26 July 2008


Over at Rev. Kim's site, she has challenged us to post the maps of places we have visited in the US. This is mine.

visited 47 states (94%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or determine the next president

I also decided to see how much of the world I have visited. Here it is.

visited 23 states (10.2%)
Create your own visited map of The World or determine the next president

My Mom was an inveterate traveler, so many of our family vacations were made in the car. My favorites: summers at the Lake of the Ozarks and the long trip from southern Illinois to California. (She and Dad were enjoying a visit to Yosemite where they were stationed in 1945, and then on to Oakland to see the folks they rented rooms from at the end of his WWII Navy service in 1945 and early '46.)

21 July 2008


In his discussion of pastoral leadership, Bill Crawford identified three distinct attributes. The second attribute was

Average - I don't need to be excellent, outstanding, or special. I need to saddle up and ride every day. I need to be there on the sunny days, and the dark days, I need to be where the hurt is and where the laughter is. I need to be huggable. Average is a daily thing and I think it is good.

Applying the Marine Corps Leadership Principles and Leadership Traits, a leader within a congregation must SET THE EXAMPLE and KNOW HIS OR HER FLOCK AND LOOK OUT FOR ITS COLLECTIVE AND INDIVIDUAL WELFARE.

That means the leader must develop and demonstrate the traits of DEPENDABILITY, BEARING, COURAGE, DECISIVENESS, ENDURANCE, TACT, and UNSELFISHNESS.

First and foremost, the leader in a volunteer organization, such as a church, PTA, or homeowners association, must be unselfish. In our congregations, we are all working to further God's work here and now. We do not take on the leadership responsibilities for personal gain or glory. Most leaders find that to do the job right, we must give up more of our time and energy than we had first expected. That's OK; just be ready for it.

The leader must show up, dependably, every day. A Sunday School teacher who "forgets" that he is teaching this Sunday, an Elder who asks frequently to be excused from a meeting, a member of the choir who misses rehersals, is not a good leader. A leader who wants the title, but does not live up to the responsibilities of his or her position is not creating a favorable impression in personal conduct.

Leaders must exhibit the trait of courage in its most difficult form--moral courage. He or she must recognize fear of criticism, and nonetheless proceed in the face of it with calmness and firmness. The leader is also required, in some circumstances, to offer constructive criticism. Most Americans hate the idea of doing so. It is our cultural, live and let live attitude. That requires that the leader also be tactful.

Leadership requires endurance, the mental and physical stamina measured by the ability to withstand fatigue, stress and hardship. Occasionally, someone will claim the he or she "could have done it better." Often, when offered the leadership role, that same person will decline to take on the responsibility for the job, but the stress of being second guessed requires mental and emotional stamina.

Leaders must be decisive. In volunteer organizations, most of the people on a ministry team or committee are happy to offer advice and to work to accomplish team goals, but they want someone who will make a decision. And leaders in congregations make decisions every day. One of the easiest ways to destroy one's ability to lead is to become known as someone who simply cannot make a decision. (So long as the decision is a reasonable one, I have learned that it is usually easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission in a volunteer organization. Even if the decision was not perfect.

It is a fact that in most organizations, ten percent of the members do 90% of the work. In my experience, congregations are a bit better, but with proper leadership, they can be a lot better.

19 July 2008


As a "graduate" of an institution that places higher value on leadership than anything else, my "default" position on matters of leadership is always the leadership principles and traits taught to and practiced by Marine Corps leaders.

As Christians, we are in a war with Satan, so leadership principles developed and intended for use on (or in preparation for going onto) the field of battle may have some applicability here. There is a maxim that "we should train as we will fight," so that when the enemy is confronted, our reaction is instinctive. There being no cagier enemy than Satan, we must be ready when he rises up and assaults us.

In his recent discussions about leadership for pastors (and, I suggest, any other leaders in a congregation)Bill Crawford says

. . . people need Good, Average, Leadership.

Good - biblical, humble, risk taking, passionate proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In other words - orthodoxy no matter what. It can't be man made it has to be God breathed.

His exposition on "good" pastoral leadership is right on. What leadership principles and traits apply to this part of Bill's analysis?

First, the principle that a leader must KNOW YOURSELF AND SEEK SELF IMPROVEMENT. That means a humble recognition that the leader does not have all the answers. In addition, after self-examination identifies weak areas, the leader will demonstrate the traits of INTEGRITY, JUDGMENT, and UNSELFISHNESS. The leader must be of upright character, truthful and honest, to himself and to others. He must strive to make sound, well-informes, and Scripturally-based decisions. This requires the leader to be unselfish with his time and talents.

Second, the principle that a leader must BE TECHNICALLY AND TACTICALLY PROFICIENT. She must continually increase her KNOWLEDGE of Scripture, and must work to understand the people who have elected her to a position of trust. She must have prepared herself to meet the expressions of need and the requests for guidance that will come her way

Third, the leader must SET THE EXAMPLE. "Passionately proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ" requires BEARING, COURAGE, ENDURANCE, and ENTHUSIASM. In particular, in today's America, a Christian leader must expect that he or she will come under attack from both without and within the MAN-MADE boundaries that seek to define "the Church." Those without may heap scorn and derision upon the Christian leader, while some from within will seek to take the easy and safe route by watering down orthodoxy in the name of peace and unity. They will pester an orthodox leader to death wilth criticism and entreaties to "just get along."

Several prominent leaders of the PC(USA) have recently been quoted as saying that they have surrendered their fight for orthodoxy because they are "tired." Endurance means that we keep going when the exhaustion, mental, physical, and spiritual, whispers "Stop."

Finally, in response to my first post on this subject, one blogger asked, "Who are the 'subordinates' in the Christian Church?" While I will discuss that in greater detail later, I promised to respond in this post.

In Christ's Church, there are no superiors or subordinates among believers, except that we are all subordinate to Him. Likewise, in our respective congregations, there are neither superiors nor subordinates in the sense of a military organization. However, every leader has one or more people who are looking to him or her for guidance, direction, instruction, advice, or comfort. In that sense, our "subordinates" are those whom God has placed in our charge for some specific purpose of His. If the leader is the shepherd, then when applying the principles and traits, the sheep are the "subordinates" in the leadership equation.

16 July 2008


Over at Bayou Christian, Bill Crawford has begun an examination of Christian leadership. While he writes in terms of pastors, what he has to say is applicable to all leaders in the Church. He says

. . . people need Good, Average, Leadership.

Good - biblical, humble, risk taking, passionate proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In other words - orthodoxy no matter what. It can't be man made it has to be God breathed.

Average - I don't need to be excellent, outstanding, or special. I need to saddle up and ride every day. I need to be there on the sunny days, and the dark days, I need to be where the hurt is and where the laughter is. I need to be huggable. Average is a daily thing and I think it is good.

Leadership - Passionate refusal to allow people to settle for whatever life throws at them. A constant desire to point to Jesus, and head in that direction. Nothing flamboyant, just is. Someone who speaks up even at the risk of being wrong. Sure you will take some shots. But you know what? I believe the folks in the pews, they deserve our risk taking. They deserve our best - because those folks are the Kingdom here on earth, they are children of the God most high. I have learned to love them and if you don't - you're not a leader. If they mistreat you - that's why there are pastors in the first place.

His excellent comments took me back 42 years to a hot Butler building (a corrugated steel "temporary" building of WWII vintage) classroom at Camp Upshur aboard Marine Corps Base, Quantico. As brand new officer candidates, 600 of us were introduced to the leadership principles and traits that nearly 200 years of Marine Corps combat experience had distilled into useable form.

Reading Bill's comments, I found that much of what he wrote was right on, rekindling my understanding that leadership is both instinctive and a teachable skill.

The Leadership Principles are:












The Leadership Traits, posted as large sacrlet and gold signs in nearly every barracks and command post I have entered, are:

DEPENDABILITY -- the certainty of proper performance of duty.

BEARING -- creating a favorable impression in carriage, appearance and personalconduct at all times.

COURAGE -- the mental quality that recognizes fear of danger or criticism, but enables a man to proceed in the face of it with calmness and firmness.

DECISIVENESS -- ability to make decisions promptly and to announce them in clear, forceful manner.

ENDURANCE -- the mental and physical stamina measured by the ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress and hardship.

ENTHUSIASM -- the display of sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of duty.

INITIATIVE -- taking action in the absence of orders.

INTEGRITY -- uprightness of character and soundness of moral principles; includes the qualities of truthfulness and honesty.

JUDGMENT -- the ability to weigh facts and possible solutions on which to base sound decisions.

JUSTICE -- giving reward and punishment according to merits of the case in question. the ability to administer a system of rewards and punishments impartially and consistently.

KNOWLEDGE -- understanding of a science or an art; the range of one's information, including professional knowledge and an understanding of your Marines.

TACT -- the ability to deal with others without creating offense.

UNSELFISHNESS -- avoidance of providing for one's own comfort and personal advancement at the expense of others.

LOYALTY -- the quality of faithfulness to Country, the Corps, the unit, to one's seniors, subordinates and peers.

I'll start with a minor semantic disagreement over Bill's use of the word "average.". He says, "I don't need to be excellent, outstanding, or special. I need to saddle up and ride every day. I need to be there on the sunny days, and the dark days, I need to be where the hurt is and where the laughter is. I need to be huggable. Average is a daily thing and I think it is good."

Hold on, there, Bayou! A leader cannot, by definition, be "average."

I think what Bill is saying is that a leader need not -- cannot -- be "elitist." Leadership is not limited to only those few fortunates who are "naturals" at it. With proper desire and some training, almost anyone can become an effective leader. Generations of officers of Marines have been trained to be leaders. Sergeants and Corporals, the backbone of the Corps, are trained and become leaders.

Look at Bill's working definition, and we see that he is describing a person who is far from average in the popular sense of the word. Using his definition, a leader is one who works to be ready for whatever task comes down the pike, who shows up, day in and day out, rain or shine, who is dependable and caring. The leader is not afraid of hurt and is able to give both hugs and kicks in the rear when needed. It is, indeed, ". . .a daily thing."

One of the traits of leaders that I have observed is that they groom and train the next generation of leaders. So potential leaders need not be afraid to assume their tasks simply because they are "only average."

Tomorrow, we will see how both match up with what Bill has written.

12 July 2008


This past week we conducted our Vacation Bible School. As always, it was hectic but oh so rewarding. We had an average of nearly 70 kids each night--from toddlers to Jr. High.

This year we added the Jr. High (grades 6-8) to our program and had 18 kids show up. We had expected 6 to 8, so getting a handle on a herd of kids that age was an adventure for the three of us teaching the group. Many of the kids do not regularly attend our church, but came because their home church does not have a VBS.

As I have experienced before when teaching Jr and Sr High Sunday School classes, it was a little daunting to be invited into their strange little world for a couple of hours, and I was happy to get out each night. What we found is good news--they are clearly products of today's society, but when offered a chance to study God's holy Word, to think about what it means, and to try to apply it to their daily lives, they seize on the opportunity.

One of the nightly topics was "Jesus gives us the power to tell others about Him." That led to a discussion about a local public school that does not allow students to mention the name of Jesus because it might be offensive to other students, although they may discuss Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and wicca (and, believe me, they know what wicca is!!!). That led to ideas which included, witness through behavior, one-on-one witness, texting, im-ing, and even something as "old fashioned" as e-mail. Ouch!

We start planning next year's VBS in September. I can't wait.

11 July 2008


Presabyterian Gal (http://presbyteriangal.blogspot.com/) posted this list of 100 books that the NEA names as its "top 100." They estimate that the average adult has only read 6 of them. I have bolded the ones I have read, 35 in number and far behind her 49.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

There are a few that I have started and just couldn't finish, i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye,Crime and Punishment, Catch 22, and Watership Down.

I am also intrigued by some that are missing. I would have included Killer Angels - Michael Shara, Treasure Island and A Child's Garden of Verses - Robert Louis Stevenson, Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurty, The Virginian - Owen Wister, and the collected works of Rudyard Kipling, especially Barrack Room Ballads, Captains Courageous, and Kim. And I recommend Fields of Fire by my old shipmate and now US Senator Jim Webb, possibly the best novel to come out of the Vietnam War.

What say ye?

05 July 2008


And this one was pretty cool. With friends and neighbors, 22 of us "tubed" down the Delaware River. Jumper girl and her best friend, Bren, floated with other kids, and I saw little of her except for the splashes and flying nerf footballs. Lots of laughs, giggles and the joy of being old enough to let go of Daddy's hand (darn it) and adventure on her own.

Bionicle Boy has started that break--this year, we did not tie our tubes together. However, he was rarely out of arm's reach after the first hour of the three hour trip. I ended up towing him (literally, "toeing" him as he grabbed my foot) the rest of the way. He either held my foot while I stroked or held my hand as we floated together.

At one point when we were separated by about twenty yards, he was standing on the rocky bottom and lost one of his water shoes. "Dad. Dad! DAD!! I lost my shoe!"

I was downstream, thinking, "And what, exactly, am I supposed to do about that?" when the shoe floated right to me about six inches under water. Daddy is a hero!!!!

Throughout the day, the conversation was great, especially when we saw a doe and two fawns on the shore. It just don't get much better'n that!

SWMBO was home with another migraine and really appreciated the quiet and the snuggling comfort of the three cats who really run the roost.

All was peaceful in an unpeaceful world.

As I drifted down that famous river, so close to the point where Washington's army made an icy crossing one long-ago Christmas night, I paused to reflect on the countless Americans who for over two centuries have consistently pledged and all too often offered up their their lives and fortunes as a matter of sacred honor in defense of the ideals of 1776. That, my friends, is a humbling exercise.

Semper Fi,