Wednesday, December 12, 2007

looking at Christmas lights

The topic I really want to blog about is too sensitive to discuss here, so let me just express my curiosity about Christmas lights. What is it that possesses people to want to drive aimlessly through neighborhoods and look at other people's light displays? I could understand it if incandescent bulbs had been invented in, say, September of this year; but don't we all know what electric lights look like now? Admittedly, there are a few people who do go all-out enough to make their house an actual attraction, but gas prices are too high to just troll through display after display of the same inflatable Santas and snowmen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Walmart Express Tire & Lube

I know I'm a missionary, and flexibility and patience are supposed to be my key character qualities. But Walmart really pushed me to the limit this afternoon. I went in for an oil change, figuring that an icy day like today would cut down on the crowd. I walked into Walmart and, as commonly occurs, nobody was at the desk. After waiting about five minutes, a surly associate sauntered back and asked what I wanted. I told him I needed an oil change, and he told me it might take an hour and a half. I agreed to that. I had decided to try synthetic oil this time. I thought I was going to get by for about $35, but it turns out that was a synthetic blend. For pure synthetic, you have to pay about $50; but I decided I was willing to try it.

I had a little shopping to do, so I went and finished it. Then, I sat and watched the entire movie of the Transformers. Grrr, what a waste of celluloid! After 2 1/2 hours, my car still hadn't been touched. I went and played video games; I came back and watched a 45-minute TV show on our iPod. Still, nothing. Finally, the one guy who was working in the garage pulled my car in. He manfully struggled with the oil filter for quite a while, then gave up and went in to get the desk guy. At last, they freed it, and a mere 4 hours after I arrived, my car was ready. A little earlier in the process I had asked one of the Walmart associates if she had called my name and I had missed it. She said, "No, you're next."

Me: Why did the guy tell me it was going to be 1 1/2 hours, when it's been almost double that and you haven't started yet?
Her: The guys had lunch breaks.
Me: Did he not know that they were going to take lunch breaks?
Her: That's why we have these signs (pointing to signs that say they will give their best estimate but cannot guarantee service time)
Me: Yes, I understand that you can only give an estimate, but the estimate he gave me doesn't seem very accurate.
Her: One of the guys had to leave.
Me: (fuming)

Apparently, my car took an extra half-quart of oil too, so they charged me another $6. So...final total...about $60, 4 hours. I'm never going back to Walmart for an oil change again.

Back to writing Christmas cards...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Paintjam Dan Dunn

This guy never ceases to amaze me!

What Not to Buy

I assume you're all aware that Aqua Dots are not the gift to buy your nieces and nephews for Christmas this year, but WATCH have come out with this additional list of dangerous toys. Be sure not to stuff kids' stockings with lead paint, tiny swallowable magnets, electric shocks and burns. "Jack Sparrow's Spinning Dagger" made the list. Who knew?

In other news, gasoline is high on the "do not buy list." It's expected to go up 20 cents a gallon in December. It's over $3.10 on the national average. Remember the glory days of November 2006 when gas was only $2.22 a gallon. We didn't care for it much then, but it looks nice in retrospect.

Oh, and while we're talking about bad news for the holidays, be sure to pack light as you travel. Last year, there were more than 53,000 trips to the emergency room for luggage-related injuries during the holiday season.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not all terrorists are "deconstructionists"

Those wily terrorists have found a new way to strike fear into the hearts of the American citizen. Well, those who are philosophically inclined anyhow. Read all about it here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

3 caches & no class

A couple of new local geocaches showed up in my email last night, and it was too late to go get them, so I got up early this morning and headed out. One of them had already been found, but there was one that was still unclaimed. I headed for the site of the found one, but the sun wasn't up yet, and the batteries in my flashlight were basically useless so I had to give up. The other cache was in the neighborhood where our friends Jay & Linda live, so I knew the area decently well. The sun was getting ready to rise by the time I got there, so I was able to find the cache pretty easily. I headed back to Corporate Woods and, by this time, the sun had risen enough that I found the cache(s; there were two stages) without too much difficulty. Since there was another cache across the street, and I had had it on my list for a long time, I popped over and got it too. Just as I was getting in the car to come home, Tiff called to say that breakfast was cooking. What did you do this morning before breakfast?

Tawnya had told me that my algebra class would get a late start today due to Student Senate elections, but I had forgotten, so I was really rushing when I left home for class. I had a coupon for a free frozen cappuccino at QuikTrip, so I stopped in to grab one on the way. I rushed up to the counter only to have the cashier tell me I had gotten the wrong product. Since the one I had picked was about half the price, he was content to let me stick with my choice. I was in too much of a hurry to do otherwise, anyhow. About the time I got up to my classroom, it dawned on me that there was really no hurry. As it happened, the elections took almost the entire class period, so I never actually met with my students at all. I caught up on a few other things and watched a bit of Brian Williams and Bono in Africa on our iPod. My geography students had a map quiz for which they felt a little under-prepared, and we watched a video about Canada, which did little to dissuade my prejudices against the country.

The World's Most Expensive Bottle Opener

Thursday, August 30, 2007

free to worship

I had lunch with one of our pastors today. While we do have some differences, we are very similar in our personalities and psychological makeup. I was sharing with him some of the struggles I have had in my spiritual journey, including some regarding finding meaningful spiritual disciplines that keep me growing and moving forward. I face the paradoxical situation of craving both routine and variety, so I have some difficulty in establishing a devotional life that is consistently meaningful. I have felt guilt at times, because those disciplines that I enjoy most don't necessarily fit the traditional mold for "personal devotions." For example, I enjoy Bible study, but many people see that as being informational rather than formational and therefore inappropriate for a devotional time.

My pastor really affirmed me and helped me find some freedom in this area. He encouraged me to find a way to worship and to discover God in ways that come naturally to me. He went so far as to say, "You don't have to read My Utmost for His Highest." I have enjoyed reading some mystic writers and sometimes I long to have experiential faith like theirs, but I am slowly learning to embrace the person God made me. I may never be a Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross, but I can relate to God in unique ways that are personal to me.

On a related note, my pastor noted that, when we say we love someone, we are really saying that we love who we are when we are with them. We are after all inherently selfish, and it runs counter to our nature to love someone with unalloyed motives. It's maybe not ideal, but it's an acceptable reality. I am not all the way to where I want to be in love with Jesus, but I am learning to love who I am when I'm with Him. My deepest spiritual longing is to really know Christ--not just to live morally, not just to be guided by superior principles, but to have an active, growing relationship with Jesus.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It is so hot

I'm sure that my first January in Mongolia, I will be begging for some weather, but right now it is so hot...
.....the birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.
.....the trees are whistling for the dogs.
.....the best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
.....hot water now comes out of both taps.
.....you can make sun tea instantly.
.....you learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.
.....the temperature drops below 95 F (35 C) and you feel a little chilly.
.....you discover that in August it only takes 2 fingers to steer your car.
.....you discover that you can get sunburned through your car window.
.....you actually burn your hand opening the car door.
....you break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 a.m.
.....your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
.....you realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
....the potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and add butter.
.....the cows are giving evaporated milk.
....farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

scheduling

I've been a little slow at getting missions services scheduled, but I was getting tired of seeing all those blank Sundays on my calendar. So today, I finally buckled down and started making phone calls. It's much easier for me to write an e-mail than it is to make a phone call, but the phone tends to get more responses. It seemed to pay off today anyway. I still got my share of answering machines or no answers, but I did get in contact with several churches and a few pastors even returned my calls. So, some of those blank spaces are starting to fill in, and I'm getting some ideas about how I might need to fill some of the others. One of the calls today was a little difficult. It was a pastor that I hadn't met before, although he said he was supposed to call me this week anyhow. We didn't have a very good phone connection, so I wasn't always catching what he was saying. Somehow, I got it into my mind that he was from a church in the bootheel of Missouri, so I left the scheduling pretty wide open. We picked a Sunday in November. As the call was closing, I suddenly had the sinking realization that this was a church in South Carolina. I did hope to schedule a service there, but I intended to be a little more intentional about how I scheduled it, so as to incorporate visits to other area churches. Oh well, I have an anchor date now, so I will just have to work to schedule the other churches in November as well.

Monday, August 20, 2007

another dwarf joke (this one isn't about miners)

I Rear-ended a car this morning.
I knew it was going to be a really bad day!
The driver got out of the other car and he was a dwarf!
He looked up at me and said "I am NOT happy"
So I said "Well, which one are you then?"
That's how the fight started!

Take the Tedst

My 2-year-old son isn't a member of the Virginia Association of Realtors, but he sure did laugh when he watched me take the Tedst.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Disney does politics

One day, the seven dwarfs left to go work in the mine. Snow White stayed home to prepare lunch. When she arrived at the mine with the lunch, she saw that there had been a terrible cave in. Tearfully, and fearing the worst, Snow White began calling out, hoping against hope that some of the dwarfs had survived.

"HELLO, HELLO," SHE CALLED. "CAN ANYONE HEAR ME? HELLO". FOR QUITE A WHILE THERE WAS NO ANSWER. LOSING HOPE, SNOW WHITE CALLED AGAIN, "HELLO. IS ANYONE DOWN THERE?"

JUST AS SHE WAS ABOUT TO GIVE UP ALL HOPE, THERE CAME A FAINT VOICE FROM DEEP IN THE MINE. THE VOICE SAID, "VOTE FOR HILLARY, VOTE FOR HILLARY."

SNOW WHITE, SOMEWHAT RELIEVED SCREAMED OUT, "OH THANK GOD. DOPEY IS STILL ALIVE."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Potted Police

As someone once said, local news is like a comedy club without the drinks, but I can't blame the news personnel here for getting a little tickled.

Road Rage

I don't know if airbags are really this sensitive, but it makes for a funny video.

10 Ways to Ensure You Stay Broke

The Consumerist had a great article on how to be a bad steward of your finances. You might want to go over this list and see how many describe you. If you think of some other money-wasting ideas, feel free to add them in a comment.

1) Make Shopping Your Hobby.

2) Don't Have a Budget.

3) Impress Your Friends By Buying Them Expensive Stuff You Can't Afford.

4) Go Grocery Shopping When You're Hungry, With No List.

5) Go To The Little ATM At The Gas Station. A Lot.

6) Buy Lots and Lots of "Comfort Items" Without Considering The Cost.

7) Don't Open A High Interest Savings Account

8) Run Up Lots Of Credit Card Debt

9) Let Yourself Go.

10) Buy Your Children Whatever They Want

Saturday, July 21, 2007

leisure

Elijah spent the night with my parents last night so that Tiff and I could have our weekly date. We ate dinner at Chapala in Olathe and then headed to Crown Center to watch Field of Dreams on the big screen they set up on Friday nights. Surprisingly, I stayed awake through the whole movie; I don't have a good track record with Kevin Costner movies, especially the 3-hour epics that include 2 hours of South Dakota scenic pans.

This morning, I postponed my daily walk for a bit due to some light rain. I worked on a personal budget for a little while. We're not doing badly financially; I just like to be sure that we are aware of what we are doing with the money we have. When the weather cleared up a bit, Tiff and I went to the farmers market and bought some watermelon. There seemed to be lots of good stuff, but we're going to be out of town for a week so there's not much point in stocking up. We picked Elijah up and came back home, and he and I went for a walk. We stopped at a garage sale, but didn't find anything we really needed. I made a citrus cooler for lunch, but the club soda was pretty flat so it didn't have much pizazz.

After lunch, I relaxed in the pool and read a bit more of Loving God by Charles Colson. I decided to do a few webcam geocaches for the first time, so Tiff stayed home and took pictures of me while I went out and stood on one leg in various places. Very strange idea!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Control Factor

In Pragmatics of Communication (1967), Paul Watzlawick, Janet Beavin and Don Jackson present five basic axioms of interpersonal communication. The fifth axiom of communication expresses a difference between symmetrical and complementary interaction. The Control Factor.

When two communicators in a relationship behave similarly, the relationship is said to be symmetrical; differences are minimized…but, when communicator differences are maximized, a complementary relationship is said to exist. Ideally, an ongoing relationship includes an optimal blend of complementary and symmetrical interactions. Flexibility is the key.

Frank Millar and Edna Rogers define control in terms of complementary and symmetry. Control is best examined by looking at the pattern of messages and responses over a lengthy period of time. Not isolated instances. Thus "Every message is a stimulus for the next message in the sequence."

One-up behavior—When "A" makes a statement, "B's" response defines the nature of the relationship at that moment. If "B" responds in a way that asserts control, "B's" message is said to be ONE-UP.

One-down behavior—If "B" responds in a way that accepts "A's" assertion of control, "B's" message is said to be ONE-DOWN.

One-across behavior—If "B's" response neither asserts control nor relinquishes it, the message is said to be ONE-ACROSS.

Neutralize behavior—natural blending of assertion and relinquishment between partners

    COMPLEMENTARY EXCHANGE—Occurs when the partner asserts a "one-up" message and the other responds "one-down." In a complementary relationship this kind of transaction predominates.

    SYMMETRICAL EXCHANGE—Involves both partners presenting "one-up " or "one-down" messages.

    TRANSITION EXCHANGE—Exists when the partner's responses are different but not opposite.

Malcolm Parks derived fifteen axioms from the Control Configurations of Millar and Rogers and are an extension of the Control Dimension.

  1. The greater the competitive symmetry, the greater the frequency of one-sided action in a relationship.
  2. The greater the competitive symmetry, the lower the probability of relationship termination.
  3. The greater the role discrepancy, the greater the competitive symmetry.
  4. The greater the competitive symmetry, the greater the frequency of open conflict.
  5. The greater the competitive symmetry, the greater the frequency of threat and intimidation messages.
  6. The greater the competitive symmetry, the greater the frequency of messages of rejection.
  7. The less competitive symmetry, the greater the satisfaction with communication (neutralized relationship).
  8. The greater the external threat (violence/abuse), the less the competitive symmetry.
  9. The greater the role discrepancy, the less frequent is communication about feelings toward the other.
  10. The greater the complementarity, the less empathy (understanding).
  11. The greater the complementarity, the greater the role specialization.
  12. The greater the complementarity, the greater the mutual envy.
  13. The greater the rigidity, the greater the frequency of disconfirming messages.
  14. The greater the rigidity, the greater the probability of psychopathology (mental disorders/diseases of the mind).

The greater the rigidity, the less frequent are attempts to explicitly define the relationship.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My body is attacking my thyroid gland!

I got a phone call this morning from Lill Family Medicine, letting me know that the second lab results confirmed the first, i.e., my TSH levels are too low, and that Dr. Lill was prescribing Synthroid. I'm a little disappointed that the doctor didn't see me face-to-face to tell me what was wrong with me and what the treatment was going to be. As far as I can tell from the medication website, I have hypothyroidism, which means that my autoimmune system has attacked my thyroid, keeping it from producing enough thyroxine. So, I have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life and get my TSH levels tested every 6 to 12 months. I'm not sure why I need to do this, since I don't have any symptoms of the disorder, except possibly a raspy voice. I guess my grandfather and great-grandfather also had hypothyroidism and it kept them from being able to lose weight, so maybe this will be a magic diet pill for me and my gut will disappear.

On a brighter note, I made butterscotch strawberries today for dessert. They were delightful! Tiff was off to the eye doctor, so Elijah and I walked to the grocery store (somewhat against his will) to get our supplies.

Conflict Management in Staff and Internship Settings

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN STAFF AND INTERNSHIP SETTINGS

By Donald W. Welch

Pastoral Ministries Coordinator

Church of the Nazarene

    Trying to avoid conflict many times propels us further into unresolved pain rather than the pleasure we yearn for through open, communicative, interpersonal relationships. Each of us could tell of a painful confrontation or subtle conflict, resulting in the loss of a friendship or that significant other, or even the change of leadership position. The word conflict conjures up different mental images in relation to individual experience. G. Douglass Lewis, in Resolving Church Conflicts: A Case Approach for Local Congregations (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), says, "Conflict is two or more objects aggressively trying to occupy the same space at the same time." Many times, having survived a conflict, we have to learn how to pick up the pieces and live with the painful aftermath of heated conflict that we would just as soon forget.

    To teach conflict management in an internship setting without understanding one's strength and weaknesses as a conflict manager is as futile as trying to teach someone how to perform brain surgery without ever having attended medical school. It is an impossibility. Therefore, it is good to explore one's personal biases, weaknesses, or lack of skill when trying to teach conflict management in the internship setting, and to investigate the process for handling and implementing appropriate conflict techniques.

    Robert D. Dale, in Pastoral Leadership, says: "Broadly viewed, there are two types of congregational conflict: conflict over facts and conflicts involving feelings. Most disagreements blend both facts and feelings" (p. 159).

    Having now served as a college administrator, associate pastor at one of our college churches, and senior pastor, I have come to realize that in the various facets of ministry, conflict is as natural to the church as breathing and eating are for physical beings. I'm not saying that all conflict is healthy, but neither am I saying that all conflict should be labeled "bad." In any event, learning to deal with conflict in a productive manner can enable us to be more effective ministers.

    This became more apparent to me the day I tried to purchase my first new automobile. I found the ideal car that, I thought, would meet all my needs as a minister: conservative in style (not too flashy), economical (very easy on my car allowance), it was large enough to transport five grown people and, in addition, the Consumer Guide qualified it as "dependable."

    Driving my old '71 Toyota to the dealership with high hopes of purchasing my first new automobile was a momentous occasion. (My old car had been operating without a reverse gear for over a year.) With a smile and high expectation, I looked forward to the ensuing dialogue between the salesman and myself. I would soon be on my way in my brand-new car, with a reverse gear that worked. Up to that point the salesman and I were really hitting it off, and I sensed that we shared a real appreciation for each other. Having done research into the particulars of this car, I had a fairly good ideas as to what I could afford and what I was willing to pay for it. And then the big C happened. The price the salesman quoted over the telephone was not the same as he was quoting on paper. I gently questioned him. After a pause, and almost as smoothly as a pastor summing up his Sunday morning message with a powerful concluding illustration, he drove home his all-inclusive point. It was then I noticed his demeanor changing almost as quickly as Pinocchio's facial transformation when he told a lie. (If Geppetto had been close by at that point, I would have asked him if this salesman was telling the truth or not.)

    The salesman's jargon from this point on was unfamiliar and, I thought, could have dissipated the most idealistic car enthusiast. His speech ran with pietistic overtones that made me think of certain times I wished to forget, when I had preached. Was my preaching being lived out in my daily experience? At that moment I began to notice my posture changing from relaxed and casual to stiffened and defensive.

    As I questioned my own communicative abilities, I tried to reassure myself that I had taken significant communication courses in college and seminary, and I was no dummy. I had always been able to communicate fairly well with people. Perhaps I had misunderstood this salesman's original commitment over the telephone. Not wanting to judge that salesman (why, with all of the pictures of his children, his wife, and their pets there on his desk, I could clearly see that he was a good family man), I tried to regain my composure. I wanted desperately to give him the benefit of the doubt, but the more I tried, the more I found myself bristling. Surely this isn't happening, I thought to myself, though I had heard my friends relate similar experiences. I still believed I could overcome this conflict. Or maybe, even yet, I might see this salesman's nose growing, giving away the secret that, yes, he was lying to me all along.

    But I was already judging this man and doubted his honesty and integrity. I had been honest with him, and he was using my open, up-front approach against me (at least I thought so). He had attacked me where I was vulnerable, and there had been a deception from the beginning, as far as I could ascertain.

    The conversation disintegrated into a nonnegotiable battle. He said that his boss wouldn't come down any further on the price, which was nowhere near the price quoted over the telephone that initially drew me to that particular dealership. From his point of view we were only in conflict over price; from my perspective we were in emotional conflict over his lack of principle. I ended up leaving the dealership frustrated, angry, and determined not to be caught in such a dilemma again. Unfortunately, I have since found that such situations are all too common in life—two or more people seeing things from totally different viewpoints with (for whatever the reason) a lack of ability to effectively manage the conflict.

    Too often we view conflict as something that leaves two parties caught in an impasse where the nonnegotiable stance (whether fact or emotion) takes its toll on the prevailing parties. Instead of learning to use the conflict for reaching a deeper understanding and personal maturity, we tend to bristle, become frustrated, and look for a way to avoid working through it. New wisdom and understanding are then lost within the parameters of conflict. It goes without saying that many times it is more profitable to avoid conflict than to become enmeshed in issues that are destructive in nature.

    Jesus was involved in conflict. In Matt. 21:12-16 we see that He even initiated conflict. John 8:3-11 tells us that Jesus resolved conflict involving the woman found in adultery. At other times we see that He avoided conflict, as in Luke 4:28-30.

    It would be optimistic and idealistic to say that conflict always serves as a stepping-stone to greater understanding. More often than not the converse is true. Too often we fantasize that our experiences have really made us into the persons we have become, only to realize that our experiences haven't changed us. We may be lacking the inertia or energy to transfer our head knowledge into our moment-by-moment life experiences. Rather than internalize these learnings, making certain adjustments, and adapting these learnings into our style for relating to other(s) in conflict situations, we naturally bristle, hold tight to our personal convictions, whether or not they are valid. Our conflict approach then leaves us mythed, alone, and less than effective.

    This may not be your situation. You may have learned and developed your strategy for healthy conflict management early on, and you may feel gifted in the area of managing conflict. If so, you are probably seeking new insights. The following tools may be helpful in teaching conflict management in an internship setting.

    It is important to gain a self-awareness. Often in the ministry we are trained to be aware of and to understand what makes other people tick without really discovering who we are in relationship to conflict situations. Whether or not we create conflict, ministers find themselves thrust into a myriad of conflict situations that raise the prevailing question: "What do I do with this?"

    Norman Shawchuck, in How to Manage Conflict in the Church, says, "Each of us has a set of working assumptions about God which influences our thinking and doing. The theology you hold about conflict (your assumptions regarding how God thinks and acts in the midst of conflict) influences the way you will think and act when confronted by a conflict situation." If we view ourselves as weak, vulnerable, broken vessels before an ever-loving God, we will tend to view those with whom we work as vessels of the same standing and will approach conflict with sensitivity and understanding. Such an attitude will enable us to enter into the conflict situation with an understanding that no one wins or loses.

    When we sense that we are being taken advantage of or our personal territory is being threatened, we are caught in a win-or-lose conflict. Let's face it, no one likes to lose or be made to look bad in front of family or peers. If this occurs, we naturally look for someone to blame. It's like the little boy who was having trouble staying out of the strawberry patch. His mother, trying to help him, said: "When you feel tempted to get into the strawberry patch, just tell Satan, 'Satan, get thee behind me.'" "But then he pushes me into the strawberry patch," responded the little boy. It's too easy to resist taking responsibility for our faults. A natural tendency is to cast blame rather than to analyze and to face our contribution (positive or negative) to the conflict.

    Norman Wakefield, in Solving Problems Before They Become Conflicts, says that the way in which we face problems and conflicts involves several styles of relating. "Learned behavior" develops from our experiences in childhood. We learn how to solve or avoid problems by watching others handle problems, especially our parents. Our personal approach centers around "goals and relationships." Whatever style we adopt, we are trying to keep our goals and our relationships with people in balance with our feelings and desires. Most of us do not relate in the same style in every situation. We may have several backup styles that Shawchuck elaborates on in his material. He believes that as our experience level grows and expands, we tend to develop different backup styles. We discover different ways to handle problems that may seem similar in nature to conflicts of the past.

    This leads me to believe that we are all in the process of discovering who we are. I would imagine that the disciples faced a different level of self-awareness after witnessing the resurrection of Jesus than they had prior to the Crucifixion. They thought they were prepared for what lay ahead, but no one really knows how he will react to a given situation until it happens. We know of only one person who really knew himself well enough to respond appropriately in every situation, and that was Jesus Christ. It may safely be said that the apostles were carnal, impotent, unfilled, and struggling for self-identity before Pentecost. They were conflict-prone before their anointing in the power of the Holy Spirit; but it is equally true that they were conflict-prone following Pentecost.

    For instance, the great debate between Paul and Barnabas over young John Mark illustrates that even sanctified Christians can get caught up in conflict. Paul and Barnabas eventually ended up going their separate ways because a compromise could not be reached. Acts 15:36-40 tells us that conflicts will happen even among Spirit-led people. Acts 15:41 and 16:5 tell us a lot about God, His tolerance of our differences, and His willingness to bless our ministries even when we are in conflict. I think this story of Paul and Barnabas falls under the category of the promise given in 2 Cor. 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (NKJV). David W. Johnson, in Human Relations and Your Career (Prentice-Hall, 1978), 247, says: "It is not the presence of conflict that causes chaos and disaster, but the harmful and ineffective way it is managed. It is the lack of skills in managing conflict that leads to problems. When conflicts are skillfully managed, they are of value." Learning what leads up to conflict and how to handle it is of utmost importance.

    Shawchuck says that conflict always involves (1) action, (2) threat, and (3) reaction. The action is the behavior of one party; threat threatens to take, damage, or destroy a "territory" that is claimed by another party; the threatened party reacts in ways intended to protect his claim on the "territory."

    I think that one of the more helpful things we can teach our interns is that conflict is very much a part of ministry. Recently, while meeting with an intern and his mentor, I heard the mentor say: "I never thought Christian people could act this way." To come to an understanding that people will disagree and that it may even lead to conflict will help enable the intern to be a more effective pastor and leader. It is important to learn to manage the conflict, not whether or not we have to face conflict. Conflict is inevitable in the ministry.

    Even perfect love, endowed by the Holy Spirit, will not protect us from conflict. There is a difference between managing conflict and perpetuating it for selfish reasons. Neither Paul nor Barnabas intended to become involved in a conflict that eventually led to the severing of their relationship; but neither did they try to resolve the conflict the best way. Where do we read that they prayed together about young John Mark, seeking God's intention for his involvement in the missionary journey? Prayer is essential to managing conflict.

    How do we help the young intern to address conflict when that conflict centers on and threatens to usurp the pastor's leadership? When our leadership is threatened, or another person's territory is threatened, the human personality naturally wants to protect that which he worked so hard for or for some reason he holds so dear. The natural tendency is to react emotionally rather than begin to approach the problem logically, dealing only with issues rather than personalities. Shawchuck asserts, "Conflict, however, is not sinful of itself. Sinfulness in conflict results from the way we behave in the conflict, not from disagreement or tensions between us." Paul encourages us to "be angry, and do not sin" (Eph. 4:26, NKJV).

    Wherever you have people interacting, there is possibility for conflict. Although conflict may indicate carnality sticking its head out, it does not necessarily mean there is a spiritual problem. It could mean that the conflict is being mismanaged. Many times we are too quick to assess conflict as a spiritual lapse on somebody's part, rather than carefully analyzing the dynamics.

    Relationships are dynamic and are always changing; in flux from day to day. Conflict is dynamic, too, and normally takes a cycle of (1) Tension development, where someone is sensing a loss of freedom in the relationship. (2) Role dilemma, where confusions develop as to why the tension developed, and so on. This is the crucial stage where the parties need to sit down and discuss the problems that have arisen. Unfortunately, this is also the stage where people are embarrassed to discuss the issues because they seem too trivial. (3) Injustice collecting, where people are convinced that things can only get worse, so they begin an emotional separating process in preparation for an inevitable "battle." They begin collecting injustices and hurts that will be used as "artillery" later. (4) Confrontation is usually the next stage. Shawchuck says that "in unmanaged conflict persons confront each other. In well-managed conflict they confront the issues which caused the tension in the first place." In the church we are more susceptible to conflict because of our investment in and personal relationship with others. It's similar to the intensity of family negotiations involving private space, control, and meaningful identity acceptance, which most of us have faced at one time or another. This usually takes place when the parties are either at the point of renegotiating their relationship, or they move to sever the relationship. (5) Adjustments are the changes people make to end the confrontation.

    Shawchuck suggests three steps to conflict management: The first step is to generate valid information about the conflict situation, and to share that information with all the involved parties. The second step "is to allow the conflict parties to make free and informed choices regarding their behavior, based upon the information. This involves joint problem-solving and decision-making. Joint decision-making involves two levels: a) Identify areas where there is sufficient agreement between the parties to enable them to collaborate in reaching resolutions and decisions. b) Identify the areas where there is no agreement or room for collaboration, so each party may reach his own decisions. These decisions are then shared with the other party, and collaborative decisions are made as to how the two parties will live and work together in spite of differences." At this point it should be possible to motivate personal commitment to the agreements reached.

    Paul and Barnabas disagreed and neglected to mix prayer and understanding with their disagreement, which eventually led to their going separate ways. They began posturing a win/lose situation, when beginning the initial stages of generating valid and useful information about the conflict. Paul said that John Mark had some good qualities but that he had given up on their last missionary journey. "Yes, he is a good man, but within certain boundaries."

    Paul said, "We don't want someone who is going to flake out on us during one of our very important missionary trips." Barnabas agreed but continued to say that he believed in young John Mark and was sure that John Mark had learned from his mistakes.

    We see Paul and Barnabas sharing their conflicting views, but I don't believe they entered into stage two, allowing the flow of free and informed choice, coupled with joint problem solving and decision making. They neglected to identify the areas of sufficient agreement that would enable them to collaborate on resolutions. Yes, John Mark made a mistake, but who hasn't? They both knew there were no guarantees that anyone would make it through an entire missionary journey. I think this illustrates the problem that many good-intentioned Christians have when caught in a conflict. They find themselves so absorbed in the emotion of the moment that they are unable to pray genuinely for resolution. At this point most of us tend to do what the Scriptures indicate that Paul and Barnabas did. We confront one another rather than the issues that caused the tension in the first place.

    In some instances it would be good for the mentor to suggest an impartial outside, possibly someone outside the local church who could bring a logical and unbiased approach, to act as mediator.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Contentment, etc.

As I was reading Philippians 4 this morning, I was reminded again of how badly verse 13 is twisted by so many people. In verse 12, Paul clearly states that he has discovered the secret of contentment in every situation. In verse 13, he gives the secret: "I can do all things through him who gives me strength." Yet, time and again, I hear that verse used to promise strength for all kinds of things that have nothing to do with contentment and everything to do with ambition, etc. I guess that's why you need to remember that "Context is King."

After lunch today, I finished "There Is No I in Church" by Keith Drury. It wasn't entirely ground-breaking, but he brought up some good ideas and I'd really like to study it with our small group sometime.

I tried to install QuickVerse on my new laptop tonight only to find that the book manager doesn't work right on Windows Vista. I called tech support and they said I would have to upgrade to QuickVerse 2007. I was thinking about it anyway, and they gave me a 25% discount, so I went ahead. I had a little birthday money burning a hole in my pocket anyhow.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Essential links

Do you like "Breakout"-style video games? I like playing Vortex on our iPod, but I am horrible at manipulating the click wheel. Bad idea, Mr. Jobs! But now, you can play something like Vortex in reverse online. It's not horribly addictive, so try Plastic Balls 1.5 out.

Do you like to play with GI Joe dolls? Sure you have all the gear for their exciting military missions but what does Joe wear for a day of golf, cross-country skiing or butterfly collecting? Try the collection of hand-knitted sweaters and toques at The Sarah Foster Sweater Collection.

Do you like to key cars that are parked across two spots? Take a kinder, gentler approach with bumper stickers from I Park Like an Idiot. This company pretends that the sticker is for your own car, but they sell them in bulk, so go figure.

Do you like to use "Google's image search to generate a large gridded montage of images based on keywords" that you enter? Okay, probably not yet, but that's only because you haven't tried it at Montage-a-Google.

Do you like to watch the world's smallest DJ cut some mad grooves on a tiny Victrola? Okay, nobody really likes to do that, but if you absolutely have to, you can check it out atLejo dj.

Do you think that duct tape is what holds this world together? If so, you might want to also use it to protect your cash. Buy a duct tape wallet at Uncommon Goods.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity

At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point a Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.

Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want Fries with that.

Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It "In."

Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone has Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write "For Smuggling Diamonds"

Finish All Your sentences with "In Accordance With The Prophecy."

Don t use any punctuation

As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

With a serious face, order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat.

Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go."

Sing Along At The Opera

Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don't Rhyme

Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical Sounds All Day.

Five Days In Advance , Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their Party Because You're Not In The Mood.

Have Your Co-workers Address You By Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.

When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won!, I Won!"

When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot, Yelling "Run For Your Lives, They're Loose!!"

Do the Hokey-Pokey once a Week, just in case that’s really what it’s all about.

Tell Your Children Over Dinner. "Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lenity: No One Wants to See That

Kudos to Wendie for pointing me to this important reminder of how we should behave in case of a terrorist attack. I almost fell out of my chair laughing!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Baptism Cannonball!

Here are some funny lines from recent late-night TV.
LENO: Presidential candidate Tom Vilsack… not a lot of name recognition. I don’t want to say that Tom is unknown, but his secret service codename is Tom Vilsack. Be honest. Before you came here today, how many had heard the name Vilsack? How many thought it was a pickle?
LENO: Al-Qaida released another video tape from their No. 2 man. This one had a shocking revelation: "The great Satan will soon taste unspeakable suffering from our hands. Oh, and by the way, I am the father of Anna Nicole’s baby.” Not to make light of this poor woman’s death. Now Anna Nicole Smith’s bodyguard is the fifth person to claim he might be the father. With five people claiming to be the father, I don’t think he was a very good bodyguard.
FERGUSON: I was reading about this self help book, "The Secret,” written by an Australian reality producer. Who knows more about spiritual principles than an Australian reality TV producer? One fan of the book said it stopped her panic attacks and doubled her acupuncture business. I’m thinking, "Who’s going to go see a panicky acupuncturist?”

Monday, February 05, 2007

U2

This video has some very cool editing. Check it out!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Can't remember the name of that song?

Here is an interesting site. It allows you to hum or sing a few bars of a song, and then tries to identify the song for you. I tried a couple and didn't have perfect results, but it's a cool idea. They are also building a database of amateur renditions of songs, so if you have a strong voice, head on over.

dentist

Tiff and I both went to the dentist today for a cleaning. The entire visit for both of us took only 45 minutes and cost a total of $12. I'm going to miss some things when I return to the US.

Ever since we've lived here, there's been an old mango stump beside the house. Since we had the house treated for termites, they've had to look elsewhere for their food. They found some of it in that old stump. Last year, some of the students hacked and hacked away at the stump but could never cut all the way through. Earlier today, I went and kicked it over. It was completely eaten up in the core. Termites were teeming all over it. I dumped a little termite poison on the existing stump and on the large section that broke off. I wasn't sure if it was flammable, but I tried to light it anyhow. It burned gloriously. In fact, now, some 9 or 10 hours later, it's still burning gloriously. Presumably by morning, the fire will have gone out . . . or possibly have burned down our house.

A lot of people have been asking what our plan is after this term of service. The answer is . . . we still don't know. To make things worse, the whole Asia area is in transition right now. As of March, we will have a new area director Dr. Romy Caringal.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why Filipinos?

This article by Ed Lapiz gives a little introduction into the culture of the Filipino and might help you understand why we enjoy living with them so much.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Online theology

Want to take a full theology course for free and hear it in words you can understand? Dr. Wayne Grudem has put the lessons for his Christian Essentials course online. It might be worth a listen.

New Prolife Strategy

Prolife advocates have begun to adopt a new strategy whereby they focus more on the supposed effects of an abortion on the mother rather than on the moral implications of killing the fetus. Frances Beckwith explains why this is shaky ground for prolifers and fails to really address the problem of abortion.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Happiness

Do you want to be a happier person? You might need to change the way you're thinking. Betsy Hart explains.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nothing to say.

I don't really have anything important to say. I just haven't blogged on here for a while. I have been posting more recently at www.xanga.com/sumpteretc. Of course, I didn't really have anything important to say there, either.

We are going to Baguio tomorrow. We need to file an annual report with immigration. I think (hope) that just means paying a few bucks and walking out.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

stolen bike

Just before prayer meeting tonight, Glenbert asked if he could talk to me. He said, "You know how I borrowed your bike a little bit ago? Well, I took it to the market, and somebody stole it." Glen is quite a joker, so I wasn't exactly sure if he was being serious, but this time, he was. Apparently, he parked it near the stand of one of our church members, but when he came back, it was gone. Nobody had seen anything. He reported the theft to the police, but I imagine that means almost nothing. Glen has offered to replace it but 1) I'm not sure he can afford to, and 2) we're only going to be here a few more months anyhow.

Tiff and I were talking the other day about emotional attachments, and I mentioned that I didn't think I was too heavily invested in anything. Maybe the bicycle is a small test of that. Honestly, I don't really care that much that my bike is gone. Probably students borrowing it have put more kilometers on it than I have. If I accept any payment from Glen, it won't be because I need it, but because he needs a lesson in responsibility.

This is not a lesson needed only by Glen. It seems like the students often fail to show care for a borrowed item. We bought a computer for the library, and in just a few weeks, the hard drive was corrupted and had to be reformatted. The students didn't care for it as they would if it were their own.

And the problem goes to the macro-level, too. This is one of the things that's wrong with paternalistic missions. If the sending nation is forever subsidizing pastors, building schools and hospitals, the receiving nation never learns to take responsibility. The building didn't cost us anything; why should we take care of it? And that probably goes on the governmental level as well. It's looked on as meddling (or imperialism) if the US government gets too hands-on in another country. But if the US only sends money and doesn't make sure that money is being used to set up systems of responsibility, it's almost sure to be foolishly spent.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Closed bakeries

I don't know what's going on with the bakeries here. For the third day in a row, I've had to walk past two bakeries with their windows shuttered before I could find a place open to sell me pan de sal. I'm going at about 5:30, but they're usually open well before that. In fact, they're often sold out by 6:00. Oh well, I pray while I walk, so I guess I've benefited by having a little longer walk than usual.

This morning, I was reading the passage in Luke where Jesus is comparing the leafing of the fig tree to the signs of His coming. I don't have a very well-defined eschatology, but I usually think of the coming of Christ as a scary thing. The Old Testament prophecies usually talk about the Day of the Lord as a day of doom and gloom. But there's almost always a glimmer of hope as the prophet recognizes that God has a plan to redeem and refine a remnant. I noticed today in the Luke passage a similar gleam of hope. Jesus said, "When you see all these things happening, lift up your heads because your redemption draws near." Sure, the earth will be shaken, and the moon will turn blood-red, and lots of awful things will be happening; but the point is that redemption is on its way. Then he uses the leaves appearing on the fig tree to demonstrate the nearness of the kingdom. Nobody sees leaves appearing on a tree and says, "Oh no, I guess it's all over for this tree." Of course not. They get excited because new growth is coming. So, when things look a little gloomy in this old dying world of us, we just need to learn to see them as leaves on the fig tree and remember that God's kingdom is going forward and it is near.

We had our first apologetics class of the new year today. We're starting to dig into discussing the trustworthiness of the New Testament. This has been my first time to study the dating and authorship of the New Testament books as well as the history of canonization in any kind of depth. It hasn't been too earth-shattering, but it has been interesting to note that there is some pretty good evidence for very early dates of the Gospels and even earlier for Paul's writings.

Monday, January 01, 2007

I couldn't be more embarrassed

Your Inner European is French!
Smart and sophisticated.You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

New Year's Day


Today was the birthday celebration of Filemon Agapito, our adoptive father while here in the Philippines. He turned 73 today, and he has plans to celebrate 27 more times. So far, so good. A little over a year ago, we spent a week living with the Agapito family out in their rural barangay. Tatang (father) is a mango farmer, who has served as barangay captain (sort of a village mayor) as well as serving on the General Board of Administration for the Wesleyan Church of the Philippines.


The celebration was pretty typical. We began with a mini-church service, then had well wishes for the birthday celebrant from members of his family. He gave his testimony and then we dove into a hearty spread of native dishes.