Why not Wednesday? Soak time

Sometimes we rush things. Plan soak time. Soak time allows us to not focus in an idea, and therefore focus on it. Confused?

Watch House M.D. That’s soak time.

Creativity is the art of non-focus.

The best ideas are obvious, simple and as a result elusive. Evading our envisioned enterprise, the elusive exists on the edge of the eye. This is why we need soak time. It’s allowing the aha moment and fresh perspective.

Soak time is simple: work on a project then shelve it for a period of time and focus on something else until you pick the project up…or you get that aha moment.

Bottom line:
Plan soak time into your projects.

Why not Wednesday? Failed ideas…

Irony: 747 became the best cargo option for the 787 projectIdeas can fail for a few reasons:
Bad idea
Bad timing
Bad placing

Take a look at failed ideas and think through if they will work again? People’s initial reaction to anything new is often NO! Very few people just grab on to any change. Take a look in your closet of failed ideas. Today may be the day where it will be a:
Good idea
Good timing
Good placing

Erie Canal vs Steam locomotive
Grace concern arose in NY over the horseless carriage as it may destroy the economy surrounding the Erie Canal. NY survived the paradigm shift to trains, and the canal became a thing of history (and awesome school field trips).

Cargo Plane vs Jumbo Jet
Boeing failed the large cargo plane competition. However, the ideas developed for the project turned into the most successful jumbo jet- the 747. One failed idea turned into an iconic aircraft.

100’s of failures vs 1 mistake
The lightbulb was discovered by a mistake after hundreds of failures.

The bottom line:
A failed idea may not be a bad idea. Sometimes ideas we had that did not work then may work now. And then again, they may not work now. But, you’re likely wiser and more experienced than you were on the first attempt.

Why not Wednesday? The power of paper & pen

There is something about being able to write and sketch that will never go away. Technology cannot replicate the sheer delight of pen on paper. My tool of preference is the Moleskin Cahier Journal, ruled & pocket-sized. Whatever you choose, you really need something.

Why Moleskin?
I’ve given some of these away, used many. They are a perfect repository for ideas, craziness, or that needed brainstorm. The following just did not work: computer, planner, journal, diary, notebook, sticky notes, portfolio, memo book or composition notebook. They were all too bulky. Size and the ability to be nearly invisible is essential.

Why Paper?
Paper is crash proof. About the only thing that can really destroy them is fire or a shredder. What’s even better, paper helps you be unplugged. To me, computer equals work. There is something about a blank yet confined space that allows one to just feel free to think, draw, sketch, or scribble.

Why Collect?
People do not always need to enjoy your moments of inspiration or epiphanies. They are enjoyable to look back upon when alone on a rainy Sunday afternoon. You never know when that idea will come about, or that plot outline written. People always want to leave the mark in some way, whether a cave drawing of a hunt or an insightful witticism by a friend. Ideas are important, they’re what makes us human.

The Bottom Line:
Have something that is easy to carry around with you to write ideas, inspirations, or whatever else you just need to write. Technology cannot replace pen & paper.

Link: Moleskin Cahier Journal

Why not Wednesday? Embrace constraints

Need means that which is essential. It is surprisingly small. In ministry you only need three things: Bible, People, A place to meet. That’s it. If necessity is the father of invention, then constraints is the mother of creativity.

The little camps that do
Camp Hickory Hill embraced creativity. Its speakers were largely the staff, mostly college student. Its activities and adventures made up with minimum supplies and resources. I have interacted with well resourced camps, seen them in action. But, their leadership development and problem solving skills do not even come close. There is a quality to “lesser” camps that cannot beat, and they are the qualities you’d want you kid to have. I have heard this statement from camps like Hickory Hill: “They don’t have ___________, but the ministry here is incredible!” Bible, People, A place to meet.

Engaged impact as best
When all was falling apart, I made the call to just pray. Prayer is an essential. This move was bigger, though. Prayer cannot just be an easy fallback. While it was in the first instance, it was intentional on the others. Why? Because a seemingly boring and less than sparkly event had the greatest impact. (Note to self, play towards child-like faith.) The kids engaged in prayer with greater passion and focus than most adult prayer services I have been too. Engagement is best. Entertainment is fleeting. Bible, People, A place to meet.

Singspiration
I attended a singspiration event on a missions trip that took a joyful noise to a whole new level. Wanting to howl like a dog, the singing was so bad, one could not help but notice the passion in the room. A quote from a Civil War documentary said “Abraham Lincoln was so ugly there was a beauty to him.” That described the singspiration. It affected the students more than anything else on the trip. Bible, People, A place to meet.

Captain Kirk
“I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.” Ok, this may not be the most spiritual example, but watching the creative exploits of Captain Kirk and crew always got me thinking about how to be creative, to problem solve. It developed a key skill, how to take what you have and use it to communicate and carry out what is most important. Creativity far outweighs any teaching style or method. Bible, People, A place to meet.

Constraints means faith
Embracing constraints means utilizing faith in what you have instead of praying for what you don’t have. Bible: It is the central message we are communicating. That God wants to be known and to know us. People: The Holy Spirit empowers His people. Jesus died for people. People can pray, people can sing. People make ministry happen. A place to meet: Ministry is not a solo business. It can happen anywhere, in anything. Grassy field, tent, building, house, underground catacombs… The church never runs out of space, it just needs to plant to other venues. Space issues are often paradigm issues, and a paradigm is a self-imposed constrain on a non-essential. Bible, People, A place to meet.

The bottom line:
All you need to make ministry happen is Bible, People, A place to meet. I say this because in many parts of the world that is all the church has. I love technology, good music, sound systems, great architecture, books, toys, gadgets and gizmos galore. But, those are not essential. Ministry constraints are often self-imposed from a foundation of non-essentials. The only thing that can block church growth is no Bible, no people, no place to meet. Embrace constraints, they force you to focus on what is essential.

Why not Wednesday? Play

A professor told me clearly: “Play is a child’s job.” Well, really, its ours too. Think of it this way, how much did you learn while playing?  Take some time and answer these questions while thinking about how you can bring ‘play’ in your life:

1) What games did I enjoy playing the most in life and why?

2) What was my favorite toy? What adventures did I have with it?

3) What aspect of your job now relates the most to what you played as a kid?

4) Ok, what toy did you not get as a kid that you wished you had? (did you get it?)

5) When you played, did you ever think about the social, political, scientific, and job related skills you were developing? (hmmm…)

6) How many “problems” did you solve in your imaginary or gamed adventures?

Pursuing Learning And Yearning

Why not Wednesday: Be a kid!

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” ~Jesus

We often hear the line “child-like faith.” Jesus uses children to teach about humility and faith. Other than the disciples, children are the only group Jesus blesses in his earthly ministry. Leaders in children’s ministry love this verse. (We love other verses too!) In watching my two boyz grow, I’m learning more and more that child-like faith is not about simple trust or joyous abandon. I’m also thinking that children as a model of humility is less about their status. Here is what my boyz are teaching me about child-like faith.

“Amazing!”
My oldest son when I brought (OK, dragged) our first real Christmas tree into the house, stood in complete amazement. The word he used: Amazing! My youngest started kicking and flailing his arms as mom held him in a way he could see the tree. It was big, it was huge. And, after all dad’s kicking, screaming and complaining about a dumb ol’ tree in our house, two boyz changed my heart (my wife gave me the “see I told you so” look). The little and big things are equally amazing to kids. Jadon had the same reaction to the ice machine, the moon, ice cream, toy trains, the list goes on. Kids get amazement. They get wonder. But, its more than just the newness my boyz eagerly seek amazement. Its wired into their DNA. The quest for amazement is a skill we lose or forget.

“Daddy! Daddy!”
Daddy! Daddy! Means the same thing as Jesus saying “Truly truly, I say unto you!” Its not enough for a kid to be amazed. When amazed, we HAVE to share about it. Whether its demonstrating a newly conquered skill, or some simple thing they discovered, kids talk about it. They have to. Discovery is the root of their joy. What is learned and enjoyed must be shared- except with a brother or another child. We’ll talk about depravity at another time. Kids talk. They share what is most valuable- their hopes, dreams, and mostly the little things of life. Its wired into their DNA. The desire to share is a skill we lose or forget.

MA-MAAAAA!!!
When it comes to being hurt, dad is second fiddle to mom. Kids get the ministry of presence. But, my boyz get mad if I’m not around, even though its mama they want to play with or hold them. Jadon grabbed my hand once, sat me down on the couch and then took my wife’s and took her to the choo-choo’s. When I got up to go to the kitchen, play stopped and Jadon looked at me. He did not resume until dad was back in the picture. Kids get that people are the most important thing. People are more important than the task or what is being done. And whether it’s being held, or just being near, kids thrive on presence. Its wired into their DNA. The importance of people is a value we lose or forget.

CHOO-CHOO’S! Train. Train. Trains!?

Kids are devoted. When they like something, they want more. And more. And more. You get the picture. But, they don’t just want it- they CRAVE it! Jadon cannot get enough trains. Gavin cannot get enough doors for him to open. They must have more. They celebrate what they love. They ask for what they love and they go crazy when they get it. What they love is bigger than life. You do not have to convince them they know it. Its wired into their DNA. Devotion is a value we lose or forget.

Child-like faith is being amazed at, sharing, being there for, and being fully devoted to God and the people He places in our life. Sure, simple trust and joyous are a part of that, but those barely scratch the surface. Children are not simple followers. They are much, much more, and we would be wise to re-learn the skills that were once a part of our DNA.

Three lessons from Apple…

“Everyone in silicon valley was trying to be someone else…”
~Welcome to Macintosh

It is no secret that I’m a Mac. I watched Welcome to Macintosh, written and directed by filmmakers Robert Baca and Josh Rizzo, while my wife baked incredible delights. Expecting to enjoy the back ground story behind my beloved computer company, three big lessons stood out to me: 1) Be who you are, 2) Only take on projects you are passionate about and 3) Be dedicated to your strategy. These lessons are reflected both positively and negatively in Apple.

1) Be who you are!
A theme throughout the documentary was people trying to be who they were not. In Apple’s dark times, this was rampant. People in Apple were trying to be Steve Jobs, or some other key person. (It was also mentioned that its a Silicon Valley wide issue.) This theme really came out when discussing the future of Apple without Steve Jobs. The worst thing that could happen would be for someone to come in and try and be the next Steve.

Ministry touch point
One thing is clear: God designed you to be you, and ministry happens best when you are true to how God designed you! Focus on how God designed you. There may be similarities with others. There may be great ideas from others you can incorporate. But, the final question must always be asked and answered effectively: Who did God design YOU to be?

2) Only take on projects you are passionate about
A key quote from the movie: “When Apple really got behind a product, it did well, when they didn’t, it did really poor.” The story of the iPod demonstrated this point. Apple did not invent the mp3 player. Apple revolutionized it. Good design aesthetics and simplicity stand as pillars in Apple culture. The people of Apple also love music. The iPod revolutionized the mp3 market and music industry based on the merging of those two passions. Apple’s culture of innovation and passion drive the company, more so than the profit aspect. Its art verses business. It’s being verses doing.

Ministry touch point
If God is our delight, our desires will become/match up with His. If a project lacks passion, a key question to ask is: Is this what God wants us to do? (Sometimes the answer is yes, as obedience to His Word is another key aspect.) Passion is not everything, but it is what often will gets the job done. No something is not a negative. The power of no is a stronger yes. God gives us all 24/7 to accomplish His will. Our no’s are just as important as our yes. Go for the passionate yes, and be ready to say no a lot.

3) Be dedicated to your strategy
Innovation, simplicity, good design drive Apple. It is not a mistake that Apple developed 3 game changers: the personal computer, the iPod, and the iPhone. Apple rarely invented a concept, but they revolutionized it and made it usable. Apple’s success came about when they held to their core strategy or values. Again, its about being not doing.

Ministry touch point
How you get a job done is as important as what you do. Its a variation on the “Its the journey not the destination” principle. Understanding and articulating your values and strategy is essential to accomplishing effective ministry in the long run. Being creative is not always about new, but making something usable and best. Apple innovated, and their strategy centers on that. Innovation and creativity should be a result of who you are, and not the other way around. Its about being missional not program driven.

We need more stained glass windows…

 

Stained Glass Window

by Hauki-

“We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future, your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you can tell them…” ~ Joshua 4:6-7a NLT

Where is the art?
Stained glass windows were used to communicate basic bible stories to a largely illiterate world. Part of this was an extreme case of the Bible being in a language people didn’t understand. To communicate the stories from the Bible, the church used art. The buildings, decor, everything was to communicate and teach something about God, to inspire worship. For better or worse, we’ve lost the sense of art in many churches.

Theology in Art
God frequently used artistic expression as a tool to both remember and pass on who He is. Think about this, how abstract is a pile of stones in a middle of a river? The picture itself has to be explained. Think of the passover where God uses taste to communicate bitterness- the bitter herbs. Intertwined through the Old Testament God placed artistic expression to generate conversation. Some expressions were very abstract, others very understandable, they all were intended to generate conversation and engage people in theology- understanding who God is.

Generate why….
We need awe. We need environments and opportunities that get kids and adults to ask why, to dream. There is a broader context to following Christ. Our walk of faith is not an island unto itself. God showed Himself to be the one true God. If the church is truly one body, then our story and the stories of others in history connect. Theology is not a vacuüm, its communicated and lived out in history, in life. Art understands this language, as God created that rainbow of grammar and syntax. We need more stained glass windows…

Questions:
If all the words in your ministry environments disappeared, what does it communicate about God and who you are?

What have you done to help people see what God has done through the history of your church or ministry?

Do kids in your ministry start asking questions and talking about God because of what surrounds them?

Why Not Wednesday: Rearranging Deck Chairs

The cliche “that’s just rearranging deck chairs” has a negative connotation, but sometimes that is exactly what is needed. Slight changes are seemingly insignificant. Rearranging of things can open up a world of possibilities. One of the best things to help build creative muscle is to just move things around, take on a different perspective. It adds freshness, and keeps you from getting into a rut. It helps you become aware of things around you, and may help you at least find some lost pens.

Rearrange your deck chairs:
Move things around on your desk. Is the phone on your right really the best place?
Move your living-room furniture around
Take a different route home from work, and park differently.
Rearrange a friends desk… Enjoy your co-worker trying to figure out what’s different.
Set your desktop differently, if you’re a Mac user, move the dock to the side instead of the bottom.
Change how you normally arrange you library on iTunes.
Reverse your meal, eat dessert first, then the main course, then appetizer…Better yet, go out to eat and do this. When he brings you the bill for dessert, order a meal, then, when he brings the bill again, order and appetizer…

Bottom line:
Rearrange your “deck chairs.”