Thursday, February 24, 2005

In search of good questions

As I'm working on EGL's Listening Path Workshop curriculum I've begun keeping a lookout for good questions.

In the Jan./Feb. issue of Business 2.0 Fujo Cho, president of Toyota says, "At Toyota we start with two questions: 'Where are we wasting resources like time, people, and materials?' and 'How can we be less wasteful?'" (p.72)

Starting with those two questions has had a powerful affect on Toyota. They recently passed Ford to become the #2 automaker worldwide.

On Tuesday I had lunch with Wayne Hochstetler, the Illinois Mennonite conference minister. He said, "My definition of spiritual oversight is reminding people of the mission and purpose of their church and then asking, 'How does this activity fit with our mission?'"

That's a great question for any leader.

Later on Tuesday I met with Stephanie Grimes, the Director of Adult Services for Gateway Services, an organization that provides services to people with developmental disabilties. Stephanie is helping develop the EGL workshop curriculum and preparing to co-teach EGL workshops. I'm helping her apply EGL concepts in preparation for teaching.

I gave her an assignment: Create two questions that will help Gateway staff focus on carrying out Gateway's mission. I'll be interested to see the questions she comes up with I meet with her next Tuesday.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Five Random Thoughts

(1) On Sunday afternoons I have office hours from 1:00 to 2:30 for folks from Plow Creek. No one has come this afternoon so it seems like a great time to do a quick blog.

(2) On Friday night and Saturday I did the Evergreen Leaders workshop--The Encouraging Path--for a group of interns from Reba Place Fellowship. In the afternoon I had the group wander outside on an adventure in beauty, paying attention to how beauty is a natural encourager. Each week I e-mail a letter to Plow Creek folks and then the Plow Creek webmaster posts the letters on the Plow Creek site. This week's letter, called An adventure in beauty, should be posted on the site today or tomorrow if you'd like to check out the beauty I discovered on my adventure.

(3) Kate, who lives up stairs in an apartment, just came down to do the laundry which is located outside my office. I love moments with Bill or Kate when they come down to do their wash. Sometimes 18-month-old Isa will come down too. Then I get to smile at her. Communities are built in little moments together.

(4) Sarah's mother is here for the weekend from Minnesota. She and I both like coffee in the mroning so I have the honor of grinding coffee in the morning, making a fresh brew, and drinking it with her. Families are built on little moments together.

(5) In my office, on the cupboard above my computer, I have a photo that I clipped out of a magazine years ago. The photo consists of an adult's upturned palm with sunflower and other seeds in the palm. A small bird is perched on the tip of the pointing finger. This photo reminds me that trust is good.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Changing a relationship by changing oneself

Yesterday I met with Jason Harrison, the president of Evergreen Leaders. He told me a great story about how one can change a relationship by changing oneself.

A woman in his church keeps raising a ruckus in one way or another. Awhile back her behavior was really bothering Jason and he felt like he ought to talk to the woman about how she was acting. Rhiannon, Jason’s wife, thought he should call her too and tell her what he thought.

Just before he was going to call the woman, Rhiannon said, “If you could say anything in the world to her, what would you say?”

Jason’s eyes lit up as he thought about all the things he could say. The first thing he thought of was to tell the woman that he knew that she had a miserable time growing up but that didn’t mean that she should re-create the same misery in their church.

He continued to ponder Rhiannon’s question. “If I could say anything in the world what would I say?” Suddenly he thought, I could tell her, ‘God loves her and I love you too.’ He immediately knew that of all the things in the world he could say, that’s what he wanted to say to the woman.

So that’s what he did. He called her up and told her that God loved her and he loved her too. “What happened when you called her up?” I asked.

“I don’t know if she could receive it very well or not,” he said. “But that’s okay. I could relate to her fine in church because I had changed.”

Monday, February 14, 2005

Love and a man's brain

I've been thinking about love and my brain lately as I've been reading ''Living With Men'' by E. James Wilder.

He starts the book by reporting research on the development of the brain from birth to adulthood. He says that in terms of the development of the brain adulthood starts at age 12. I'm still pondering that idea. But I really like Wilder's defintion of a man.

"In order for a boy to become a man," Wilder says, "he must learn to care for two or more people at the same time. He has to satisfy himself and others in a responsible way." (p. 67)

When I was in high school I found the poetry covered in English class boring me until I discovered a short poem that so captivated me that I memorized it. I now see that I was figuring out what it means to be a man. Here's the poem:

He drew a circle that shut me out --
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle that took him in!
-- Edwin Markham

Speaking of high school boys I just finished a great book, A Season of Life: A football star, a boy, and a journey to manhood, by Jeffrey Marx, on the same theme. It's about a couple high school football coaches, one of whom, Joe Ehrmann, is a former NFL lineman, who build their coaching around "Building Men for Others."

“Masculinity ought to be defined in terms of relationships,” says Joe Ehrmann, “and taught in terms of the capacity to love and be loved.” (Parade, August 29, 2004.)

At 4:45 today Sarah and I are going on a Valentine's date. I haven't picked the restaurant yet but I'm a man. We'll eat at a place that satisfies both of us in a responsible way.

We'll talk and look into each other's eyes for a couple of hours, something we both find very satisfying because I am her man.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Keeping the Tiskilwa Library vision burning

After four years of envisioning by our library board everyone in Tiskilwa may soon be able to enjoy our local library, even people like me who use a wheelchair.

I grew up loving books. Unfortunately our Minnesota farm was over 30 miles from the nearest public library. My family never went to that town often enough to check out a book and get it back on time.

So you can imagine my joy when I moved to Illinois 27 years ago and discovered a little library a couple miles away. The only problem is that it has seven steps up to the door. Several years ago my rheumatiod arthritis kicked in again and each time I go to the library I have to decide if I'm up to climbing the mountain. Most times the answer is no.

Six years ago I joined the Tiskilwa Library board and a little over four and half years ago they asked me to be president.

Four years ago the board met to envision the future of our small town library. We set a three year goal--an accessible library. To be able to use my wheelchair in the library any time I want, to be able to browse the land of book and magazines, what a sweet dream.

I love envisioning, dreaming, and seeing a great future.

At the time we set the goal the library had some savings and the State of Illinois offered 50% matching grants to make the library accessible. But soon the state went into a fiscal crisis and 50% matching accesibility grants disappeared like a wisp of smoke.

The library board kept the vision burning though. A year an half ago we explored the possibility with the village of renovating an abandoned high school in town. Too expensive.

Last June 10, 2004 I did a blog about the library and envsioning. Here's a "keeping the flamie burning" part of the blog:

There is strength in setting a goal and announcing it to the world. The Tiskilwa board set the goal of an accessible building. We're going to miss our three-year time table but I don't think we'll miss our goal.

It's just a matter of patiently exploring each option until we find the path that leads to an accessible Tiskilwa library.

A couple of weeks ago the local bank branch called a meeting of the library board and village board and announced that they were closing their Tiskilwa branch and that they would like to donate their building to the village or the library.

The bank's offer was one of those bad news/good news deals. The bad news is that it's the only bank in town, leaving Sarah and me and the rest of Tiskilwa high and dry when it comes to a local bank.

The good news? The bank already has an accesible entrance and over twice the space of our current library. Last Monday night the library board decided to have an architect do a study on the cost of turning the bank building into an accessible library. In 45 minutes I'm going to meet an architect at the bank.

I'm trying not to get too excited. Who knows whether the bank building will pan out or if we'll have to keep the flame of the vision buring longer?

But the idea of me, and every other person in Tiskilwa who has a hard time climbing the mountain, being able to luxiriate in the libary is so sweet.

Monday, February 07, 2005

On love & working around those weaknesses

Last week a friend of mine, Bob, spoke at a crop insurance seminar hosted by a local bank. In preparing for the seminar Bob’s wife offered to help his secretary put together the handout materials.

Every thriving group has to help its members use their strengths and work around their weaknesses. One of Bob’s weaknesses is that at work he likes to have things done his way and he doesn’t often take the time to explain why. To work around this weakness, Bob and his wife have discovered that when she helps out at the office, it’s much better to have his wife work with his staff and not directly with him.

The night before Bob’s presentation his wife surprised him by asking to go along and sit in the audience to learn more about what he does and what part she had played by helping putting together the handouts.

After the two-hour seminar they rode home together. She was ecstatic. She now felt like she understood what he did. She had taken two magazines to read during the seminar and had forgotten to open them.

She told Bob that if she didn’t already love him seeing him do a great job with the seminar would have made her fall in love with him again.

I tell you, there are great rewards when couples learn to go with their strengths and work around their weaknesses.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Do I really need this computer?

In 1980 Elaine Bailey desperately needed a job that paid more than a special education teachers salary.

She took a job selling Texas Instruments Model 990 computers to small businesses in lower Michigan.

After a lot of hard work she was thrilled to make her first sale. As the small businessman finished writing out his check he looked at her and said, "Elaine, tell me. Do I really need this?"

Her heart sank but she told him the truth. He didn't need it.

Back at the office her boss called her in and she knew she was going to be fired.

Just then the small businessman who didn't need a computer called and said. "Elaine, I told everybody in Milan that if they really needed a computer, you'd tell them the truth. I've lined you up for meetings at my office. Could you show up?"

She went to the meetings and returned with orders for nine computers.

For more on Elaine Bailey check out this Business Journal story.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The sound of gunfire

When I hear the sound of gunfire I think of hunting.

When Erin hears the sound of gunfire she thinks of people being killed.

I'm afraid that Iraqi children will be more like Erin than me.

I grew up in a family of hunters and I live as an adult in a rural area where deer hunting and wild turkey hunting are common. I started hunting when I was ten or twelve years old and while I was never an enthusisastic hunter I accepted hunting as a natural and good part of life.

Erin didn't grow up with guns. For the past several years she has been part of Christian Peacemaker Teams. As part of CPT she's spent the last couple of years in Colombia trying to bring safety to fisherman and farmers who are caught between guerillas, paramilitaries, and the army. Whenever she sees men carrying guns in Colombia they are guns designed to kill people.
Her emotional response is that guns should be kept away from her and the people she loves.

She and the rest of the CPT members are always unarmed. They believe that you cannot bring
peace through guns. Last spring a CPT team pulled up in a canoe to a small village in Colombia. They were greeted by an eight year-old frightened girl rushing up to them, crying out, "They are going to kill my Dad. They are going to kill my Dad."

The CPT team entered the house where the paramilitary was accusing one of the villagers of supporting the guerillas. They were planning to kill him as has happened to many Colombians in similar situations.

The CPT team stayed and talked with the paramilitary until they finally decided to leave. The man whose life had been saved then left for another part of Colombia for fear that the paramilitary would return to kill him.

I grew up with guns as hunting weapons. It's hard to imagine children growing up seeing and hearing only weapons that kill people.

I'm afraid that's what's happening in Iraq these days. That was painfully brought home to me ths morning when I viewed the photos shot by an Iraqi, Dar Jamal. The photos are displayed at an anti-Bush website but they do give a glimpse of what it's like to be a child in a war zone. I encourage you to look at the children's faces.

I am afraid these children will not be like me and think of hunting when they hear gunfire.

The recent election may be hopeful sign. Still I wonder what it will be like for these children to grow up...