loren Eric Swanson: January 2006

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Pod Power in The Wall Street Journal

Pod Power--Cutting-edge entrepreneurs see huge marketing potential in one of technology's hottest trends: the podcast
By RAYMUND FLANDEZ Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNALJanuary 30, 2006; Page R6

In late 2004, J. Craig Williams discovered a marketing tool that helped bring his small law firm international attention: podcasting.

With a few simple pieces of hardware and software, he could create a brief daily radio show -- a "podcast" -- and anyone with access to the Web could listen. So he bought a microphone, hooked it up to his computer and recorded himself chatting about important cases and other legal news. Then he posted those podcasts online at popular directory sites, as well as his own site, MayItPleaseTheCourt.com.

See the complete Small Business report.
The results were striking. Listeners -- including some lawyers -- began to call and ask for legal advice. Attorneys around the country began referring clients to him. He even got calls about potential business from overseas.
Indeed, Mr. Williams says his podcasts have given his six-lawyer practice, WLF Williams Law Firm PC of Newport Beach, Calif., the same marketing reach as multinational firms. "The marketing takes care of itself," says the 48-year-old Mr. Williams. "All [the podcast] does is give information. If you like the style of writing and speaking, then you're getting to know me. Then you might call me. It's not a hard sell."

Getting the Word Out
Barely two years old, podcasting is becoming a popular marketing tool among businesses of all sizes. But the technology may have the most to offer entrepreneurs. For an investment of a few hundred dollars, small businesses can get their name before a world-wide audience and potentially boost their revenue.

Precise figures about podcasting audiences are hard to come by. But indirect measures show a large, and growing, market. For instance, almost a third of the 22 million U.S. adults who own iPods or other MP3 players have downloaded and listened to podcasts, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey. (The name podcast comes from the ubiquitous iPod.) Meanwhile, the New Oxford American Dictionary declared "podcast" Word of the Year for 2005, and will add the term to its online version in an update this year.

Podcasts present businesses with unique marketing challenges. Unlike traditional ads, which accompany other pieces of entertainment, a podcast must offer listeners educational or entertainment value in itself -- or else they will simply click it off and download a more interesting program. By some accounts, there are about 20,000 different podcasts online, with topics ranging from music and movie reviews to news and gossip.

On the other hand, podcasts are uniquely user-friendly. You can download the audio file to a computer and play it while you multitask. Or you can stick it on a portable music device and listen during your commute or your workout, just like a radio show or an audio book. Moreover, the audio medium lets charismatic businesspeople show their personality more readily than a conventional advertisement does.

The medium can also give potential customers a chance to sample your wares. When Jeff Kowal started a record label, Lotuspike LLC, two years ago, he sought exposure for its growing list of artists in the progressive ambient music realm. But with bare resources for his Pittsburgh-based company, Mr. Kowal couldn't afford fancy marketing.

So, last year, Mr. Kowal decided to start a podcast featuring chats with the label's artists, announcements of forthcoming concerts and music clips from CDs, as well as original music specifically made for the podcast. It was essentially an "audio newsletter," he says.
Mr. Kowal promoted his offering, dubbed LotusCast, with an email campaign. He also posted the podcast on Apple's iTunes as well as other directories and packed the description with keywords such as "ambient music," "relaxation" and "meditation," to make it easier for interested listeners to find. The result: Traffic soared at Lotuspike.com, and online sales of its CDs and other products doubled, Mr. Kowal says.

Making Yourself Heard
So, if you're an entrepreneur, how do you go about podcasting? All you need is a good microphone, a computer and podcasting software to capture the audio file. You can find a good tutorial on the process at PodcastTools.com, and you can download a free editing and recording tool from audacity.sourceforge.net. At lame.sourceforge.net, you'll find a software tool that converts recordings to MP3 files that can be posted to a Web site.
Starting out, the cost essentially depends on what kind of microphone you choose. A solid, dependable microphone will cost $100 or more. If you upgrade to a professional-quality microphone -- or add other hardware such as an audio mixer and headphones -- the cost could exceed $300. If the choices seem overwhelming, M-Audio, a unit of Avid Technology Inc., bundles starter kits for podcasters. The Podcast Factory, which includes a microphone, a host of software and other features, retails for $179.95.

Beyond that, you may need to pony up for a Web site of your own if your business doesn't already have one, to build your brand, post your podcasts and give your listeners a central location for information about your company. A site will cost about $40 a month in hosting fees.
Before you start recording, think about the structure of your podcast. Ideally, podcasts should be kept short, from five minutes to a half-hour; writing a script beforehand is advisable to prevent awkward pauses and meandering. Also, consider the show's style: Will it consist mostly of interviews, a monologue or a panel discussion?

"Get in early and experiment and find out what works," says Doug Kaye, executive director of Conversations Network of Kentfield, Calif., which publishes presentations from conferences, lectures and meetings online. "And definitely provide a way for listeners to provide feedback."
The big question, of course, is how to attract listeners. First of all, make sure your podcast has good sound quality. At the very least, buy a good microphone -- or, if you want to do more hands-on work, buy a sound mixer that can eliminate crackles and pops.

In terms of content, Mr. Kaye says, your podcast needs to be educational, inspirational and entertaining -- but stop yourself from selling too hard. "Don't be an audio equivalent of a brochure," Mr. Kaye says. "Forget it; nobody wants to hear that." He suggests it may be better to have two people be in a podcast because a conversation sounds more natural than just one person reading copy.

From there, you will probably want to create an RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, feed, which automatically sends listeners new versions of your podcast. You can do this easily at free sites such as Feedburner.com or Odeo.com.

Next, post this feed on podcast directories such as Yahoo's podcasts.yahoo.com, podcast.net or iTunes, at apple.com/podcasting. This step also involves supplying some information about your podcast, such as a description and contact information.

One caveat about directory sites: To get the most out of them, you need to include the right keywords in your description -- or else people won't find you when they search the site. To snare the most listeners, use lots of terms and keep them fairly general.

Meanwhile, like Mr. Williams of MayItPleaseTheCourt.com, use your own site to promote the podcast. Start a blog and mention the podcast frequently; this increases the chance that people searching on Google will find a reference to your offerings. Also begin mentioning and recommending other people's podcasts, which will increase your chances of being cross-promoted. And, of course, make sure your podcast is easily accessible and downloadable from your own site (in fact, give the podcast its own prominent logo to make it stand out).
Eventually, if your podcast becomes popular enough, it will reach the rankings of the most-popular podcasts posted at sites such as PodcastAlley.com. This will increase its visibility dramatically and potentially drive up its listener numbers.

--Mr. Flandez is a Wall Street Journal staff reporter in New York.
Write to Raymund Flandez at raymund.flandez@wsj.com

Monday, January 30, 2006

Rolling Hills Community Church

Saturday afternoon I flew into Portland to be with Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin Oregon outside of Portland. RHCC is a great church and is part of the Leadership Community for Externally Focused Churches. They are in a unique position to be both a great attractional church and a great externally focused missional church. On Sunday morning I met with the team leaders of externally focused ministry...a passionate group of people who are committe to getting the church outside the walls.

The new building is absolutely incredible--probably the best looking / designed church I've been in. Huge foyer area...a welcome center that looks like the great room of a lodge...complete with fireplace...little alcoves of couches, chairs and coffee tables for informal meetings...the Atrium Cafe (note how they resisted the temptation to name it something like "Higher Grounds Cafe") that serves the best Starbucks coffee and specialty drinks...and that's all before getting into the worship center which is beautiful with sound system and acoustics of a fine concert hall. The community is clammoring to be a part of Rolling Hills.

After the service we had lunch with key externally focused leaders and then drove up to Black Butte Ranch for a staff retreat until Wednesday afternoon. We've been looking at creativity all day and this group is ready to break new ground. They are so well positioned to lead and come up with break-through ideas, paradigms and innovations. This is a lot of fun.

Seven-Day Weekend

I got this post from my international friend, Marc VanDerwood....Looks like a dynamite bookThe seven-day weekend
Sometimes you read a book that makes you jump up and down on almost every page, because it's provocative, insightful and inspiring. 'The Seven-Day Weekend. Changing the way work works' by Brazilian entrepreneur Ricardo Semler is one of those books. If you ever wondered whether it's possible to run a company of 3,000 workers organically, and apply organic principles to business, government and organisations, then this is a must-read. Talking about reformation in the workplace - Semler did it and is still doing it after more than 25 years. "But," he says, "there's only one minor issue - you have to give up control."
Just imagine a company where people are empowered to schedule their own working days, choose their own job, make their own business cards, and even decide on their own salary. Utopia? Not really. It's common-sense for people who think and live outside the box. Semler is a catalyst, he broaches weird ideas and aks dumb questions that force you to foundationally rethink what you're doing. Like: Why does a workweek have five days? Why does a weekend have two days? Why nine-to-five? Why have an office? Why have employees? Why have rules? Why grow at all? Why not shrink? Why is money so important? Why not make attending meetings optional? Why have a permanent CEO?
There's not one hidden success factor in 'The Seven-Day Weekend'. Semler applies organic thinking to every aspect of business and leadership. One application is that business units never exceed the size of an average house church. Semler: "If you organize employees into groups of ten people, these clusters can be counted on to monitor and manage themselves. It's a question of respecting the basic atomic structure of a nuclear family." Don't tarry one more day - get your own copy of this book, you wont' regret it one second.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Skiing in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

My nephew Matt sent me an article this morning that included these photos. I'm not sure which is more advanced...the ability to create an indoor ski resort where desert temperatures sore to 120 degrees or the ability to digitally create photos that make it look like this structure actually exists. My hat is off to either.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

St. Manchan's Prayer

This past summer I listened to Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilizaition on my IPod. A facinating, entertaining and well-writtn book. One of the most interesting concepts was on how the Irish formed monastic communities. Cahill points out that the Christianity introduced by Patrick was more genuine that that instituted by Constantine since every Celt made the decision to trust Christ volitionally without political pressure or advantage. Cahill quotes and analyzes this prayer by by Manchan of Offaly, a Celtic Monastic; one of St. Patrick's Converts. In this poem Manchan tells how he went off to be a Hermit, but disciples gathered around him, and he found himself the head of a small group of monks! This is how Celtic monasteries often began in the time period of 500-1200 A.D. The poem describes what these early type of monastic communities were like. They were small in number, twelve monks being considered the right size.
St. Manchan of Offaly's Poem
(Composed Circa 450-550 A.D.)

Grant me sweet Christ the grace to find---
Son of the Living God!---
A small hut in a lonesome spot
To make it my abode.

A little pool but very clear
To stand beside the place
Where all men's sins are washed away
By sanctifying grace.
A pleasant woodland all about
To shield it from the wind
And make a home for singing birds
Before it and behind.
A southern aspect for the heat
A stream along its foot,
A smooth green lawn with rich topsoil
Propitious to all fruit.
My choice of men to live with me
And pray to God as well;
Quiet men of humble mind---
Their number I shall tell.
Four files of three or three of four
To give the psalter forth;
Six to pray by the south church wall
And six along the north.
Two by two my dozen friends---
To tell the number right---
Praying with me to move the King
Who gives the sun its light.

A lovely church, a home for God
Bedecked with linen fine,
Where over the white Gospel page
The Gospel candles shine.
A little house where all may dwell
And body's care be sought,
Where none shows lust or arrogance,
None thinks an evil thought.

And all I ask for housekeeping
I get and pay no fees,
Leeks from the garden, poultry, game,
Salmon and trout and bees.
My share of clothing and of food,
From the King of fairest face,
And I to sit at times alone,
And pray in every place.

A Little Quiet Time Gem from Moses

In Exodus 33:12-34:32 we see a good illustration of Moses' interaction with the Lord, and what he did to meet with and hear from God.

Motivations for meeting with God
· An unmet need. "You have been telling me, 'Lead these people' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me" (33:12).
· A desire to know God's will. "If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways..." (33:13)
· A desire to know God. "...so I may know you..." (33:13,15,18)

Preparation for meeting with God
· "Chisel out two stone tablets...and I will write on them" (34:1). We come to God with an expectancy to hear from him and a notebook, journal, etc. When we come to a quiet time with a pen, we are expecting to hear from God himself. We are not meeting with a book or a habit. We are meeting with the living God.

· "Be ready in the morning" (34:2). It's interesting that whether one is a "morning person" or "night person," the most effective time for people to have a quiet time is before the busyness of the day begins. Mark 1:35 portrays Jesus rising "very early in the morning, while it was still dark...." In Psalm 5:3 David wrote, "In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." In Psalm 119:147 "I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word." It's not that we can't meet with God just as well at another time of the day, but each of our personal histories attests to the fact that we usually don't.

· "...come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me..." (34:2). Until the tabernacle was built, Mount Sinai was the dwelling place of God. Do you have a special place to meet with the Lord? Your "Mount Sinai" may be your study, your living room or McDonald's.

· "No one is to come with you" (34:3). A quiet time is not a group function. It is a time to be alone with the Lord.

Meeting with God
Then look what happened. God actually came down and met with Moses and told him what he was like--merciful, compassionate, forgiving, loving--and in response Moses bowed to the ground and worships. Moses confessed his sin and asked God to take Israel as his inheritance (34:5-9). God also gave to Moses his words. He personally instructed Moses. Sounds like a great quiet time, doesn't it?

Results of meeting with God
Let's look at the postscript in 34:29-32. As a result of meeting with the Lord Moses was both radiant--he experienced an inward change and he was resourceful--"He gave to them all (the Israelites)...(that) the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai” (34:32). Many believers want to be spiritually resourceful but have not met with God and so they have nothing to give away. If we want to be resourceful it is imperative to get resources.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Art of Evangelism

I stumbled across a great blog via Steve Addison link. This is the newly-minted blog of Guy Kawasaki (http://www.guykawasaki.com/ )

Below is a recent post. I followed his suggestion to type in "evangelist" in Simply Hired...and he's right!

Out of curiosity, I went to SimplyHired, a vertical search engine for jobs, and looked for openings containing the keyword “evangelist.” Amazingly, there were 611 matches--and none were for churches. It seems that “evangelist” is now a secular, mainstream job title. Indeed, the first eight matches were for evangelist jobs at Microsoft--go figure.
As people hit the streets with this title, they need a foundation of the fundamental principles of evangelism. Fulfilling this need is the purpose of today's blog.

Create a cause. As the previous blog called “Guy's Golden Touch” explained, the starting point of evangelism is having a great thing to evangelize. A cause seizes the moral high ground. It is a product or service that improves the lives of people, ends bad things, or perpetuates good things. It is not simply an exchange of things/services for money.

Love the cause. “Evangelist” isn't simply a job title. It's a way of life. It means that the evangelist totally loves the product and sees it as a way to bring the “good news.” A love of the cause is the second most important determinant of the success of an evangelist--second only to the quality of the cause itself. No matter how great the person, if he doesn't love the cause, he cannot be a good evangelist for it.

Look for agnostics, ignore atheists. A good evangelist can usually tell if people understand and like a product in five minutes. If they don't, cut your losses and avoid them. It is very hard to convert someone to a new religion (ie, product) when he believes in another god (ie, another product). It's much easier to convert a person who has no proof about the goodness or badness of the evangelist's product.

Localize the pain. No matter how revolutionary your product, don't describe it using lofty, flowery terms like “revolutionary,” “paradigm shifting,” and “curve jumping.” Macintosh wasn't positioned as the third paradigm in personal computing; instead, it increased the productivity and creativity of one person with one computer. People don't buy “revolutions.” They buy “aspirins” to fix the pain or “vitamins” to supplement their lives.

Let people test drive the cause. Essentially, say to people, “We think you are smart. Therefore, we aren't going to bludgeon you into becoming our customer. Try our product, take it home, download it, and then decide if it's right for you.” A test drive is much more powerful than an ad.
Learn to give a demo. An “evangelist who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron. A person simply cannot be an evangelist if she cannot demo the product. If a person cannot give a demo that quickens the pulse of everyone in the audience, he should stay in sales or in marketing.

Provide a safe first step. The path to adopting a cause should have a slippery slope. There shouldn't be large barriers like revamping the entire IT infrastructure. For example, the safe first step to recruit an evangelist for the environment is not requiring that she chain herself to a tree; it's to ask her to start recycling and taking shorter showers.

Ignore pedigrees. Good evangelists aren't proud. They don't focus on the people with big titles and big reputations. Frankly, they'll meet with, and help, anyone who “gets it” and is willing to help them. This is much more likely to be the database administrator or secretary than the CIO.
Never tell a lie. Very simply, lying is morally and ethically wrong. It also takes more energy because if one lies, then it is necessary to keep track of the lies. If one always tells the truth, then there's nothing to keep track of. Evangelists know their stuff, so they never have to tell a lie to cover their ignorance.

Remember your friends. Be nice to the people on the way up because one is likely to see them again on the way down. Once an evangelist has achieved success, he shouldn't think that he'll never need those folks again. One of the most likely people to buy a Macintosh was an Apple II owner. One of the most likely people to buy an iPod was a Macintosh owner. One of the most likely people to buy whatever Apple puts out next is an iPod owner. And so it goes.
Live long and kick butt.

Written from Louisville, Colorado

Nordic Stick Walking

One year ago Jan Sirevag, from Oslo, introduced us to Nordic Walking. Jan's testimony is that a few years ago he looked at his wife and said, "Gudweig, I'm fifty, fat and finished." He then took a four month sabbatical, studied nutrician an began Nordic stick walking. After losing 65 lbs, and keeping it off for four years, he is on his way to being "sixty, svelt and sexy." Jan is delightful. That's the only way to describe him....delightful. At 57 he is full of godly insight and wisdom and has a "delightful" sense of humor. He loves telling the story of the Norwegian bishop who accompanied men on their seal hunting voyages...the punchline being, "Vell pastor...you do it your way and I'll do it my way." OK, back to stick walking. Jan claims that because you are using the upper body you are burning 40-45% more calories. Here's his regimen. First thing in the morning drink at least 8 oz of water and a cup of coffee and eat an eggwhite or two (from hardboiled eggs or fried egg whites). "The protein is excellent and you need it for walking. If you eat carbohydrates, your body will burn those and if you don't eat anything your body will burn muscle...so a little protein is good." This is what Jan calls "laying the foundation" (Of course he also uses the same phrase when we are eating a big meal the night before). Jan cautions about alignment...keeping the sticks close to the body and pushing harder on the sticks in order to cover more ground with each stride as opposed to walking faster. We keep the sticks around our hips and plant the sticks by our heals as we walk lest we walk with the sticks ahead of us and be mistaken for a "German grandmother." This year Don Wilcox, John Lamb, Ryan McReynolds, Rich Lotterhos, Axel, Hans-Peter, Joe Thompson, Geir and Kay are converts! Multiplication is happening..

I've attached a couple of other pics of man's early attempts at stick walking.

Rowing Across the Atlantic

This is from a friend of mine, Jerry Edmonson, who is pastor of the Fellowship of Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas (www.thefellowship.org). Fellowship was a member of the second Leadership Community for Externally Focused Churches and did a remarkable job during Katrina and Rita. He writes this to those in his church as he kicks off a new series
Friends and Family,
I am sitting here reading an article about Sarah Kessan and Emily Kohl. They are rowers, Purdue graduates, who were participating in the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race, which boasts itself as the toughest rowing race in the world. In late November, more than 40 two-manned vessels setoff from La Gomera in the Canary Islands in 24-by-6 foot boats. Theirdestination: cross the Atlantic to Antiqua, the West Indies, 2,900 nauticalmiles away. This last Sunday, after 46 days of rowing they got hit by a waveand capsized - leaving them stranded for some 16 hours before beingrescued. What an incredible feet. Fewer individuals have rowed the Atlantic than have climbed Mount Everest. I know one thing, when you and I look out into the uncharted waters of tomorrow it takes courage, faith and vision to leave the shore. This weekendwe will look at what it takes to face the unknown, get in the boat and leave the shore! I look forward to seeing you this weekend, if you can't make it, you get the podcast

My Reflections on Global Learning Community

The three-day summit of our global Learning Community ended Thursday night with a time of sharing in the lodge. It was our best gathering yet as city leaders gathered with old friends. Rich Lotterhos and his daughter Kelley (grad student at UK) did a great job with all the food, culminating with smoked beef tenderloin on Thursday night. There were a number of new converts to Nordic Walking . How could we ask for more.

What makes this work? Here are my thoughts off the top of my head which I may ammend later as more stuff comes to mind.
1. It is peer learning. Every team leader has the proven ability to convene the spiritual leaders of their cities. Everyone comes with something to contribute and something to learn
2. It is interactive. During the three days we had only three hours of content by Robert Norsworthy...very outstanding content by the way
3. The schedule is more like vacation than work. With participants coming in from around the globe we scheduled breakfast (European style--bread, meats, cheeses, cold cereals and a little cooked treat--grits, bacon, french toast etc) to begin at 9 with our first meeting at 10. We broke from 3:30-6:30 for recreation and conversation then ended the first two evenings with movies , dessert and discussions...ending around 10pm. There was no need for a 7:00am breakfast and a 8:00 start
4. Though each team sets its own goals, each team must set goals and report out on accomplishments at the beginning of each gathering
5. We use models and metaphors. Models help us communicate the integrity (what's present and what is missing) of our plans and help us create "what could be" scenarios. Metaphors--especially "cognative metaphors" help us develop critical thinking by using something unknown and complex to give us insight into what we think we already know.
6. We are among friends...people we trust and know have our mutual best in mind
7. The time is refreshing. All of these people are "givers" and this is a time for them to receive a little love, affirmation and appreciation.
8. This is faith based....meaning we can't guarantee specific outcomes but we operate somewhat like the Medici family in Florence. The Medicis were a banking family who brought in and were patrons of the best artists, sculptors, poets, writers, archetects, etc. The result of this cross-polinization was...the renaissance!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Global Learning Community Update

Absolute great day yesterday here in Estes Park. Great group of leaders from around the world are engaging in the most important matters of our time. It was so exciting...with such insight and energy that it was hard to get to sleep last night. You can check out yesterday's notes by going to www.globallearncomm.blogspot.com. We ended the day by watching and discussing a Chinese-made film called "Not One Less"--very powerful. Then of course a few participants showed a few of their favorite videos. This one is totally classic. http://www.devilducky.com/media/25512/

Monday, January 16, 2006

Global Learning Community Begins Today

Today twenty-seven city leaders from around the world will convene at Lost Antler Ranch in Estes Park for the third gathering of the Global Learning Commuinity. These are some of the brightest and most passionate people from Berlin, Oslo, Asia, San Salvador, Mexico City, Auckland, and six US cities who will convene twice / year for three years. You can follow our progress and pray for our progress through Ryan McReynolds "Live Blog" capture at www.globallearncomm.blogspot.com.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Early (we're talking real early) Christianity in China

I came across an interesting article from the China Daily that suggests that Christianity in China may have arrived earlier than 635 when the Nestorian missionaries brought the gospel in from the middle east. here is the article for you perusal.

Stones indicate earlier Christian link?By Wang Shanshan (China Daily)Updated: 2005-12-22 06:34

One day in a spring, an elderly man walked alone on a stone road lined by young willows in Xuzhou in East China's Jiangsu Province. At the end of the road was a museum that few people have heard of.
A Chinese theology professor says the first Christmas is depicted in the stone relief from the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220). In the picture above a woman and a man are sitting around what looks like a manger, with allegedly "the three wise men" approaching from the left side, holding gifts, "the shepherd" following them, and "the assassins" queued up, kneeling, on the right.
As he wandered into the dimly-lit gallery, he was stunned by what he saw. Was he standing, he asked himself, in front of the famous Gates of Paradise in Florence?
Wang Weifan, a 78-year-old scholar of early Christian history in China, said he saw images from Bible stories similar to those engraved in the doors of the Baptistry of St John. But in Florence he didn't.
Even so, the art objects could be more precious in their own way if the early Christian clues that Wang believes he detected can ever be confirmed. They are from the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220), China's parallel to the Roman Empire, and almost a millennium older than the gilt-bronze gates of Florence.
"There was Christmas. There was Genesis. There was Paradise Lost. They were on display, one by one, on 10 stone bas-reliefs excavated from an aristocrat's tomb in the Han Dynasty," said Wang, a professor of theology at the Jinling Theological Seminary in Nanjing, as he told his story to China Daily.
Before Wang's discovery tour to the Han Dynasty Stone Relief Museum in 2002, no one seriously believed that, merely 100 or so years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, his teachings could have reached as far as to China.
There were myths. There was legend. But hardly any evidence.
But now Wang says the early Christian connection with China no longer seems entirely groundless. "It really happened," he said.
The reliefs were carved on the stone tablets from two tombs, discovered in 1995 at a place called Jiunudun, or "Terrace of Nine Women," in suburban Xuzhou. Many stone reliefs were found when tombs at the site were first excavated in 1954.
Art historians have long believed that the stone carvings portray the tomb owners in their life after death in ancient China. The styles and the themes were simliar to those found in Shandong Province.
But Wang has a different interpretation.
"The Bible stories were told on the stones in a kind of time sequence," he said.
One of the reliefs showed the sun, the moon, living creatures in the seas, birds of heaven, wild animals and reptiles - images that Wang linked to the Creation story in Genesis.

Scott's Rules of Negotiation

A few years ago my friend Scott told me about his four rules of negotion. I have had the opportunity to share these with a several others along the way and all of us have found them very, very helpful and useful.

Rule #1. The deal needs to be structurally sound. In other words, it actually has to be workable for both parties, most preferably in a win-win sort of way. This is your "Plan A"

Rule #2. Create a "Plan B"--an attactive alternative that would work if "Plan A" didn't work out.
Rule #3. Talk yourself into "Plan B" developing the merits so that in the final analysis, "Plan B" wouldn't be all that bad. You now really have two good alternatives. This puts you in the position to execute rule #4.

Rule #4. Never bluff.

I saw rule #4 work itself out one time when an employee walked into Scott's office and boldly stated, "If I don't get a raise, I'm going to have to pursue other opportunities." This was a bluff, but Scott didn't blink. He promptly stood up, extended his hand across the desk and said, "Congratulations, I always like to see our former employees move on to bigger and better things..." and he was gone! Rule #4 "Never bluff."

Decision Making in Harvard Business Review

This months Harvard Business Review is worth purchasing. It is devoted to decision making. I'll include a few quotations that I thought were interesting and thought-stimulating.

The contest between rationality and gut instinct pervades the research on decision making. You can find even mathematecians on both sides of the fence. One, Bleiase Pascal, argued: "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." Anotehr, Lewis Carroll, said: "Use your head." The right approach is to seek the insights of both. Thomas Stewart. p. 12

Decision implies the end of deliberration and the beginning of action. Charles H. Lundquist p. 33

In 1921, Frank Knight distinguished between risk, when the probability of an outcome is possible to calculate (or is knowable), and uncertainty, when the probability of an outcome is not possible to determine (or is unknowable)--a argumetn that rendered insurance attractive and entrepreneurship, in Knight's words, "tragic." p. 35

You dont have to be a neuroscientist to see how the emotional brain can badly distort judgment. Just ask any parent. Frm the toddler climbing the shelves to get candy to the teenager sneaking off for unprotected sex, kids have a dangerous shortage of common sense. their baad behavior often looks consciously defiant (and it sometimes is), but the real problem may be that their brains haven't yet developed the circuitry that judiciously balances risks and rewards to yield level-headed decisions. This is where the neuroscientists can offer special insight. The brain's frontal lobes, so critical to decision making, don't fully mature until after puberty. Until then, the neuronal wiring that connects the prefrontal cortx to the rest of the brain is still under construction. Meanwhile, the parts of the brain that incite impulsive behavior seem particularly primed in teenagers. For instance, Gregory Berns andd colleagues at Emory University foun that certain still-developing circuits in adolescents' brains become hyperactive when the kids experience pleasurable novel stimuli. An adolescent's brain is wired to favor immediate and surprising rewards, even when the teen knows full well that pursuing them maybe a bad idea. p. 46

Madison, Hastings, Holland and Houston

This last week I saw more of what God is doing through externally focused churches in Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas. I started Wednesday afternoon with Rich Henderson with Blackhawk Church in Madison. Rich was 25 years with Intervarsity, working both locally and nationally so that was a good connection. I'd never been to Madison before and it is a very cool town--situated around a number of lakes with the student union of the University of Wisconsin planted right on the edge of Lake Mendota. Pretty impressive. Rich and I met at a pizza place called Ian's Pizza on State Street. On the recommendation of the proprietor I had a piece of macaroni and cheese pizza--their best seller. It was really good! We met that evening at Rich's home with a handful of passionate leaders that most likely will be part of the next Leadership Community that is forming.

On Thursday I caught an early-morning flight, via Chicago, to Grand Rapids and drove down through beautiful rolling farm country to Hastings where I met with founding pastor, Jeff Arnett and a couple of his key leaders to talk about what God is doing in their community. It's interesting how externally focused leaders are found everywhere. Thornapple Valley Church is a church with a weekly attendance of 1,500 in a town of 7,500 and a county of 55,000. Thornapple is doing a great job loving and serving their community. I then drove over to Holland Michigan. Of course I would have loved to have stopped for wooden shoes but I was meeting with Paul Brink, Trent Walker (candidate for Senior Pastor) and Daniel Maat at Harderwyk Ministries. These guys are passionate about what they do. Harderwyk's externally focused ministry is organized through "Neighbor's Plus" led by Sherrie Santos. I have known about Harderwyk's externally focus for three years but this was the first time I've been at their church. Harderwyk is another great church that has applied to be part of the next leadership community for externally focused churches.

Thursday night I connected to Houston via Chicago and on Friday morning met with ten staff / leaders from University Baptist Church in Houston. This was a day-long make-up meeting for a the last LC gathering in Sacramento that they had to miss because of Hurricane Rita. The team was great--smart and passionate. Because UBC is located so close to the Houston Space Center the church has a number of people who are in the space industry. So next week one of their deacons is leaving for two weeks in space...talk about "externally focused!" One of my favorite folks on the team is Harold Draughon. Harold was a flight director for NASA and was one of the 50 folks (working in 3 shifts) who was in the room on the Apollo 13 mission. Talking with Harold is like interviewing someone who was on board with Columbus. If you remember the part from the movie when they had to improvise and build an oxygen recovery system from spare parts, Harold said the toughest part of the assembly was communicating without images, the assembly procedure to the astronauts.

Both Senior Pastor, Robert Creech and pastor Jeff Waldo keep good blogs on what is happening in the kingdom. Robert chronicled what their church did during Katrina and and Rita and Jeff's records his recent successful kidney transplant and study in "Future Studies." They are found respectively at http://www.ubcsp.blogspot.com/ http://www.rrcreech.blogspot.com/and http://www.jeffwaldo.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Seven Secrets to Brainstorming

The following is from Tom Kelley's The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization

1. Sharpen Your Focus.
Begin with a clear statement of the problem, a question that's open-ended but not too broad. Focusing on a specific latent customer need or one step of the customer fourney can often spark a good ideation session. For esample, "How could we gain deeper insights into the experience of our first-time customers?" would be a useful brainstorming topic for many organizations.

2. Mind the Playground Rules
We've stenciled our brainstroming rules high on the walls of many of our conference rooms: Go for Quantity, Encourage Wild Ideas, Be Visual, Defer Judgment, One Conversation at a Time. Even in a rult-averse culture, we've found these basis principles to be both instructive and empowering.

3. Number Your Ideas
Numbering your ideas motivates particpants, sets a pace, and adds a little structure. A hundred ideas per hour is usually a sign of a good, fluid brainstorm, and even if the group is nearly out of steam when you hit number ninety-four, it's human nature to want to pus on for at least half a dozen more.

4. Jump and Build
Even the best brainstroms hit plateaus. You have a flurry of ideas and then they start to get repeitive or peter out. That's when the facilitator may need to suggest switching grears: "How might we apply these ideas to ....?" Push forward with a small variation or cycle back to a promising earlier idea to maintain momentum and build energy.

5. Remember to Use the Space
Leverage the physical environment to make your brainstrom more effective. Let your brainstrom literally take shape and fill the room--write and draw your concepts with the markers on gian Post-its stuck to every verticle surface. Capture your ideas in visual, low-tech mendiums that everyone can share. Spatial memory is a powerful force you can use to guide the participants back on track.

6. Stretch First
Ask attendees to do a little homework on the subject the night before. Play a zippy word game to clear the mind and set aside everyday distractions. Borrowing from the world of imporv. we often start with some form of warm-up, like free association, where I toss out a word or idea and another person quickly builds on it and tosses it to someone else. Athletes stretch. So do brainstormers.

7. Get Physical
At IDEO, we keep foam core, tubing, duct tape, hot-melt glue guns, and other prototyping basics on hand to sketcdh, diagram, and make models. Some of our best brainstorms have quickly leaped to roughing out an idea with a crude prototype.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Doug Flutie's Dropkick

I'm simply posting Doug Flutie's picture of his dropkicked PAT simply for the historocity of the moment. It is the first dropkick since 1941. Every rugby fan / player has the dropkick in the arsenal. I'm surprised teams don't do more of them. Dropkicking from any point on the field would yield three points.

Quotes from January 2006

Poem:"A Time to Talk," by Robert Frost from The Poetry of Robert Frost (Henry Holt). From Bob Buford
A Time to Talk

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, 'What is it?'
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

"Blogger. n. Someone with nothing to say writing for someone with nothing to do." Guy Kawasaki

"Measure self-worth not by what others think of you but by what you think of them." Phillip Yancy, Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 92

"Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both and keeping them bot furious." GK Chesterton, quoted in Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 92

"Occasionally we talk of our Christianity as something that solves problems, and there is a sense in which it deoes. Long before it does,so, however, it increases both the number and the intensity of the problems. Even our intellectual questions are increased by the acceptance of a strong religious faith...If a man wishes to avoid the disturbing effect of paradoxes, the best advise is for him to leave the Chritian faith alone." Elton Trueblood, quoted in Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 94

The adventure of life is to learn
The goal of life is to grow
The nature of life is to change
The challenge of life is to overcome
The essence of life is to care
The secret of life is to dare
The beauty of life is to give
The joy of life is to love
William Arthur Ward (quoted in Bob Buford's Active Energy, January 2006)

" Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just." Blaise Pascal (quoted on back cover of Robert Linthecum's Transforming Power.
"You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving." Roger, Parkcrest Church
"A church that is centered on itself is not a church." Deitrich Bonhoffer, The Cost of Discipleship
"Power is the ability and capacity to bring about change." Robert Linthecum
"Hell is coming face to face with God and realizing you have nothing in common." Jack Jezreel
"To be 'relevant' is just to play catch-up." Alex McManus
"Credibility is not in ideas but in execution." Bob Roberts
"We don't do mercy ministry to gain a hearing but rather because God loves all people...but you always do gain a hearing." Al Barth, Redeemer Presbyterian Church
"This is what the Almighty Lord says, 'Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.'" Zechariah 8:4,5
"Our model has been prayer, share and care...if we have to." Hector Morales
"The critical question is not, 'How can I achieve?' but 'What can I contribute?' Peter Drucker. p.161 in The Daily Drucker

Ashlie and Gentry David are in Town

Last Friday Jeff's wife and our new grandson arrived to spend a week with us before going to California to spend a couple of days with my folks. What a joy it has been to have them here...to wake up to a smiley-faced boy every morning, rock him in the same rocking chair where we rocked our kids and even watch a few bowl games together. I've attached a couple of pictures of him so you can see why we are so proud to be grandparents. He's almost four months old and completely adorable. The group picture is of Don Wilcox and his first grandson, Brody, John Lamb and his grandson, Cole and then Gentry and me.

Monday, January 02, 2006

More Responses to Jim Collins' Provocative Parable

This is a continuation of Bob Buford's Active Energy newsletter (www.activeenergy.net)

Happy New Year! I begin 2006 with a sense that something big is going on - that we are at one of those watersheds in history. The year 2005 provided a transition for me and for the Life II work I do through and alongside Leadership Network.

As my friend Robert Lewis says, "It feels like there's a tsunami under the churches right now." George Barna calls it a "Revolution" in his latest book of the same name (an important read - go straight to Amazon.com - Revolution). The ever-young Frances Hesselbein told me over dinner in New York that "Peter Drucker is more relevant than ever. Peter illumines the darkness of our time." Uncertainty abounds. A turning point? Makes me anxious to get back into the game!
Now back to the tsunami of responses I've gotten from so many in response to Jim Collins' challenge to "connect the dots" to explain what happened in the 300 years between the crucifixion of Christ and the time when Constantine made Christianity the established religion of the Roman Empire. As Collins put it, "What were the social mechanisms and organizational tools that allowed this statistically remote outcome to happen?"

Three very enlightening responses:
From Dallas Willard, mega author (The Divine Conspiracy, The Spirit of the Disciplines), Professor at the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California.
"Frank Laubach remarked that 'The simple program of Christ for winning the whole world is to make each person he touches magnetic enough with love to draw others.' It actually is not a secret how the spread of Christianity worked. See the opening chapters of E. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, for a lot of further references. Those brought under the influence of Jesus Christ simply manifested a quality of intellect and love that had never been seen on earth. It spread for basically the same reason Palm Pilots spread. The trouble is that, for one asking Jim's question today, they think of what they know of as Christianity and, for various reasons, good and bad, can't understand how THAT would spread simply because people found it so great, good, and helpful. Just like you would never be able to understand how Methodists, Salvationist, etc. could have ever spread, given what they are now. Jesus is the bright center. He trained a few people to do what he did. (See Luke 10:1-24 with the eyes of someone who knows what it is to bring out a new "product.") And then he told them exactly how to replicate across the known world, in Matt. 28:18-20. The problem today is that we have an ersatz product occupying the ground, and so these passages just look like more religious mumbo-jumbo. You have to devote the time, energy, and intellect to scrape the barnacles off the old ship and get down to the human and divine reality Jesus was talking about it. Then you will realize why Paul and the others were able to have the impact they did. They were only the tip of a spiritual iceberg moving upon the soul of humanity."
From Reggie McNeal, another prolific author. The Present/Future Church is stirring up conversation all around the country. It is part of Leadership Network's series with Jossey Bass.
"Here's my response to Jim's inquiry as to Christianity's appeal and early widespread adoption:
The Paradox of Service. Up until Jesus, religious pursuit had primarily aimed at pleasing (or appeasing) God and/or personal dimensions of the adherent's development (salvation, advancement in the religion, etc.). Jesus added an astonishing dimension to spiritual pursuits - the service of others. In fact, He identified serving others as the path to greatness (Mark 9:33-37 and 10:35-45). The seriousness of this instruction is seen when Jesus was challenged to prioritize the commandments (the Pharisees had developed over 600!). His response was to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We widely accept today that our spirituality shows up in our service to others, but this was a radical idea introduced by Jesus. Not only did this emphasis brand the new belief system as distinctive, its demonstration in the lives of early believers gained a hearing for the gospel. Along the way, in this life of serving others, the followers of Jesus discovered an important thing happened to them. In dying, they experienced life.
Collapse of institutional religion. All the old gods were dead. Roman and Greek pantheons were not populated by living beings. The Roman emperor was not a likely god candidate for most people. First-century Judaism (run largely by Pharisees) was a religion of dead legalism. Jesus did not establish a religion. That came later (and is currently collapsing all over the world).
Heightened spiritual awareness. Against the backdrop of the demise of organized religion was a heightened search for personal spiritual development. This is why Gnosticism and the "mystery" religions were such keen competitors for Christianity in the first century. They offered adherents personal salvation (based on spiritual insight and moral personal lifestyle choices). Jesus talked about personal relationship with God, an astonishing possibility not offered by institutional brands. And He talked about righteous living that showed up in how we treat people, not in keeping some religious code. He appealed to the personal search for meaning and significance.
Globalism. Alexander had given the world the Internet with the Greek language. The Romans had established enough international security to build transcontinental roadways and gather the population into cities. The gospel fanned out along the backbone of this economic and information infrastructure. The first century was the first time in human history that the coming of Jesus could become more than a localized event."
From Eric Swanson, who heads the Externally Focused Church Leadership Community for Leadership Network.
"Rodney Stark is the expert on this period. He notes that there were at least two great plagues in the first three centuries (160 and 250 AD) that actually were instrumental in the nascent church's incredible growth rate, which he estimates at 40 percent per decade. When the plagues came, those who were able fled the city, but not the Christians. They stayed and ministered to the sick and dying - Christians and non-Christians alike. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, writing of how believers responded to the plague of 250 observes:
'Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.. The best of brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning height commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.' (At the height of the second great epidemic, around 260, in the Easter letter from Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria. In some cities, two-thirds of the population died. At the height of the plague of 251 AD, 5,000 people a day were dying in Rome.)
Writing of the response of those who were not followers of Christ, Dionysius continues.
"The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt."
Stark observes that just giving basic care of food and water to those too weak to care for themselves would greatly reduce the mortality rate of the victims. He estimates that 80 percent of Christians survived the plagues compared to only 25-50 percent of the general population.
Most churches today have withdrawn from their communities and lost the skill of being a part of the life and conversation of the community. Whether churches feel like they were run out of town or they willingly withdrew, most churches are on the fringes of the community they seek to impact. Occasionally, they make a foray into the city for some search and rescue work, but by and large they are isolated from their community. When charged that the early Christians were infuructuosi in negotiis ("of no use in practical affairs"), Tertullian answered,
'How so? How can that be when such people dwell beside you, sharing your way of life, your dress, your habits and the same needs of life? We are no Brahmins or Indian gymnosophists, dwelling in woods and exiled from life.we stay beside you in this world, making use of the forum, the provision-market, the bath, the booth, the workshop, the inn, the weekly market, and all other places of commerce. We sail with you, fight at your side, till the soil with you, and traffic with you; we likewise join our technical skill to that of others, and make our works public property for your use.'"
My Summary:
I promised to give you my own reaction, which I can do in four words:

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Eve Party

For the past few years Liz and I have been hosting a New Year's eve dinner for friends of ours and those who happen to drop in. Normally I fix a big rib roast and this year I added a 12 lb pork loin as well. Guests bring side dishes and everyone has a good time. I was feeling a bit under the weather and went to bed around 10:30 and slept till 2:30 the following day. I guess I was making up for all the sleep I missed in 2005.

Ministry Goals for 2006

Personal 2006 Mission: To engage the church worldwide in the needs and dreams of their communities towards the end of spiritual and societal transformation

Strategic Involvements
Leadership Network
o Leadership Community Director
o Writing
o Coaching
o Identification of new leaders / churches
o Local Execution
o National Consultation
o International Equipping
Campus Crusade for Christ
o International Training and Leadership Development Conference / Retreats / Speaking / Consultation

Strategic Objectives
Coach 3rd Leadership Community—meetings 3 & 4
Begin 3rd and 4th Leadership Community—meetings 1 & 2
Convene Global Learning Community for city-reachers
Strategically spread the virus of externally focused church through hubs and connectors
Create and sponsor intellectual capital / resources for externally focused churches
o Publish three articles in Leadership Journal, Outreach, etc
o Oversee 3-5 Externally Focused Concept Papers
o Write 2 LN Advance articles that feature breakthrough churches and ideas
o Life on Loan published
o Church on Loan written and published
o City-Reaching book written and published
o Live capture of LC meetings
Finish coursework (1 class) for Doctorate in Transformational Leadership / Begin dissertation
Sponsor people with big ideas / breakthrough potential
Use resources to bless people and build the kingdom of God

Reflections on 2005