first year out
Sunday December 02nd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: thinking...

here’s a very powerful photo essay, narrated by the subject, a guy who spent 16 years in prison (from when he was in high school) after being wrongly convicted of rape and murder (the conviction was overturned 16 years later when dna evidence proved his innocence). he talks about what it’s like to enter the world outside of prison after spending all of his adult life behind bars. powerful testimony, captivating images.

(ht to bob carlton, via email)


the wonder that is developmental optometry
Wednesday September 12th 2007, 6:00 am
Filed under: thinking..., family

some time ago, max’s teacher recommended we take him to a pediatric osteopath for some testing. while our insurance (which always seems afraid of newer approaches, even when they work) wouldn’t cover it, we found it really helpful. he quickly diagnosed some food alergies for max that made an immediate difference in focus, alertness and other issues (when we “cheat” on the alergies, as we sometimes do on vacation, we — and max — can immediately see the former behaviors return). the doc did some other stuff, but also suggested we take max to a developmental optometrist. she a real eye doc, but has an osteopathic, developmental approach, and mainly works on the neural pathways in the brain connected to interpreting information from the eyes.

liesl saw this eye doc also, and both our kids have had weekly appointments with her for a few months. we have “eye therapy” homework every day — interesting exercises for each kid that work to break down, then rebuild, the way their brains interpret visual information. liesl has never been a reader. max loved being read to, but hadn’t taken much to reading on his own.

last week, on vacation, i took these two pics. liesl read the entire 6th harry potter book on her own. max read other things — in this pic he’s reading one of my green lantern archive collections. it really is amazing - almost startling — for jeannie and i to see our kids choosing to read like this.




california condors
Tuesday September 11th 2007, 6:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized, thinking...

california condor1.jpgaccording to the peregrine fund, there were, not too long ago, only 22 remaining california condors (in 1982). today, there are over 300.

we saw at least a dozen of them at the grand canyon the other day. amazing birds, with a wingspan of up to 9 and a half feet. they glided along the canyon edge, never moving their wings. absolutely stunning birds.

sure would have been a shame if they hadn’t been saved.



the dip
Tuesday August 21st 2007, 12:45 pm
Filed under: thinking..., books

the dip.jpg by seth godin.

seth godin’s writing has had a huge impact on me and on youth specialties. it was his book, purple cow, that — about 3 1/2 years ago now — was the tipping point (ha! title confusion!) into ys starting a massive internal campaign of change, which i’ve blogged about extensively, here (missional vs. competency-based), here (ys’ prophetic voice), here (a utopian vision of the future of ys), most fully described here (ys reboot day #2), and here (one year anniversary of the reboot). so i’m usually pretty quick to pick up godin’s new books and devour them.

the dip is godin’s newest book; and, it seems to me his last couple haven’t been as original or strong as previous stuff. this book is one powerful, brilliant, must-read idea: every idea, person and organization goes through a dip (in success, ease, fun, roi, whatever) at some point, often rather early on. it’s important to know when to quit (quitting is good) and when to push through the dip.

at about 60 pages, the dip is, perhaps, the thinnest, shortest hardcover book i have ever read. here’s what’s odd: it’s way too long. it’s such a great idea, and i DO recommend reading it. but it’s an article — a brilliant article — and should have been 1/3 the length it is.

anyhow. if it’s worth reading (which it is), and only takes about 30 minutes to read (which it does), there’s not a lot of sense in complaining about its wordiness or repetition. lots of personal and organizational application.


office space
Wednesday July 25th 2007, 1:12 pm
Filed under: youth specialties, thinking...

8 1/2 years ago, ys moved from a seriously dumpy collection of little buildings (a small old house, a pre-fab two story, a double-wide trailor, and a single-wide pos trailor, all surrounding a nasty blacktop parking lot) into the nifty building we currently occupy. we’d gutted the place and made it both professional and a tiny-bit playful.

we could not have been happier. for a few years.

then something happened. we re-invented the company. and the silos we’d thought were normal crumbled. and our desire to be more collaborative grew. but we have two floors (that feel really seperated), and this central hallway down each of the floors that’s structural and can’t be changed. so we spend our working days in suites on either side of the hallway, seperated from most of our fellow ysers. we’ve tried to funkify the place a bit. we plastered the conference room with the biggest whiteboard wall you’ve ever seen (great for wild brainstorming), and created an “innovation bunker” downstairs, complete with love sacs, a whiteboard wall, a corkboard wall, and toys (great for creativity). but we’re still limited by our space.

so i am, today, coveting the offices shown on this website. open. deconstructed. shared. playful. collaborative. non-hierarchical.

in the same way that a church’s architecture says a ton about the theology of the church, an organization’s workspace says tons about the values of the organization.



ftd no longer believes in customer service
Wednesday July 04th 2007, 6:01 am
Filed under: thinking...

i can’t say i buy flowers all that often. but i’ve always trusted ftd. they have always seemed to be a brand that stood for dependability, quality, freshness, stuff like that. i’ve never thought of them as a low price option, but that was never the point when i used them. i was probably using them a half dozen times per year, some of which were ys related, until we consolodated any “ys flower buying” into the capable hands of our hr person. so, these days, i probably only order - always online - about two times per year.

but yesterday, they showed me that their brand does not stand for what i thought it did — or, that it no longer stands for those things. in my massive excitement over my friends’ adoption, my wife and i wanted to immediately send a bouquet of “it’s a girl” balloons. it was critical to us that these arrived the same day — they very day our friends had received their news.

it was still before 9:30 in the morning when i placed the order, and the website confirmed same-day delivery. the automatic confirmation email also confirmed same-day delivery. when i placed the order, i almost didn’t input my contact phone numbers (i hate giving them out to businesses), but gave both work and cell to make sure there were no glitches.

late in the afternoon, i received a form email from ftd stating that they regretted that they couldn’t make my delivery today, and they it would be sent two days later. thank you very much.

no option to cancel. no, “boy, we really screwed you on this one and made sure you couldn’t order from a provider that could actually meet your very simple expectations.” and no phone calls, though the site said the phone calls were necessary in case they had a problem with my order.

i responded to the email, stating how frustrated i was, and asking them to cancel the order. no response. finally, i had to call to cancel the order. the woman i spoke with was friendly, but certainly wasn’t offering me anything to keep me as a customer.

so i’m gone. maybe ftd can generate enough internet orders these days that they don’t have to provide any kind of actual customer service in order to be profitable. or maybe they’ve made the ludicrous choice that they can’t afford customer service if they want to be profitable. certainly, they are making choices that will erode their brand.

look to asia
Thursday June 07th 2007, 6:48 am
Filed under: youth ministry, thinking..., youth work, news

let’s face it: the united states hasn’t been leading most international youth trends for many years (which is an interesting sociological question, since it is almost universally agreed that the u.s. is responsible for creating youth culture). don’t get me wrong — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. i’m not lamenting this fact, nor suggesting anything other than where we ought to look to see what’s coming down the pike.

for a decade or so, it seems we’ve looked to the u.k., primarily, and some other european cultural centers (copenhagen, paris, and so on) for clues about youth culture in a few more years. (btw, i think we do this within the states also, as we look to nyc and los angeles teens for cues that will often trickle down to other parts of the states in the following year or two.)

well, it’s time for change.

it’s time to acknowledge, i believe, that asia has surpassed europe as the precurser of things to come, in many (not all) ways. watch this video of facts, but together by paul mcgregor for mtv asia (ht to anastasia at ypulse), then i’ll resume my ramblings…


i don’t think technology is the only thing driving this shift — i say that pre-emptively, with the assumption that some would suggest just that. and i DO think the implications are going to land on much more than youth culture. i blogged a year ago about a short talk i was asked to give on the “the world in 10 years” for the youth ministry executive council. i referenced daniel pink’s book, , (which i blogged about here, and here, among other places), and wrote this:

A few facts from the book:

- Each year, universities and colleges in India produce 350,000 new engineering graduates.
- Half of the Fortune 500 companies now outsource to India.
- 1 out of 10 IT job will move overseas (to Asia) in the next 2 years; 1 out of 4 by 2010.
Our issue isn’t the outsourcing of jobs, of course.

But what will it mean for our affluent and resourced churches and youth ministries when our country, religiously, looks more like Europe, and the thriving, model-creating influence in the church is coming from Asia? Will be have the humility to learn and grow?

so here’s a few truly from-the-hip thoughts rolling around in my head at this moment:

- the rise of asian youth culture as a world influencer (and, in some ways, a “snapshot of the future”) is being accelerated by population. another way of saying this: the u.s. played a role in creating youth culture, in part, because we had a crazy number of youth. that’s asia now; and, even, 100-fold moreso.

- it will be very interesting to see how cultural prejudices play into all of this. for instance, american stereotypes of british youth have them as hip and edgy, rockers and ravers, full of attitude and independance. american stereotypes of asian youth have them as techno-hip geeks (guys) or techno-hip animaetrixes (girls) (ooh, did i just make up a word?). will these stereotypes be compounded or dismantled? will an asian dominance in the globalized youth culture force a shift in our perceptions and stereotypes to something more self-selected by asian teens themselves?

- as i wrote above: will americans, and, particularly, american church leaders, have the humility to be led? let’s face it: americans like to lead, not follow. are we ready to follow, with humility? my skeptical hunch: we will be forced to acknowledge some models, theologies and approaches, but will (i’m speaking especially of the church here) rush to identify those we want to “claim” as our influence, thereby retaining power and control; and, in doing so, will only select those influences that most reflect our own values.

- if asian youth culture becomes more globally dominant, as i’m suggesting, how will the tension of youthful independance and asian family loyalty (there’s a name for this, and i’m blanking on it) play out in american (and european) contexts?

a related post:
explosion of youth cultures around the world

the difference between marketing, pr, advertising, and branding
Wednesday June 06th 2007, 6:20 am
Filed under: thinking...

there’s so much talk about this stuff (particularly about branding) in business books and blogs these days. i loved this simple explanation of the difference, from the higher ed marketing blog (actually, tracking it back, trying to find the original source, i went through pronet advertising, to ads of the world).


(ht to bob c, via email)


this is why i love my kids’ school
Tuesday June 05th 2007, 6:08 am
Filed under: thinking..., family

a year ago we moved out kids into a private school: the waldorf school of san diego. here’s an example of why. anyone who knows anything about pedagogy should start salivating now…

the other night, we attending an opera at the school, completely written and performed by my daughter’s 7th grade class. the backstory: they were studying, in a history unit, the renaissance, and a bit of european history. as a snapshot of the worldview shift that was taking place, their studied the story of an 18th century opera composer named gluck. gluck started in italy, where opera, in the early part of the century, was lighthearted “comedy” (not quite what we would call comedy today). he wrote some of these, but pined for something more. gluck moved to germany, and, 20 years later, started connecting with people who had similar views and ideas, and starting writing operas of a completely different vibe: often tragic (really, what we’d think of in many operas today), always connected with deeper human emotion. a decade or so later, gluck was in paris, at the time when the french revolution was percolating, and benjiman franklin was hanging around. people either loved or hated gluck’s new direction in opera because it was a radical departure from the italian standard.

i learned all this the other night, watching the performance. my daugher, over a couple month period, learned about 18th century european history, about the worldview change that took place at that time. then, her class, working together, wrote multiple scenes of a drama (not opera) that took place in italy, germany and france. these scenes were mostly in english, but also included some italian, german and french lines. then, in music class, they learned about gluck’s operas, and prepared to preform portions of one that showed his transformation. the night of the performance, the class-written acting scenes took place on one stage, then, after a pause for the kids to scramble across the room, the opera took place on another stage. it was just 26 kids with 26 average middle school voices. and it was amazing. (in the picture below, liesl is the one with the yellow waist sash.)


then, a couple days ago, i saw this on the counter in our kitchen.


i could tell it was max’s, and asked him about it. here’s what he told me:
that’s a book, and the cover is hand-felted (by him — max is in 3rd grade). the book itself, hand-written with illustrations and decorative borders on every page, is a detailed description of wool. and the truly amazing thing is that max (and his class) DID everything in the book. they went to a farm and saw sheep get sheared. they gathered the raw wool and took it back to school, where they combed or carded it (he explained this in detail), colored it, built wooden spinning tools (in their woodworking class) and spun their own yarn. max, who has learned to knit (which is helping with his fine motor skills, left-to-right tracking, and counting) is knitting something right now with yarn he made. they also learned the process of felting, which resulted in max making this book cover.

dood. i am a happy parent.


an idea i’d love to see become reality: fair-trade clothing
Monday June 04th 2007, 6:38 am
Filed under: faith, thinking...

jeannie and i are trying to make some changes in our lives. part of this is simplifying: we’re been seriously consider selling our nice suburban home and moving into the city. we’d have to give up almost half our square footage to do this; but we want to live in a neighborhood, not a homogeneous gated community. and we don’t want our kids growing up with our beautiful house as normative.

but much of what we’re changing or wanting to change is in response to our growing theological understanding of the kingdom of god. we want out faith to be expressed not only in the words we say and how we treat people we know, but in how we treat god’s creation, and how we treat people we don’t know. some time ago, jeannie started only buying organic food. that was primarily a health choice. but it’s a lifestyle choice as well — a care-for-god’s-creation choice. we’re pretty sure our next car will be a hyrbrid, once my mini lease runs up in 18 mos. we pay a bit extra for environmentally-friendly dish and laundry soap.

we drink a lot of coffee, and have recently decided it’s just irresponsible for us as followers of jesus to buy anything but fair-trade coffee. i realize that to some, this sounds ridiculously petty, even trendy. that’s not it for us. it really boils down to this: how can we say we love our neighbor when we aren’t willing to pay an extra buck for fair trade coffee now that it is so easily and constantly available.

but here’s one that’s starting to bug us: how do we be responsible when buying clothes?

again, many would be quick to dismiss this question or label us new-day hippie radicals, or worse, l i b e r a l s. just last week i read comments on my blog by people who were claiming that christians shouldn’t buy american girl dolls because the company that makes them gives a bunch of money to a foundation that helps girls, and a small portion of those funds go to things those christians don’t want their money going to (pro-lesbian organizations, for example — they say; i have not actually looked into this). while i might or might not agree with their conclusion about buying an american girl doll, i strongly support the notion of making purchasing decisions that are in congruence with the life and teachings of jesus. so i ask: how can someone raise a question like that about american girl dolls, but buy clothes made by sweatshop employees who are treated horribly and paid worse? does not buying clothes that, by their very purchase, support oppression of “the least of these” contradict the life and teachings of jesus?

but here’s the rub: it’s almost impossible to tell what clothes are really made in conditions that treat their employees with fairness. at best, we have the word of the seller (like: target), saying they don’t use sweat-shop suppliers. but, i’m sorry, that’s not good enough.

food has an “organic” standard. coffee has a “fair trade” standard. companies are working toward lowering their “carbon footprint”. even the publishing world is rushing to embrace (tricky and costly as it is) “green publishing” (the publishing company that owns zondervan — our parent company — has just launched a massive campaign called “harpergreen” to move aggressively in this direction).

i would love to see a “fair trade clothing” standard. i would love to see a neutral non-profit rise up that would become knowledgeable about the industry, then set some reasonable standards. create a “fair trade clothing” logo, and allow clothing makers to include it on their tags if they meet the criteria. this organization would need to have knowledgeable staff who travel to producers around the world to spot-check their compliance. and they’d need to make sure there’s a randomness to which field agent visits which factory, to prevent corruption.

jeannie and i would pay a bit more for clothes that we knew had a “fair trade clothing” stamp of approval.