Saturday, March 27, 2010

living a meaningful story - this week.

I like Don Miller, and this book intrigues me. It's on my summer reading list.
I read this post a month or so ago, and it's been bouncing around my brain since then.

It makes sense. I've lived in a lot of different settings - cities - houses - areas - with very different people. I've worked at a lot of different jobs. I still often go to new workplaces, parties, churches, hospitals, venues, cities, conferences, classrooms, seminars or meetings where I need to understand a whole room of people and a whole new context - and blend in.

A little while ago, Jarod and I were talking with some people we know well. It was about comments they'd made - we found them pretty hurtful, because they were generalizations about certain cultures... and we had to ask them "Do you realize you're talking about the culture of our friends and the people we work with and go to school with? Those things you're saying aren't true."

It was a weird conversation. But it led to a good outcome... they talked about how they realized by talking to us how limited their experience has been, and how their initial comments were based on a lack of understanding.

It makes me hopeful. Being people who have experiences - and tell our stories - helps other people understand how to get outside their own box. And at the same time, listening to others' stories is important.

Failing to hear stories and keeping a limited perspective keeps us back in so many areas. Sure, we may hear theory about career options or taking your vitamins or whether public transit works or safely using power tools... but if there's no context, talk about any of that stuff is just information.

But when you talk to the PR specialist or you're walking alongside someone with osteoporosis or taking the subway or seeing a severed finger reattached.... you've got an image. You've got an experience. You've got a story of your own now. That information becomes real.

So I want to keep having more experiences, doing new things, getting into scenarios and going places that give me more stories - whether that's the story of learning to use the table saw with the wooden hand or what kind of trucks they use in Florence - or just how I made spaghetti sauce in university. All of that is part and parcel of the stories I have so far. I want more. I want better. I want new. I likely have several more decades to gain and pass on more of them and I like Don Miller's words on creating memorable scenes and going to different settings.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back in the game, I suppose - Input, steeping, output.

I've always felt that it's better to write than not to write.
Not because I'm writing for a specific audience, as I might writing an article.
Not because I want to get a lot of readers.
But because if I write 100 pieces, one or two will come out well, and it will make me a better writer.

However, I find myself in the place now that I can't do it on the things I really care about or focus on the field I'm in.

A couple years ago, I used to read a lot. Books, blogs, the Bible, conferences on the things I'm passionate about - youth ministry and urban churches.

I've been informed before. I've been keeping up in my field before. I've been steeping myself in the mindsets and people and Scripture and prayer that I need to keep myself in the right space/place mentally... (Grounded and centered and current and relevant and thoughtful........... not regurgitant and derivative and restless). That's a good mental place.

I'm not there right now. I think I'm doing well at my job, and I'm happy about the words I say and the programming I do... but I haven't been growing as much as I'd like, as a leader. I'm not in the right mental place, and I need to be growing more. But I have been there before.

But when I'm there mentally, then I progress through three stages when I write

I can reiterate things well said by others on various issues, personalizing them somewhat
2. I can talk about "new" perspectives - still derived, but with one's own perspective
3. I can occasionally float a much more original and contextualized concept or idea.

The problem is, without 1 and 2, 3 is somewhat difficult. And I think I'm someone with the potential and giftings to make a substantive contribution with #3 in that list someday - or even several much smaller ones. In fact, I'd think that's an important part of what I do.

I actually have books on my shelf that I've ordered months ago and haven't read. For me, that's way, way, way out of the ordinary. I still love what I do. But it takes effort and time that I need to reshuffle.

With limited time, I find I've largely given up the conversation. I pretty much say "um, hi... urghle urghle duh" when I run into other pastors -- some of whom I formerly sought out to talk to because of what they knew and how they did what they did. I'm not in a real "learning" mode right now, and that sucks.

I don't want to stay in stasis... but neither do I want to treat it lightly. It's work. It requires effort, dignity, thought- they're weighty matters. And I love this stuff. It's just too important to relegate to the level of recreation, or to reduce to an academic "get all the information" exercise.

It takes work and time and thought to rejoin that conversation daily, weekly, monthly. And without joining the conversation, I can't hope to steep myself in enough of 1 and 2 to come up with anything meaningful for 3.

The problem then becomes -- the non-work-related things I do for recreation/relaxation/enjoyment (food, building things, buildings, design, art, cities, opining, community involvement) become the majority of what i output.

The nice part is, recreation is possible in 10, 15 minute chunks. And for the past two years, almost all of my days have had several short breaks in them, useless for work but great for recreation.

And while in those 15 minutes I may shoot out a good opinion or three, or repost many things of interest, or exclaim passionately about my likes and dislikes.... I don't think I have much substantive to offer that hasn't been said before there. I'm no great artist or developer or craftsman. I'm far too derivative and amateur for that. I do it for fun, not because I look to make a substantive and world-changing contribution with any of this stuff.

But because I'm using them for recreation, I can sometimes end up doing #1 and #2 with that list. But no work is being done here either.

Starting tomorrow, I won't have those 15-minute chunks anymore, which helps.

But more has to be done. What's the solution there?
Find more time? (not likely)
Give up recreation entirely? (not healthy or fun)
Leave the conversation for a later time? (not productive)

There's probably not too much I can do at this point, but I don't want to leave things.

Tomorrow, coincidentally, I start taking the GO again for two months. It will exhaust me. It will frustrate me. But I'll be doing nuclear cardiac testing for a month (exciting, at a place I hear is great!) and regular cardiac testing for another month (also exciting -- and a place I've worked before that I know is great).

The upshot is -- that gives me some of that time -- a train ride each way I can use. Two hours of reading time a day, which I really appreciated before. I think that's part of the solution. But I'm not going to be bringing a laptop along with everything else, so we'll have to see how the low-tech stuff goes.

And who knows, if they decide to keep me around, I could be taking it for a lot longer, so I want to get off on the right foot this time and use those 2 hours a day rightly.

But I'd like to start getting back to where I was before... because I feel like I've been out of the game for too long... and I don't want to lean on what I've learned and heard and done before. I want to keep growing as a person as a leader, and be thoughtful enough about the things that matter.