Please forgive me

Please forgive me.

Apparently, in an observation posted last week on Facebook, I generated some replies from people near and far who were quite anguished with me. Here’s the post:

Observation: White evangelicals trying to explain on FB to my friends and family of color: “We’re not haters, we’re not racists, even though we voted for Trump.”

Now, I’m not so naive to think that anyone would limit themselves to the thought: “Mike just made an observation.” Of course, our minds and our hearts ran unleashed beginning on Wednesday morning of last week in ways that we could have hardly imagined: no matter how you voted.

I received so many impassioned responses that ranged all over the place, including disclosures of how people voted. Everyone was offended.

First, let me state again: Please forgive me. I’m just as vulnerable to the “law of unintended consequences” as you are. My vulnerability, however, cannot excuse my replies. But, my post did not merely make you uncomfortable. In some of my replies to people on FB, I demonized some actions and attitudes, and therefore, some people. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Second, I realized, in getting so many messages from people from around the world: I’ve got a lot more trust than I imagined. (Parenthetically, I better get to writing some books I hadn’t planned on, as I’ve learned: You read my posts on FB!)

But, weak humor aside, I learned through the generation of so much pain, that many people—from around the world, some of whom I hadn’t heard from in years—trust my theological judgment about what is taking place in the world, even when they don’t agree with me. I don’t want to lose your trust: or our friendship.

Finally, embedded in many of these messages was a question of why I did not pursue reconciliation or peacemaking with people: in contrast to what appeared as my fueling the anger and rage that is going on at large. I read that, and I hear your voices: That deserves a different post. Tomorrow. (I’ve already written it.)

Please also note: I am not taking the “forgive-me-*if*-I-have-offended-you” route. I’m not a hero. But, when I see pastors, politicians, and others take up the back door by including a conditional “if I offended you”, I think to myself… well, I won’t disclose all my thoughts: but, I know myself better than to say something like that. Why bother to say anything if not a clear and resolute statement of culpability and contrition? Especially if one claims, as I do, to believe in the Gospel?

For now: Please forgive me for my offense of demonizing you for your vote, your conscience, and your person. Obviously, I have a longer journey in front of me. Come back tomorrow for my reflections on the plea for reconciliation and peacemaking.


Practices of Reading for Leading

A colleague tweeted this blog connecting leadership with reading, and, to be honest, I was overjoyed to read it. It’s worth taking the time to review what Coleman has to say here.

I’ve long advocated reading to my colleagues. Coleman does a good job of recapitulating much of what I’ve endorsed and encouraged my friends and colleagues to take on board when it comes to reading.

The challenge that repeatedly arises is communicating to my friends and colleagues “how to read a book.” Far too many of my younger colleagues have- let me be blunt- a misguided and an unrealistic expectation: If you pick up a book, you have to read every page from cover-to-cover.

I’m not sure where that presumption comes from. Leaving that aside, I’m a big fan of Mortimer Adler, Bobby Clinton, and Chuck Van Engen when it comes to reading. The last two, Fuller faculty, draw heavily upon Adler, but have modified his approach to address the realities of being involved in ministry, academic research, and sometimes both. Contact me if you want further details.

I mention the trio above for this reason: one of the first matters that all three are in agreement on is this: very few books are worthy of your sustained attention from cover-to-cover. I believe it was either Adler or Van Engen (maybe both?) who proposed that perhaps in anyone’s lifetime, there are probably 4 or 5 books that are worth reading all the way through. Most likely, you will read them several times from cover-to-cover.

The other matter that all three are in agreement on is this: You only need 10 to 20 minutes to inspect a book to decide if it is worth reading further. And all of the PhD students reading right now said, “Amen.” But, you don’t have to be in graduate school, the university, or even the church to recognize the wisdom of this advice. While each of the three nuances how you make the decision to read further, they are unanimous: you need a strategy to determine if a book is worthy of further attention and energy on your part.

One other practice that none of the above, to my knowledge, promotes but would likely bless unreservedly: is the practice of a reading club/group. Prior to moving to Pasadena, I was in reading club of two: Tim P and myself. For approximately two years, we read off of a list of titles that Fuller was using for the Qualifying Exam for the SIS-PhD Admissions Requirement. We read about a book a month, but because we were both committed to reading broadly in missiology, we read some books that were flat-out boring and dry. That comes with the territory for those taking classes, right? Some texts are required reading, so you grab your bootstraps, and read. But, that practice, of reading closely, asking questions, and then engaging in the discussion with Tim, really expanded my understanding of mission, of Christ, and of what God was doing on campus. Even if we were reading about translation or ecclesiology, that practice began to expand my thinking, and subsequently, my practices for serving the staff in Houston. The reading club/group idea spilled over to life at Fuller during the last year, as I entered into a community of scholars, for whom, discussions on what we’re reading were already part of the social DNA, and encouraged by the faculty.

Moving away from strategies and practices- for, really, that is what the above is about: reading practices- I would return to what Coleman has emphasized in his post: leadership must be informed by reading. For my younger colleagues, some of their disappointment (and despair) in ministry comes from a lack of influence on campus among undergraduates. In part- not in total- this can be attributed to under-developed reading practices.

If we would have influence in the name of Jesus, we would do well to be like him: become readers, even wise readers: of Scripture, of a variety of disciplines, of a variety of types of literature: these practices will cultivate our hearts, our energy, our relationships, and our imagination for leadership. Stories connected to those practices are always worth reading.

Upset in Tonight’s Cal-Oregon Game?

I’m giving myself a brain-break from reading, and thought I’d weigh in on tonight’s Cal-Oregon game. Of course, if you get cable, swing over to ESPN, and enjoy it.

Right now, all of the pundits and Vegas have Oregon in a romp over the Bears. And, those guys and gals get paid big bucks to be right on these matters, and alumni like myself don’t really matter unless I’m among those paying the big bucks to the above…which I’m not…however, I am going to take the contrarian position on tonight’s game, and if for no other reason, you’ll either get to rub this one in my face, or you’ll say to yourself: I know at least one guy who predicted this upset.

So far, Cal is 3-1, and really, they haven’t played any team of real strength…or at least that was the thinking until Washington steam-rollered Utah last Saturday: and the Utes gave USC a game before that…well, you know how this kind of thinking goes: “so, Cal is better than everyone expects…” Maybe.

What I think we do come against here regards the preparation of Cal, the history of last year’s game in Berkeley, and what the Ducks think is coming…

This week, for the first time in a very long time: Cal practices were closed to the media and visitors. Yikes. Either there are injuries that no one wants to have disclosed, or the Bears are preparing for both sides of the ball in ways that they do not want disclosed. More on that in a moment. Normally, even with Big Game preparation, Coach Tedford has practices open the first day or two of the week. Nothing to see or hear this time around with Oregon.

In case you missed it, last year’s game with Oregon was the one game you should not have missed. Even if you don’t like football: this game was exciting. David (Cal) against Goliath (Oregon): except the Philistines ran out the clock at the end of the game to make sure shepherd boy didn’t pick up another rock: final score, Oregon wins, 15-13. Customarily, Oregon puts about 50 points on the scoreboard before the end of the first half in all of their other games. In short: Cal did two unexpected things: 1) they executed in ways that simply stymied the hurry-up, no-huddle offense of Oregon, and 2) they missed a field goal that would have put them into the lead in the 2nd half: it was a chip shot. Cal tackled, and put down the Ducks in ways that, well, you could hear the excitement in the voices of the broadcasters, as in, “Wow! We got us a game, and Cal might upset Oregon!” Which, unfortunately, did not happen. Even though they won, even if you read the interviews of Oregon coaches and players, they sound and read like they lost the game.

Which brings me to what is going on inside the heads of Oregon. One of the consistent remarks from post-game a year ago to yesterday was, “Cal executed better than we did.” Now, you can take those remarks as subtle bulletin board material to rah-rah your team, or…you can take that as: those Berkeley boys are a pain in our asses, and they won’t go away.

Seems like in the Pac-10, err, Pac-12, there is always another team- not your rival- that gives your school fits in football. Oregon State is like that for Cal; Washington State is like that for USC: and I wonder if now, Cal is like that for Oregon. And, here’s where the closed practices in Berkeley come into play.

Lots of people near and far have wondered, “Why don’t they let Zach Maynard run the ball more?” In the first four games, the guy really hasn’t: but everyone everywhere knows he has track speed and is tough as nails. No plays have been designed for him to run or for any kind of option stuff to be unveiled…so, I wonder if tonight, if from this summer until the present, Tedford has waited to unveil some new offense for Oregon, practiced it in private, and it includes Maynard running. If so, expect some Ducks to get gassed early and often. And, my best guess is that the Ducks know it is coming, and don’t have the personnel to stop Maynard.

To be sure, when you compare the maturity of the two teams that explains why the Ducks are a 24-point favorite over the Bears. But, given what I’ve suggested above, “that’s why they play the game.”