Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

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Don’t let the crisis go to waste

In art,Books,business,culture,design,faith,family,Friends,Fun,Theology,Uncategorized on August 12, 2016 by mstevensrev

2012-11and12-tt-03-ia-to-the-fire-a-firefighter-searches-for-possible-survivors-300x200In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, there is case study after case study on how organizations unwritten rules led to crisis at the time when the organization needed to function optimally. The King’s Cross fire in the Underground is one example where all those in authority were occupied with their kingdoms and no one was focused on rider safety costing 31 passengers their lives.

Every organization functions with a “common grace” approach that keeps rivalries in check and the orders shipped. During crisis is when the unwritten functional rules of the organization can be re-examined, when great scrutiny is on the operation unproductive power structures can be address. It is even said that in some crisis great leaders prolong the crisis in order to get the greatest positive effect of the change. Great wisdom is required to pull that off.

Is it possible to address this change without the crisis?

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Rahm Emanuel

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An in depth Localization Unconference perspective

In advertising,business,Community,culture,Fun,publicity on August 3, 2016 by mstevensrev

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This podcast was a lot of fun, and the first that we recorded with my good friend Teresa Marshall. She is a rockstar for getting on the podcast with little to know idea of what we were doing and whether it would be good or not. We will have to have her back at some point as we seem to be finding a groove!

As we sat with the content, we wanted to bring in a few others to discuss. So another dear friend in the industry Oleksandr “Alex” Pysaryuk joined us to weigh in on his experience with the Unconference. There was more editing work then we have had on any of our other podcasts and hopefully the effort will have been worth it.

I think you will really enjoy this one!

You can listen and subscribe to the podcast oniTunes, Google Play (USA or Canada), Stitcher, or via RSS.

 

No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there. -F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Encouraging words are effective

In art,Books,business,culture,design,faith,family,Friends,Fun,mission,Prayer,quote,Reading,Spiritual,swimming on August 2, 2016 by mstevensrev

iStock_000014997757Small1Two moments recently where someone offered me encouragement had immediate impact. The first was during my recent Olympic Triathlon during the swim. While contemplating giving up during the swim section of the race, I swam past one of the lifeguards and assumed I looked as bad as I felt. The lifeguard looked at me and encouraged yelling, “Doing great, you can make it.” I thought to myself, really? If this guy has said it then perhaps I can finish. It was that moment in the race where my swim improved and I got on with it.

The second situation was before an interview for the podcast this past Sunday. We recorded two in the week and after listening to the first I was focused on how I could improve. There were questions that ran on, and a number of “ums” and “ahhs” during my speaking. I was determined to focus on my speech and questions with our second guest. Before the second interview, our guest complimented me on the podcasts she had listened to and encouraged me in my voice and style. It was just the shot in the arm to focus me for that interview.

In writing this I consider how easy is it for me to find something to encourage someone else in today, perhaps it is exactly what they are in need of to perform their best.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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Race Lesson 3: Double down on strengths

In exercise,Fun,leadership,Sports,swimming,Uncategorized on July 28, 2016 by mstevensrev

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Running is the place where I excel, and over the years it is also the physical activity that I have found the most enjoyment in. The SeaFair Olympic Triathlon only confirmed that running is the most fun I have all day, when compared to swimming and biking. In addition to finding someone to help me with my incremental improvement in swimming, I also am convinced that nothing will get me to my goal faster then more running. So I immediately signed myself up for the Carkeek 12-Hour race which I ran a few years ago and wrote about here. There are a few other races I’ll compete in, but for the 12-hour I’d like to complete 40 miles this year.

There isn’t anyone in the world that has been created the same as you, many people spend their life looking at what they don’t have and how to improve their weaknesses. The opposite approach is more fun, go out and enjoy your strengths!  There is a really fun book that highlights this that I read years ago, American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China. I believe focusing in the one area where you can shine makes you better and has a larger impact in the world. Well roundedness is a myth and can often weaken your position in life when it comes to using your gifts. 

Use your gifts faithfully, and they shall be enlarged; practice what you know, and you shall attain to higher knowledge.

-Matthew Arnold

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The Lessons, rapid prototyping (Part V)

In Bible,Books,business,culture,devotional,Evangelist,faith,family,Fun,Grace Seattle,movies,PCA,Presbyterian Church in America,principles,Spiritual,Technology,Theology,Uncategorized on April 27, 2014 by mstevensrev

the-lean-startup-book-400x376-300x282 (1)A few years ago the book Lean Startup, by Eric Ries took off, at the time I was working for a offshore software development company and it was unthinkable to not have read this holy text for innovation. There are major take aways from this book: Do not be afraid to fail and be willing to fail often.  One thing that is unique I have learned since reading this book is that American culture stands out worldwide because of the position that failure does not define you as a business leader.  You have very famous examples of this including Steve Jobs with his first go around at Apple, and this is even reflected within our legal system a it relates to bankruptcy (America has some of the least punitive laws for bankruptcy in the world).  In an area like Silicon Valley it is likely to meet an entrepreneur who among a success has a string of failed companies that did not work out, this is accepted and according to The Lean Startup even encouraged.

This fits well within my spirituality as God’s grace is central to my view of what is happening in the world.  A minimal definition of grace would be a continuous second chance. (As a side note I have an illustration about ice cream and grace being you get rewarded even though you deserved to be punished, but I’ll save that for  a later post.) Christ came to offer second chances to us, that is the point.  Failure does not have the last word, just as the cross was not the end of Christ work rather he rose from the dead.  There are beautiful examples of this throughout the scriptures: Joshua and the people of God attacking Ai just after the victory at Jericho and losing (Joshua 7:1-26) and Peter’s denial of Jesus where he didn’t just lie once but three times claiming he did not know Jesus (John 18).  These are examples of great leaders from history in the church that were not defined by horrible failure, but rather defined by God’s transformation of their failure.

There is an opposing force to what I have mentioned so far, that failure does not define you and that is the concept of shame.  Just a few weeks ago I was in a presentation at work talking about what happens when teams make mistakes.  I was already at the white board so I added this diagram for our discussion:

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ToiletBowlFlushThe lower path I would describe as a pathway of shame and perhaps the best image would not be arrows but rather a swirling spiral like in a toilet bowl. Shame is a powerful force that instead of saying, “You made a mistake.” says “You are a mistake.” Instead of saying, “Let’s not cry over spilled milk, grab the rag.” It tells you that your life is an abortion.  For a person controlled by shame there is no place for failure or mistakes and therefore significant work has to be done to face this horrible virus of the soul.  Needless to say if you are a person controlled by shame this idea that you are free to fail will be very difficult if not impossible for you.

For those of you with children right now you know that the movie Frozen is all about this.  The scene creating the ice castle is about Elsa coming to terms with who she has been created to be and understanding that she is not like everyone else, but the storm of shame is still a part of her life as she lives in isolation and suffering under the weight that she is created ‘wrong’.  In my minds eye this is a modern feminist picture of Martin Luther’s great speech at the Diet of Worms, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Only when Elsa’s sister Anna is able to love her unconditionally even given her life for her, is the curse of shame broke.  Though Elsa is still different this difference is used for the good of everyone around her rather then being a curse.

 

So if you buy into this idea the fear is destructive, or a positive was of saying it being failure does not define you then a natural fruit in your life is to not be afraid of failure! Lean Start up pushes this idea with the concept of Rapid Prototyping. This idea of create, create quickly, create well, but get it out there so you can find out what is wrong with it as soon as possible.  Take feedback and grow, or my preferred verb is EVOLVE.

A major evolution in my spirituality was letting go of having to be right. The denomination that I was ordained in, the PCA, was right.  They were well educated and studied theologians that had put in the hours of dedication to create a theological framework and church governance that was Biblical and therefore right.  Once you walk away from a group like that you cannot help but be wrong, because they are the only ones that are right.  This devastated me for a significant period of time, I was lost and certainly I was on the wrong side of right.  Shame played havoc with my soul and my spirituality.

lesmis2Then I became convinced that my spirituality was not about being right and it never should have been.  I can be completely wrong and still loved fully by God!  WOW, what freedom!  One of my professors from seminary, Steve Brown, used to say “I’m wrong at least 50% of the time, I just wish I knew what 50%.” Another way to put is, my faith is not about my sin rather what it means for me to live fully human before God who has saved me.  I have been redeemed from my sin and am being redeemed from my sin.

So does this mean we just run off not caring? Roman 6, is helpful here.  Also I remember Steve Brown using this great illustration.  The discussion of grace and obedience is like a dog chasing his own tail, and the good news if the dog follow the master everything lines up. Let’s live with complete affection and focus on the master and trust that others have been created to do the same!

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The Lessons, a big table

In art,Bible,church,Community,devotional,faith,family,food,Fun,generosity,Uncategorized on April 19, 2014 by mstevensrev

BKP_0070There was one special lent and easter while I was a minister at All Nations Presbyterian Church in Oakland, CA.  I was responsible for the Sunday evening service we referred to as Tenebrae, it consisted of about twenty regular people that attended, we lit candles and used liturgical format that was more in line with high church when compared to contemporary churches.  Since we had such a small group we would regularly try to incorporate things into the service sometimes for the good and sometimes not.

During Lent one year we decided to create a banquet table at the front of the church during a time of reflection early in the service.  The table would be set in stages and at the end of it, at Easter, it would culminate in our Easter Service being a meal together.  The first week I remember the table alone being set out, then each week incrementally we added an element that would eventually be part of our meal including wine, chairs, plates, silverware, candles, napkins, and of course the food was amazing on Easter. The meal we enjoyed together at Easter was a joy and will go down as one of my favorite memories of my time as a full-time minister in Oakland.

Nuremberg_chronicles_f_21r_The table was set in order for people to come and they did.  We had artist, software developer, gay, straight, white, black, Asian, religious and irreligious. There was room for all of us.  As I have reflected on this event biblically since one of the biggest problems the early church had was who you were allowed to eat with and who was invited to the table.  Peter got it wrong.  There is also a reading of the Older Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah that deconstructs the story being about sexual sin, rather this reading reasons the condemnation of  the city is because they were inhospitable to strangers that were not like them and lawless.

One thing I appreciate about my current job is the belief that when people eat a meal together there is a better relationship, trust is established at a deeper level, and in the best circumstances you enjoy each other more.  Jesus had the reputation of being a lush because of all the parties he went to and who he ate with, and who doesn’t want to be like Jesus. My table has expanded and I want many to eat and drink with me, my vision for the table is more grand then I ever expected.

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A reflection on embracing your inner self, from a middle ager inspired by middle earth

In art,Books,C.S. Lewis,Community,culture,devotional,faith,Fun,Lord of the Rings,movies,poetry,The Hobbit,Theology,Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , , ,

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This last week I was inspired by listening to Malcolm Guite‘s talk from Kindlings Summer Fest, the third of a series of three.  We attended Summer Fest but were out ‘living’ the topic he spoke of, primarily being the recipients of amazing Orcas Island hospitality from our hosts…they took us on a tour of the island on the boat, simply amazing!  If you have not heard of Malcolm or The Kindlings it would be worth checking out.  The podcast is in the archive and joining Kindlings as an Associate is well worth the $2/month to listen to the content.  His talk was titled,

Malcolm Guite – Finding our Way Forward Beyond Generational Apartheid – Live from Kindlings Fest 2012 

 

In the talk Malcolm covers some amazing points on how to reconnect across generations, his first two points will be the focus of my thoughts today:

  • You Yourself are Intergenerational! Start by remembering and befriending your inner child, the one that dreamed Dreams and saw visions.
  • If you are a youth still in touch with your inner child, how about getting in touch with your outer adult?

There are parts of who you have been created as a person that were transparent when you were a child and over time you ‘learned’ that those things were wrong, immature, or even shameful.  While yes there are ‘childish’ ways that we are encourage to let go of, that is not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about that calling from Jesus to be ‘childlike’.  When you ask a kindergarten class to raise their hands if they are an artist, almost every hand will be in the air…yes this is probably because they love raising their hand but also that there is a love and passion for creating and learning.  By middle school that entire poll completely changes as perhaps a few kids will raise their hands while most will look around to watch what their peers are doing.  How does that middle schooler get back in touch with that kindergartner?  A better question might be ‘how do I get back in touch with that child in me’?

Last night as my wife and I went to the midnight showing of The Hobbit, an unexpected journey, I was struck by a few small points around this topic.  First, the story is told generationally.  The way it is framed is Bilbo Baggins is writing his adventures to his cousin Frodo Baggins, they are more than seventy years apart and therefore this connection is intergenerational.  Also it is a time for Bilbo as he is entering a late stage of life to reflect upon his adventurous middle life experiences.  Lastly, when Gandalf describes why he chose such an unlikely home-body as Bilbo to Bilbo himself, Gandalf reminds Bilbo of his youthful adventurous spirit that had been all but replaced by reading and looking at maps as an adult. Bilbo is brought face to face with the need to embrace the passions of his childhood and realize them as an adult.

One small aside this embracing of childhood passion can be a perverted immaturity as a grownup child plays with expensive and dangerous toys at the expense of others to fulfill selfish desires, the guard against this is clear from the movie…other centeredness.  Bilbo embraces the adventure for the sake of reclaiming a home for the dwarves, be a child and then live passionately and childlike for another’s good!

Let’s also remember what I just described is the part of “getting in touch with your outer adult”.  There is a beauty that comes along with age, that of wisdom, loyalty and integrity.  These are also why Bilbo was chosen for the journey, fear would cause him to doubt his place at moments.  The beauty of having a hobbit on the journey..and in this world is that they are the only ones of such great character (especially the Baggins) that they can carry the ring.

Today there are a few practical things I want to encourage you in.  First, reflect on your passions from your childhood. One for me was the grandfather clock in our house, hands down the most valuable possession in meaning to my family.  I grew up with a love of that clock and when an opportunity arose to be involved with making a clock, my passions from childhood were ignited.  Second, sing a song or read a poem or riddle…today. There is a beauty and inspiration that cannot be captured in words by doing this.  Christopher Alexander in his masterpiece, The Timeless Way of Building,  captures this well…he spends an entire book describing how this nameless power is present in good (true) architecture.

I will leave you with the powerful  words of C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”

Seek the deeper magic today.