Sunday, December 25, 2005

One more holy night

Last night we gathered in a plain room, sang Christmas carols, prayed and listened to scripture readings.

It was the Plow Creek Christmas Eve service, an annual event that brings together those of us who are not traveling to see family and those of us who traveled to Plow Creek to see family.

We sat in a rough circle of folding chairs. On a small table in the center of the room a single white Christ candle burned.

As we sang about a baby being born the candle flickered.

Sarah read, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world".

We sat there crazy enough to believe and sing about God shrinking from creator of the universe to a baby.

As we sang the Christ candle burned.

Then Emily Fitz, home from physician's assistant school in California, handed out candles and we formed one large circle around the room. Someone dimmed the lights until the candle at the center was the bright.

Then Louise Stahnke, who led worship, lit her candle from the Christ candle in the middle of the room. Then she lit two other people's candles who each lit the candle of a person next to them.

Rick Reha started us singing "Silent Night, Holy Night."

As we sang, slowly the fire and light from the Christ candle passed from candle to candle along each side of the circle.

Five year-old Helen Moore with long brown hair and churubic face stood next to me. When her candle was lit she turned and solemnly lit my candle. Then I turned and lit Sarah's candle.

We sang cheerfully, gratefully, believing that this baby, born oh so long ago, became a man who passed on such powerful love from his Dad in heaven that it is possible for us to love one another...and even our enemies.

The darkness did not have a chance. As we sang the room filled with flickering candle light.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Two brains

One evening when our son Jon was about eight he asked me to read him a story while he did his math problems. “Jon, you can’t do math and listen to a book at the same time,” said his all knowing father.

“I have two brains,” he explained. That caught my attention and I decided to experiment to see if he do math and listen to a story at the same time.

When he finished with the problems I stopped reading and checked his work. He had done the problems with 98% accuracy. Maybe he was right. Maybe he does have two brains.

When it comes to figuring out the next directions for Evergreen Leaders I am working with two brains--my spiritual brain and my other brain.

My spiritual brain has an ear cocked listening to the divine story, seeing where the story is heading and where EGL fits in with the divine story. My spiritual brain is listening to the good shepherd, knowing that he sees a much broader story than I do. My spiritual brain is listening to his voice, confident that it’s okay to wait until he reveals what’s next.

And then there’s my other brain that is checking out two paths. Yesterday I continued working on writing curriculum for a three-hour workshop for nonprofit boards. Several months ago a local nonprofit CEO with connections nationwide listened to my spiel about EGL and said that there’s a big hole in the field of board development and encouraged me to develop an EGL three hour board retreat for NPO on the role of boards and CEOs.

My other brain that loves a plan said, “Let’s go. If we develop a brief EGL workshop for boards that incorporates key EGL concepts it’ll open doors for our workshop series for managers and workers.”

And my spiritual brains, “That’s okay. You work on the EGL board workshop. I’m just going to sit here and listen to the divine story. God’s ways are mysterious, delightful, and full of twists. I can hardly wait for the next twist in the story. I bet he’ll incorporate EGL in a way I never could have dreamed of. I love him and a good story.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Pneumonia and thinking about Evergreen Leaders

In one of those strange twists of life, having a nasty case of pneumonia is giving me critical time to think about Evergreen Leaders.

What exactly is Evergreen Leaders? That question has been the essence of our conversations at the EGL September and November board meetings.

Board member Tutuk Horning, an immigrant from Indonesia, said it best at our November board meeting when she recounted an incident. Someone visiting Plow Creek asked a question about Evergreen Leaders. Someone pointed out Tutuk and said, "Ask Tutuk. She's an EGL board member."

At that point in the board meeting Tutuk said, "My English is not very good." Then she held up flower and said, "I do not know how to describe the form and function of Evergreen Leaders."

Other board members chimed in. "It's not your English, Tutuk. We don't know how to describe it either."

I listened to the conversation feeling an odd combination of gratitude and chagrin. Gratitude because Tutuk, our quietest board member, had simply and eloquently described the key issue. Like a flower, EGL needs and easily described form and function. Chagrin because after two and half years, I, who love putting concepts into words, still can't describe EGL with the simple beauty of a flower.

I take some comfort from venture capitalist Brad Feld's blog:

''One of the challenges with early stage companies is determining whether the thing you are creating is a “feature”, a “product”, or a “company”. Of ''''course everyone aspires to create “a company” and most business plans eloquently describe the $50 million company that is going to be created in ''''five years. Since that rarely occurs, early stage VCs are constantly asking “is that a feature, product, or a company?”''

Evergreen Leaders has a mission that I'm deeply passionate about: ''To give ordinary people the tools to help their groups thrive.''

We started out by creating a series of three workshops aimed at two niches--churches and nonprofits.

So far no churches have shown an interest in the workshops but non-profits have. We did the first series for a paying custmor last spring. We're taking off, I thought. Two more NPOs expressed interest and I assumed we'd be doing the series for both this fall. But then both stalled out. One of the NPOs hit a money crunch and cut staff training. The other stalled out when their board questioned the value of workshops.

While marketing EGL to another NPO CEO she told me that there is a great need for brief, three-hour, board development workshops.

That made sense to me and some of my EGL board members. Thus I began working on developing an EGL board development workshop, integrating key concepts from the EGL workshops with ideas from John Carver, the leading thinker on nonprofit boards.

Another idea that surfaced during board conversations: focus on consulting as a way to pursue the EGL mission and bring in much needed income.

No wonder all of us connected with EGL are wondering what the form and function of EGL is.

After five days in the hospital with a nasty bout of pneumonia (when my blood pressure dropped to half of normal my dear Sarah worried about my survival--I was too sick to invest much energy in worrying) I've taken off the month of December.

This is giving me time to reflect and pray about Plow Creek and Evergreen leaders matters. I think I'll use my blog to think and pray about EGL. You can follow my journey, add to my thinking through comments. and you can even pray with me.

Lord, I know you called me to launch EGL. Now help me and the board know what you have in mind for the next leg of the journey. Amen.