Wednesday, February 28, 2007


O the deep, deep love of Jesus / vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

Be still my soul / The Lord is on your side / leave to your God / To order and provide

There’s nothing like a song or scripture in my head to keep me focused on truth and protected against lies, discouragement, or fear. So lately I’ve enjoyed browsing through an old songbook that includes the words quoted above - also, of course, found many other places! It’s a 1972 edition of Young Life’s publication, “Songs.” Remember it? The little paperback, brown cover?

This may bring it back:
From mountains high cool waters flow / the singing breeze, green meadows grow / Shine tall pine trees, blue skies above / Are all expressions of my Lord’s love / And this one God who made all these / Is interested in you and me / His greatest gift is to make men free / New self, more life, abundantly!
The edition I sang from in the mid-1980s may have been a bit different from this one, but not much. It features lots of Yohann Anderson, John Fisher, and the like: Jesus music.

It also includes a lot of not-so-Jesus-y artists like Bob Dylan, John Denver, and the Beatles. And lots of folk music and pop songs from the 60s and before. They were pretty hip tunes at the time. I remember learning most of them by hearing them stream from the little yellow transistor radio which my mom carried from the kitchen to the garden. Now you can only hear them on the oldies station...

With its mix of Christian and secular music, new song and old ones, often with a new flavor, this book was pretty contextualized to its audience. Though perhaps open to the charge of syncretism. "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds" make strange bedfellows. I wouldn’t mind singing “In Christ There Is No East or West” to the tune of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” (try it!) but “A Mighty Fortress” to the suggested alternate tune of - oh this makes me laugh - “Come on Baby Light My Fire”? Hmm. Would Ol’ Martin Luther be rolling - or rocking and rolling - in his grave?

I wonder if something like this exists that is more contemporary, a compact words-only songbook, with songs I know, old and new? Or are we too far beyond the days of people sitting around with a guitar just singing for this to be relevant? Of course it would be quite easy now to make my own, and maybe a good devotional exercise.

I’d also experience the same fun and encouragement by enlarging my collection of worship-music CDs but it is hard knowing where to start. Any suggestions? What are you listening to and loving, lately?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Attitudes toward a Crisis

This weekend S. (pictured), M., and I did about 15 hours of training for the short-term mission leaders in a local church. We were using a program called CultureLink. None of us had previous experience with this curriculum, although we have lots of experience with short-term mission teams. As part of preparations for my Saturday session on cultural understanding I picked up the classic book by Lingenfelter and Mayers, “Ministering Cross-Culturally.” You never learn so much as when you have to teach! The authors use a model that plots individuals and cultures on six scales. One of the scales was particularly helpful as I look at the storm we’ve been caught in at work. It describes how different people respond to danger, risk and crisis. Those following what the authors call a ‘crisis orientation’ will believe that -

“Crises should be avoided when at all possible, and careful planning done to anticipate problems. [They] seek out expert advice and are single-minded in applying that advice when they face crises. When a crisis does arise, they work rapidly to resolve the issue. Further, once they have identified an efficient procedure, they use it repeatedly rather than try something new or different.”

On the other hand, those who follow a ‘non-crisis orientation’ behave quite differently:

“Their brand of crisis management is experience-oriented, choosing from multiple procedures and options. Such persons decide between alternatives that emerge from each new situation, and their style of management is open-ended. They can tolerate considerable ambiguity in their lives and do not push people or situations to an early resolution of conflict or decisions. Further, seeing themselves as qualified by their own experience to manage each situation they are skeptical of experts.”

For example, the Micronesian culture within which one of the authors was working was typically non-crisis oriented, whereas the Coast Guard station on the other side of the island was crisis-oriented. You can imagine the military approach: they put a lot of energy into anticipating what could go wrong and have rigid plans to make sure they are prepared for it. The Micronesians can be trained to do that, but it would not be their normal response:

“Yapese response to typhoons will serve as an illustration. From their experience the Yapese know that far more warnings than actual storms come to Yap. Further, when a storm does come its direction determines its major effects. … they tackle the problems unique to each storm, protecting material possessions most immediately effected.”

Well, mission agencies attract people with both orientations. Each can cause tensions. If the manager has a non-crisis orientation, crisis-oriented people will get frustrated and may eventually leave because of the stress and lack of predictability; to them the leaders seem to be taking foolish risks. If the manager has a crisis-orientation, those who cannot work within the confines of the plan may be overruled or dismissed; the non-crisis-oriented people who work for them may see them as rigid and putting the project before the people.

Everyone assumes that his or her perspective on how to respond to a threat or crisis is the right one. It’s easy to start accusing someone who comes at it from a different angle as not having faith, or not being responsible.

I tend to be non-crisis-oriented but am fairly close to the middle. I hate wasting time making plans that are never put into effect. When we brought in a crisis-oriented manager who required us to put detailed, measurable plans in place many months in advance I felt like we were writing fiction (as it happened we were). I like to look at things much more holistically and adjust the plans according to the realities of the situation. But sometimes under pressure my orientation switches: I reach the point where I can’t take any more ambiguity or ill-placed optimism. I have a hard time trusting someone who seems out of touch with “reality,” and get frustrated by those who would disregard deadlines and standards and move ahead in spite of clearly defined danger. Which orientation is right and which is wrong? Well, since we're talking about culture, you probably know the answer:

“Crisis-oriented and non-crisis-oriented people have much to contribute to each other, but this can be accomplished only when there is an attitude of mutual understanding and acceptance.”

Transition to Pioneers Begins

It sounds funny to say so but since being laid off almost two weeks ago I’ve been too busy working to have much time to myself. So now that the two big public-speaking commitments of the month are behind me I am taking a real day off to rest and think and maybe ‘feel’ my feelings about the strange developments of recent weeks and months.

Dave M. asks what my plans are… I now have provisional employment with Pioneers. They have all my papers in and gave me a ministry account. Of course it’s empty at present! But now I can begin inviting my donors to give again for March. Unlike many of my colleagues, I got a larger-than-usual February paycheck, so I’m doing OK financially even though March will likely be low. And I’m very blessed that there is a way for us to continue on doing the work that we love and keep at least some of our ministry commitments.

About ten of us will be staying at 10 W Dry Creek Circle and opening up under the new flag on Thursday, March 1. I am hoping to get my office keys back this week! We still have a lot of questions about if this is going to work, and how, but at least it will provide a way for us to continue our projects through the spring. I have some writing to work on, and things to file and organize. I need to find and establish a new delivery system for our e-Magazine, and we have another ethnography training coming up in March.

I also plan to take a leave of absence of five or six weeks to go to England and Kazakhstan and figure out if I can and should leave the single life behind, marry Tom, and move to Central Asia – possibly before the calendar year is up. And that might change everything!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Doug Lucas on I-360

Click here and scroll to the bottom for reflections - some of them painful - about our closing down. I'm blessed by his words about our impact over the years.

May 14, 2008 - Note to web surfers: For some reason this is the first page to pop up when anyone Googles the name of the short-lived ministry that succeeded the CP/ACMC merger, and that doesn't seem appropriate. So I'm going to edit these references to make them less findable. If you end up here anyway and want to know what happened, it's OK for you to read my blog; it is public. But I wrote a short summary that's more of an official word about the matter, here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Went Wrong at I-360?

I'm sure there's more than one way to look at it! But click on the link above for a thoughtful analysis from our colleague David Mays.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Material World

February 21, 2007: Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix, Arizona - Was expecting to fly back to Denver this morning but my flight was cancelled. I’m booked on another in a couple hours which will take me home via Los Angeles. So I have an extra window of time for rest and reflection, if not one of my choosing. Thank you, Lord, for this gift.

I was here to teach a couple of Perspectives classes. It has also been good to meet some new people and hear their stories, catch up with my old friend Meg, and make a visit to the mission agency Frontiers which has a brand-new headquarters here. And yes, it was good to get away from the continuing eddies - some of them rather fierce - that are following the sinking of our organizational ship - to hang out with people who are in a healthier place.

Here's an observation. I’ve noticed that most houses in the Phoenix area have a very large ‘footprint.’ Spacious homes, adjoined by patios and pools, stretch across sprawling lots as if spreading themselves as far as they can, hugging the clay and earth to stay cool, perhaps.

And here's a response: I like staying with people when I travel but there is one attendant risk, or danger - the temptation of house envy.

What I actually envy has changed over the years. The place I stayed this week wasn’t unusually charming or interesting (like the Victorian place my friend Ann used to have, with all the antiques and the secret room).

This time it was the ample cupboard space in the kitchen; sure aroused my desire. Ah, to say goodbye to the clatter of pots and pans early in the morning when I’m trying to put things away in our crowded kitchen cupboards, or the frustration of being unable to find a lid!

And the room-sized clothes closet behind those shiny mirrored doors in the master bath? I want it! Then I could hang all my clothes instead of keeping many of them folded on shelves to be pawed through and refolded impatiently, all the time; I don’t have enough room in my closet and no room for a dresser. So sometimes I have trouble finding anything that isn’t wrinkled.

There are considerable benefits to having a small house, restrictions on how much one can acquire, and a low cost of living. I like living simply: traveling light through this world. But this jealousy has overtaken me before. As a single woman missionary-type, I sometimes find myself slipping into self-pity, envying my married friends their collections of soft towels, drawers of matching spoons, and the chance to sleep - every night - in a bed that’s more than four feet across.

One thing that has helped is to confess it.

Then, it helps to take a good look at what it is that I want and ask if it's something I need to just say "no" to, something I can enjoy without needing to possess, or something I can actually get for myself and have without feeling guilty or extravagant.

So: yes, now I do have the matching spoons - and forks and knives to go with them. And I tell you, that gives me considerable satisfaction.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Laid Off, Expecting a Job Offer

In the latest development in our organizational saga, I was laid off on Tuesday. No kidding. I hadn’t done anything wrong; I’d been faithful, honest, productive, and hardworking, and brought in a lot more money than I spent. People like me and respect me. But I had to say my thank-yous and goodbyes, tell my friends where to find me, close down my email account, turn in my keys, and be out by 5:00 pm.

And the stranger thing was that this happened to all but a skeleton crew of my colleagues. So I guess the way I started this story is a bit misleading. My being laid off was not the real development. We were all laid off. The Board of Directors of our ministry, Initiative360, met on Monday night and made the decision to close down us down. It will take some time to wrap up administrative business but all operations were to cease at the end of the next business day.

Many of us knew this was coming. The hemorrhaging of staff, donations, and morale was just too much; the financial crisis and loss of leadership had crippled us to the point where we were not going to make it. Personally, I was bracing for an announcement that the curtains would fall on us March 1.

I’d accepted that we were not going to make it, but closing down shop immediately felt like ripping off fresh scabs. Tuesday was such a difficult day! I think everyone in the office that day was crying. But the immediate shutdown also had several advantages:

  • Staff members are now free to look for and accept other employment without coercion, and without being, seeming, or feeling disloyal.

  • Staff members are no longer in the awkward position of encouraging their supporters to keep giving without much confidence the funds will be used as intended. The organization can return donations received after February 13.

  • The assets of the organization can now be reassigned/sold. In fact, tonight the Board of Directors is meeting again to consider several generous offers from like-minded organizations interested in seeing what we do continue. Staff members, while free to decide on their own where to go, will in many cases be receiving offers from these other ministries to apply for and step back into their jobs in a matter of days.

So, here’s the paradox. Initiative360 is in the process of closing down, not assuming liability for any activities, and all the people have been laid off, yet many of the services Initiative360 has been offering will continue with little interruption! And, in the same way, many of the staff should be able to continue to receive funds and salary with little loss as they quickly transition.

Yes, we’re starting over.

Before I go into that, I should say that another benefit of having the organization close down is the opportunity we will now have to step back and figure out what went wrong. I have a good idea about some of the things that will come up in the post-mortem, but it will bring some closure and satisfaction to be able to talk about these things and learn from them, even if we don’t fully agree on which decisions were good ones and which were not, what was cause and what was effect, and which of the disastrous results were inevitable and which were not. Especially as we try to continue in similar ministries, I think we need to know this!

Up until now the legal issues, the (legitimate) fear of pointing fingers, and the uncertainty of the future made it difficult to have conversations that were simultaneously inclusive, open, and meaningful. Perhaps it could not have been any other way. But it’s been very frustrating for the staff not to be told why certain actions were taken or what they meant, and to be pushed down one path only to be told by the next person who came along that we were all wrong and should be on another.

Some of those of us who have been around for a while have felt that the ministry we joined has been disappearing and being replaced by another for years. So it’s a heartbreaking loss but a relief, as well, to say that it is over.

What This Looks Like for Me

About 20 of us, mostly former Caleb Project employees, have expressed interest in staying together and coming under the auspices of a respected ministry based in Florida. Pioneers has put in a generous offer to take over many of the organization’s assets, including programs, equipment, publications, and intellectual property. Like other like-minded missionary sending agencies, they don’t want to see all the things we have been about for years just disappear. They see value in our programs, products, relationships, and experience. Several of their top leaders flew out a week or two ago to initiate conversations. For the sake of continuity these talks have been accelerated and I’m expecting a deal to come together tonight.

While many staff are saying goodbye and going other directions – one source of the many tears on Tuesday – a bunch of my closest co-workers and I will likely be filling out applications and other paperwork this weekend and soon become members of the Pioneers staff. Ministry accounts for us will be opened as soon as possible, we will call all our former supporters inviting them to give through Pioneers, and we’ll be on the payroll starting March 1 to do basically the same things we were before. Our health benefits coverage will be carried by Initiative360 through the end of March.

I am grateful for the sacrifice of leaders at Pioneers, on our leadership team, and on our board of directors to see these plans come through quickly. It’s pretty amazing.

At the same time, there are some big risks in rushing ahead. Will you take these to prayer?

One, as I mentioned, is the risk of repeating and perpetuating the same mistakes. Are the things we do really what people want and are willing to be part of? What in our old ways of doing things needs to be preserved, and what needs to change? Can we get by without some of the resources to which we had access before?

Do we really know if we fit in with the Pioneers values and culture? If we just go on as a relatively autonomous group within the organization, will we be missing a lot of opportunities to connect with the wisdom and resources there? If we slow down and try to become more fully integrated – like, say, relocating to Florida – will we lose more staff and run into too many differences and lose what makes our ministry effective?

And what about all the staff we have who do not raise their own support? Some have already left and been laid off. But a significant chunk of the people on the list of those who want to go to Pioneers are those we call ‘organizationally funded.’ The increasing number of people in this category in our ministry in recent years, hired in anticipation that we were going to grow and needed support structures in place for that growth, was probably one of the big things that brought us down. Not the main thing, but a significant factor. Our overhead expenses were out of control. So how can we keep that from happening? Can we afford to keep these people on? Can we continue without them? If we take them temporarily and can’t keep them down the road are we just going to go through all this again?

Time will tell. Please pray for wisdom and grace as we move forward.

Although following the stuff I have been working on to Pioneers seems the best path to me, I will look at least briefly into some other options, such as joining two families who will be working under the ministry of Frontiers. It just happens I’ll be in their Phoenix office next week.

I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Prayer and Phillip Yancey

I went to hear Phillip Yancey speak on Sunday. Yancey has one of my dream jobs. He picks things he is interested in or struggling with, then takes his handy-dandy journalism skills, and goes out and learns about those things by interviewing people. Then he writes about it. His most recent book is "Prayer: Does It Make a Difference?" (click on the post title for a link to the Amazon description). I don't have it... I'm waiting for the paperback to come out. But he was speaking just up the road and I couldn't resist!

You can make prayer really complicated, Yancey says, but the real keys to prayer are being honest about who you are and aware of who God is.

One thing Yancey did while researching the book was to go to a lot of prayer meetings. People usually pray such nice and polite prayers in those settings. But he went to one where a woman prayed, 'God, I was really furious with you after the rape. And really mad at the people in this church, too... but you were there for me, and some of these people were too, and thank you for that. I know you can bring healing for these terrible scars I have." Now there is a real prayer!

At one point he referred to the tremendous turmoil in Psalm 46:
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts (46:6)
In the midst of this God says:
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (46:10)
Apparently the word for 'be still' in the Latin version is 'vacate,' from which we get our word 'vacation.' So maybe you could read this to say,
'When everything seems to be falling apart, a huge mess, you can take a vacation. You aren't in charge anyway, and God has got it under control. He will accomplish things way beyond what you are concerned about.'
Sound good?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Colossians 3:1-17, 22-25 (click here to read)

In these messy and painful days with the ministry, many members of our staff seem simultaneously more sensitive and easily wounded or offended than usual, and also more likely to cause wounds or give offense. Not a pretty combination. I know it doesn't look good on me! It would be remarkable if we went through the various emotions of grief, etc. at the same time and responded the same way, so these crossed wires are not surprising.

But it sure is tough to be around people who don’t want to admit there’s a problem and think it's traitorous to discuss worst-case scenarios, and then turn around and face people who only see the problem and don’t want to consider that there may be solutions or explore them. Sometimes they are just in grief and it's good to respect that. But sometimes it just seems like stubbornness, bitterness. What is true, what is real, what is best, what should be done? We all seem to have a different grid for these things.

In such days, these words from Paul to believers who had troubles working together seem very appropriate...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


It's not this deep now but we still have two-foot drifts in our front yard. Many neighbors have not put away their Christmas decorations since the snow gets in the way. One has a whole plastic nativity scene, the heads of which look very strange as they emerge from the drifts a bit more each day.

Monday, February 05, 2007

London Trip Postponed

News flash - last night Tom & I realized that the plan to have me fly to London on Thursday to meet his kids was not the best. It was really good to work through this together. I'll try to reschedule the trip for the end of March when circumstances look better. Meanwhile, he'll have a good week with his kids and we'll be pulled in fewer directions!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A New Day

So, even after the loss of our top leaders, more than a dozen staff resignations, and the elimination of several organizationally funded staff positions, our mission agency continues along. I think we’re going to make it! We are not going to be able to go back to where we were before or be what we had hoped to become. But nor, perhaps, will we have to give up and shut our doors tomorrow - in abject failure, unable to meet our commitments, care for our people, or continue the ministry God has given us.

This week brought some real breakthroughs in communication – apologies, admission of mistakes, and recognition of the disastrous results from what seemed like good decisions. I feel like the sunlight is starting to shine in on us.

Another big step was the current leadership getting into a position where they could clarify to remaining staff what it means that the organization will take care of us if we stay. People were leaving because the prospects were looking grim. But they are not as grim as they appeared. I think this, and some decent prospects for the continuation of our ministry in some form (probably under another organization) will staunch the hemorrhaging of personnel we have experienced in the last few weeks.

Several of the big sending agencies, blessed by the ways God has used us in years past, came to us with offers to do whatever they can to help us keep going and/or to make sure our people are taken care of. This means no matter what happens it looks like our staff will be able to receive their support and benefits as they dig in and rebuild, or transition into whatever is next. Although some of those who resigned or were let go suddenly are going to have a hard time finding new jobs, a number of them are moving into other ministries in positions that I think will be great for them. Some great things may come out of this diaspora! And that is a huge blessing.

As we’ve gone through this time of crisis and as I’ve wondered how dramatically different my life might be a year from now - if I marry Tom and move to Central Asia (see previous posts if this possibility is news to you) - I’ve really held onto and been comforted by the presence of God. He is with us! Here are some verses to cling to:

God’s presence is the very thing to quiet our fears:

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5, 9)

This assurance of God’s presence is actually one of Christ’s names:

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1:23)

When the disciples were devastated that the bigger-and-better-thing they thought Jesus was building was going to fall apart, and that he was going to leave them alone amid the ruins, he said:

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:23-27)

As we serve him, we can hold onto his promises:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)

In the end, the delight of God’s presence will be the chief mark of our existence:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Revelation 21:3-5)