Archive - January, 2011

When grief strikes the workplace

Our small work community has been buffeted by health crises and death since the days before Christmas, and they continue. While this makes us a stronger community, it also takes an emotional toll.

A colleague lost her spouse to a quick, previously undiagnosed illness. Another lost a young adult son. Still another, a matriarch grandmother. Another, an aunt and a childhood caregiver. A close professional colleague with whom we worked for years lost his battle with cancer, and another who led us through organizational change and leadership training, died this morning.

In addition, a colleague in a partner organization and who is instrumental in our work in Africa was hospitalized in France with a life-threatening illness. He is now recuperating.

When I walk through our building, it’s common to have a conversation updating one of these circumstances, and I often find myself in a pastoral role while also receiving pastoral care. That’s the strength of this community. It’s more than a workplace. In times like these, it becomes a supportive faith community, even more than is normally the case.

To be clear, these concerns that weigh on our hearts are not all-consuming. We get our work done, but our work and our faith are not in conflict; they are compatible, and, sometimes, interconnected.

Facing such difficult times, I can be caught up in a swirl of conflicting emotions, yearning for privacy and connection, experiencing pain, wishing for comfort. It’s a privilege when caught up in this whirlwind that we can experience community and comfort as distress abounds.

Speaking to staff in a prayer service this morning, I was grateful to them that we can be available to one another when grief is so deep it has no bottom.

When loss changes the course of our lives and leaves us feeling that we cannot dream or hope, a supportive community can at least share the journey and encourage the vision of a better tomorrow.

When life seems broken in a way that leaves us feeling too exhausted for the journey, a community of support provides strength beyond our own.

I came to believe early in my life that when we are in our most vulnerable state, we are closest to God, who is the source of life. We are likely to be most authentic and human because we are stripped of our false sense of security.

In fact, we are vulnerable to the vagaries of the universe at every moment. We really cannot know what’s coming next. But we make plans and take for granted that our plans will happen. And when they don’t, we’re caught short.

The loss of someone we love exposes our vulnerability in the most unsettling way I know. From doubt and despair through anger, questioning, bargaining, hope and finally to celebration.

As a person of faith, I take great comfort in scripture.  It’s clear to me that the writers of our sacred texts experienced life as I experience it, and their words come alive in remarkable ways.

This morning, I shared several selections that are meaningful to me in such times as these.

The affirmation in Isaiah:
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49)

And Paul:
“We do not live to ourselves and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:7,8)

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things past, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

To know that we share bonds so strong they span history, and so real they speak to our experience as we live it, is powerfully reassuring. That, along with the faces of the community, the presence of a spirit so holy it is beyond naming, and the promise of Jesus standing in our midst saying, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age,” make these difficult times more than bearable. They make them more comprehensible and ultimately, celebratory.

Social Entrepreneurship Goes to the Movies

How One Group is Funding Blue Like Jazz

Donald Miller wrote a compelling book of essays, Blue Like Jazz, on his reflections on Christian spirituality which has sold more than a million copies.  The book was slated to become a movie, and then it wasn’t.

On September 16th, Miller posted a blog that despite a strong screenplay, a stellar cast, and rave reviews, Blue Like Jazz would be put on hold indefinitely – because there was insufficient funding. When the blog was noticed by two fans in Nashville, TN, Zach Prichard & Jonathan Frazier launched an appeal to all Blue Like Jazz fans everywhere to step up to the plate and raise at least $125,000 so the film could be made.

These enterprising young men worked with Kickstarter.com to launch a fundraising effort to make the movie a reality.  Thus was born “Save Blue Like Jazz”, and on October 25, I received a “last day” email saying that October 25 was the last day to contribute to the fund that (as of that date) had amassed 3656 backers and $280,715 in pledges.

The project has become the largest crowd-sourced project ever on Kickstarter.com, and the first film to be crowd-sourced in American history.

What is Kickstarter.com?

It’s the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world.  It allows folks like Zach Prichard and Jonathan Frazier to raise money for creative projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and more.

It’s an amazing example of what crowdsourcing really means and demonstrates the power of believers:   bringing passionate people together around projects that have significance in their lives.

Reflecting On My Vulcan Drifter and Our New Relationship

As I entered highway 440, the inner beltway around Nashville, I discovered another challenge. Grooved pavement. The bane of motorcycles.

It’s possible to travel on two wheels on grooved pavement if you stay flexible and keep moving forward. It’s best to ride with the quirkiness and not fight it, but it feels dicey. The bike and its momentum will take you through if you don’t over-correct.

And, indeed, we did motor down the road and turned onto I-65 for the last leg of the trip. I avoid this highway on my ride to the office during the week because commuters take it so fast. Sometimes I think it’s the south Nashville speedway.

Finally, at around nine p.m. we pulled into the driveway at home and I was exhilarated, tired and still puzzled.

Why had the bike shut down? Should I have it checked by a mechanic?

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Being Present in the Moment with My Vulcan Drifter

As I rounded a curve on a hill during my adventurous ride on a just-purchased used Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter, the bike cut out. This isn’t something you want to experience on an interstate in the dark. I pulled over, coasted to a stop and looked for the problem.

Nothing.

The bike started and I told my wife following me in the car, I’ll go as far as I can, but may pull over again.

And I do, about a mile down the road, just past a bridge and on a slight incline. Trucks buffet you when you’re on the shoulder as they rush by. I’m checking every electrical contact I can find, can’t locate anything wrong. I see gas in the tank when I rock the bike. (There is no fuel gauge.)

I flip switches but nothing makes a difference. I try the starter and nothing happens. I’m flummoxed. Frustrated.

I call the former owner who assures me it’s never happened to him. Maybe that’s true, maybe not. Not that he’s untruthful, but how am I to know sitting here dead in the water as the traffic blows by?

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Getting To Know My New Vulcan Drifter at 85 MPH

After I bought an older Vulcan Drifter in Memphis, I had a five hour ride home. I’d never ridden this bike before and I was just a little concerned. I can’t remember when I last rode something other than a BMW.  I doubt I’ve shifted gears on another brand in twenty years, maybe longer. And I don’t ride the Interstate.

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In Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew B. Crawford writes that bikes have personalities. I think the older they are the more unique the personality. They, like us, create patterns of behavior that are familiar and relatively predictable.

I don’t know this bike’s personality and that can mean not knowing how easily or reliably it shifts, brakes, accelerates or runs on the straightaway.

Some say riding is about ninety percent in your head. But the ten percent that’s method is important.

I don’t like riding the Interstate. It’s faster than I’d normally ride. Seventy-five to eighty-five mph is not my preference when I’m exposed to the elements and sitting about six inches above the asphalt.

Trucks whip you around, the wind roars through your helmet. And when I lifted my foot, I felt the pressure of wind and gravity. I was surprised. Because your feet are behind the cylinder heads on a BMW you don’t experience this pressure so it came as a strange sensation.

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From Memphis to Nashville on a Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter


For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to own an Indian motorcycle. The Indian is, in my opinion, the ultimate classic design for a motorcycle. It was born in the era that also gave birth to the flowing lines of Art Deco which is reflected in buildings, railroad streamliners, signage and steamships.

But classic Indians cost a premium. The original company stopped manufacturing them several years ago. When new owners opened up again, contemporary versions cost as much as a luxury automobile. Beautiful as they are, they are beyond my pocketbook and my sense of financial stewardship.

It came as a surprise to me that during 2000 to 2006 Kawasaki introduced an Indian replica called the Vulcan Drifter. When one came up for sale in Memphis, I went to see it. It was priced right. In good shape. I bought it.

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New Look! New Year!

Perspectives has a new look for the New Year.

Join the conversation on how our faith fits into the 21st Century and how we fit into the world around us.  Sure, it’s a world of Facebook, smartphones and e-book Bibles.  But it’s also a world of faith, hope and love.   I hope to explore the new ways we can express our faith and meet some interesting people who are showing us how to make a difference in this world.  And along the way, I’ll give you some insight on speeding through this new world on my retro motorcycle.