals is a major cause of failing to fulfill ones destiny. A coaching relationship is a great way to get and stay on track.
Fact: 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
4. Conflict
Conflict, especially within your core team, is an acid that eats away at your time, energy and resources – as well as your stomach! If your stress level from conflict is high, you need to improve your conflict skills, or your team just needs to become more unified, a coach can help.
Fact: 85% of pastors say their greatest problem is they are sick and tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors. Ninety percent said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people.
5. Leadership Development
Growth without leadership development usually leads to one of two places: eventual stagnation (you reach your capacity and the organization stops growing) or burnout. Fulfilling or failing at the call of God on your life may be as simple as becoming great (and not just good) at developing leaders. Coach training can give you those skills.
50% of pastors feel they are unable to meet the demands of their jobs
6. Oversight
Pastors without involved overseers they can call on risk being derailed by internal conflicts or crises. An outside perspective (as in Acts 15) can be vital in maintaining the health of you and your church.
Fact: Four thousand new churches begin each year, but over seven thousand churches close.
7. Role
Many pastors spend 60, 70 or even 80% of their time doing things they aren’t gifted at – and then wonder why their churches aren’t growing and they feel like failures. Need help recrafting your role to fit who you are? A coach can help.
80% of pastors and 84% percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
8. Sense of Call
Serving Jesus ought to be something that brings joy. If your life is drudgery and joyful service is a distant memory, don’t settle for that – it’s so much less than what God has for you! Get the help you need to live an abundant life.
Fact: 70% of pastors felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only fifty percent still felt called.

9. Spiritual Disciplines
A pastor’s relationship with God is the well he or she draws from in ministry. If the well is running dry, a coach can help you develop a devotional plan that works with you, and give you the support and encouragement you need to walk it out.
80% of pastors surveyed spend less than fifteen minutes a day in prayer.
95% percent of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
70% said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
10. Who invests in You?
A study of church planters found that those who met weekly with a mentor, coach or supervisor built churches nearly twice as large as those with no support. Who invests in you will make a big difference in your success.
70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.
80% of pastor’ wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.
11. Continuing Education
If you aren’t investing in your own growth, at some point your ministry will stop growing as well. Your ministry comes from the overflow of your own heart. Who you are is what you have to give. Do you have a plan to invest in your own growth so that you can lead others there as well?
80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
90% of pastors said their seminary or Bible school training did only a fair to poor job preparing them for ministry.
12. Sabbath
You can take a day off. You can live a healthy, balanced, life that attracts others to you and your church. Don’t let circumstances dictate your schedule: a coach can help you take charge of your life and get the rest you need to function at your best every day.
80% of all pastors don’t take a regular day off
13. Retreat , Rest and Recreation
If we don’t set aside time away from the pressures of life, they eventually overwhelm us. Rest and refreshment are part of God’s plan for your life. A coach can help you structure your life for the marathon and not just for a sprint.
62% of all pastors average 5-6 hours of sleep a night

14. Authentic Friendships
The support, encouragement and fellowship of good friends is a great resource in our lives. We were made by God to live interdependently, needing one another, and without others we simply can’t fulfill our destiny. Don’t settle for shallow, surface relationships. You can have real, authentic, life-giving relationships in your life – your coach can show you how.
70% of all pastors state that they have no close/truly intimate friendships.
15. Workload
There is never enough time to do everything, so life is about juggling priorities. If one area of life, such as work, demands more than a fair share of our energies, every other area of life suffers. A coach can help you discover what you value in life, then set and keep healthy, biblical priorities.
75% of all pastors report working more than 60 hrs per week.
80% of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
16. Family Time
A study of church planters found that those who spent 8 to 15 hours per week with family led churches which were significantly larger than those who spent too little time at home. Children are one of the most important stewardships God entrusts us with -if we don’t steward our own homes well, how qualified are we to steward a church? (I Tim 3:4-5)
80% of all pastors believe pastoral ministry is having a negative effect on their families.
43% of all pastors spend two or fewer evenings a week at home.
17. Spouse
Lose your marriage and you’ll lose a good share of your ministry credibility. In a biblical priority system, spouse and family come before ministry.
The majority of pastor’s wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
18. Social life
Do you have a life outside of being a pastor? If not, you’re missing something. A coach can help you get life under control and find time to be a human being again and not just a pastor.
74% of all pastors spent less than one evening a month engaging in purely social time with other couples (i.e. not “ministering to” them).

*The statistics above came from across denomination lines, and have been gleaned from various reliable sources such as Pastor to Pastor, Fuller Institute for Church Growth, Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Global Pastors Network.

Helping people deal with loss & grief!

Cole Imperi is a business owner and proponent of the written word.

In her post about "How to Write a Sympathy Card" she shares keen insight that every person should know in offering care.  Her insight is especially important for care-givers in counseling, pastoral care, or hospital/hospice work - but even for friends offering condolences - for the loss of a loved one, for death, or for any loss really - her words are insightful and important.  Her post, about writing notes, is actually about offering care!  Great insight!

Cole Imperi's original post is linked above - found at the blog of the European Paper Company.

Here are some excerpts if you don't want to read the entire entry.

There are lots of things you can say in a sympathy note, most of which are probably fine. However, there are a few things you should avoid saying in a sympathy note and I’ll tell you why.

Just Call

“If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” or “If there’s anything I can do, just call.”
Those are both very nice sentiments and anyone who says them means well. However, what you are really saying is: “I’ll help, but you have to call me first.” When someone is grieving, the last thing they need is another ball in their court, so to speak. And honestly, they’re not going to call. . .

“I Understand”

Be careful when you say you understand or you know how the person feels (particularly when you’ve never been through the same situation). . . .

Take the Time

Most anything written in a sympathy note has good intentions behind it. However, if you are going to take the time to write one, really pay attention to what you are saying versus what you are meaning. They can be different. If you want to actually do something for the bereaved, say what it is and commit to it. . . .

Death is a funny thing. It happens to all of us, and will happen to everyone we know. Yet, many of us struggle with how to act or what to say when it happens. If you stay positive and commit to doing something for the bereaved you’ll stand a much better chance of sending a note that is meaningful, memorable and a true comfort.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A story to make you smile - and shed a tear.

Caine's Arcade.

Caine’s Arcade is a short film about a 9 year old boy’s cardboard arcade, located in his dad’s used auto parts store in East LA.


Caine Monroy is a 9-year old boy who spent his summer vacation building an elaborate DIY cardboard arcade in his dad’s used auto parts store.

Caine dreamed of the day he would have lots of customers visit his arcade, and he spent months preparing everything, perfecting the game design, making displays for the prizes, designing elaborate security systems, and hand labeling paper-lunch-gift-bags. However, his dad’s autoparts store (located in an industrial part of East LA) gets almost zero foot traffic, so Caine’s chances of getting a customer were very small, and the few walk in customers that came through were always in too much of a hurry to get their auto part to play Caine’s Arcade. But Caine never gave up.

One day, by chance, I walked into Smart Parts Auto looking for a used door handle for my ’96 Corolla. What I found was an elaborate handmade cardboard arcade manned by a young boy who asked if I would like to play. I asked Caine how it worked and he told me that for $1 I could get two turns, or for $2 I could get a Fun Pass with 500 turns. I got the Fun Pass.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Advocacy in Genocide Intervention!


Eupan Global Initiative connection with Oklahoma's One Million Bones Contribution !!!

We'll be hosting a BONE crafting/making art-collaboration event on the campus of Southern Nazarene University  at the SNU Commons (centrally located on campus) - on Monday April 16th and again, Tuesday April 17th.  (Directions to SNU)

The event will target SNU learners, faculty and staff  from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. - AND any outside person or group is welcome.

The afternoon event, from 3:30 to 6:30 on the same days (April 16 & 17) is uniquely suited for any group of persons or individuals who wants to partner in an event for advocacy and shared activism toward the larger 2013 One Million Bones Project.

Clay and paper-mache bone-making supplies will be provided.

SHARE with any and all of your networks - for anyone - toward eupan - or in shared solidarity for religious reasons, or as a way to respond to something like the KONY2012 campaign.

All bones will go on Public Display at the South Lawn Median - South of the Oklahoma Capitol and at the South Parking Lot  - at the intersection of 18th and Lincoln - for public engagement on Saturday, April 28th, Noon.

We have made connection with Allied Arts in OKC - and have already invited U.S. House Rep. James Lankford (Rep.) to be present. 

Any and all connections that can be extended, shared, or collaborated in educational systems or through advocacy networks, are welcome!

Bones will be made throughout 2012 and 2013 - and this is our time to get involved!

So . . . GO!

Toward eupan ~

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Palm Sunday & Non-Violence

Someday I will get the opportunity to spend time with Rev. John Franklin Hay.  As it is, for the past several years, we've just been friends online in various capacities.

He has shared great insight on Palm Sunday and Non Violence - link to his blog here.

He write about:  "A weaponless, army-less liberator [who] rides into the violent polis on a colt. Is he crazy?"

If you are a Christian who wants to think anew about what it means to practice justice and seek equity - I encourage you to read his routine entries.