loren Eric Swanson: April 2006

Saturday, April 29, 2006

How do you get an elk in the house?

This past year my nephew Matt shot a huge bull elk and because neither, he nor his father-in-law have vaulted ceilings on which to hang it, it fell to our house to have the first shot at it. A bull elk is huge. Imagine trying to hang a horse on your wall? As try as we did, it simply overpowered the room and ended in John's office. Good shot Matt.

John Handy on Toys

John always has little gems that he drops into his presentations or in offline conversations. Mattel, for instance, designs "delight factors" into many of their products--cool features that are never advertised but nonetheless left for the curious to discover. So on a particular toy, there might be a very small signiture with a Website that can be seen only under a small magnifying glass. This Website will welcome the inquisitor and tell how the toy was designed and a few more hidden features. On some Hot Wheels, there is a small lever that releases the body from the chasis only to reveal another full car and chasis beneath--again, no advertisement...but plenty of word of mouth once it is discovered. What would be different if we included delight factors in our different aspects of ministry? We have tried to link minor delight factors into the Websites we build that accompany each Leadership Community gathering. So clicking on the phrase, "...God made us for a purpose" will have a hyperlink to the porpoise exhibit at sea world. Or a video of Pat Robertson might link, not to CBN, but to Turtlenecks.com.

John believes that toys and play are the ways that children learn to aspire. He told us about Jackie Joiner who would put her Barbie up on the medal stand long before she became an Olympic Gold Medalist. Though a nine year old sister can push a seven year old boy around, when he is at play, playing with action figures, or video games for that matter, he is courageous, conquering evil, protecting his country, fighting along side his companions and he is living out the role that he aspires to be. Through toys he is strong, and brave and courageous and plays out life stories of good over evil.

I think of how I played--playing cowboys and army (always calling each other "Joe"), building forts and riding horseback on the branches of trees. We were brave. We won or if we died it was with a dramatic fall with which we were shot...only to rise again. I think of my boys playing with their GI Joes, Masters of the Universe, Karate Kid, Ninja Turtles. Each in our way we were playing at the lessons of life. The environments that we played in were different but the aspirations were the same. We learn courage first through play.

Big Sur--Day 3

The leadership community for externally focused churches at Treebones Resort ended very strongly. Because we use the method developed by WildWorks, which is based on "Knowledge, Understanding, Decision / Action" we always follow that flow throughout the 48 hours we meet. So "Decision / Action" is expressed in teams presenting their conclusions on a presentation board, or in this case a flip chart. To say, "We have so many good ideas that now we have to go home and think about their implementation" isn't the way these communities work! So we ended yesterday with each team taking 3 minutes to present their "Action Learning Plan"--what they purpose to accomplish in the next 6 months.

It's hard to find words to express how great John and Corrine Handy are...how beautiful the Central Coast is and what these two elements can add to the creativity of teams. But I think it is all additive.

At the left is a model of the town of Gorda, one mile from Treebones. If you click on the picture you can see what the town (the general store also serves as City Hall) looks like.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Big Sur EFCLC Day 2

Incredible day yesterday. We started the day with Fast-Fire Updates, in which churches report out on what has worked well, their greatest success, biggest surprise, where they are stuck! Normally we do these through a verbal report but yesterday, each team drew four pictures that represented this information. This was a great addition. Since the last time we were together participants read four books on innovation--the Meddici Effect, Seeds of Innovation, Heroic Leadership and The Art of Innovation. So for the next exerccise we had teams gather, share what they learned, then report out on principles and applications to externally focused ministry.

We broke for an hour and a half before dinner so folks could relax, hike and enjoy the beauty of the Big Sur Coast. After a fabulous catered dinner John Handy gave his first presentation on the call to adventure. Every great endeavor begins with a call to adventure. John told about his history with Mattel and examples of calls to adventure, beginning with a film clip by JFK--"We want to go to the moon, not because it is easy but because it is difficult...to measure the bet of our energy and skills." Interestingly one of the participating churches is University Baptist Church in Houston. UBC has 6 or 7 astronauts in their church and many NASA folks. Harold Draughn was a flight director during the time of the Moon shots. He is part of the EFC team but could not make it to this gathering. We do have with us Wayne Young (pictured). In 1962, at age 27, Wayne joined NASA when NASA had a mere 100 employees. Wayne was given charge of guidance systems (working with contractors) the lunar module and eventually the Shuttle program. "We were young guys! We didn't know we couldn't do it!" The director of the program, Chris Kraft was 33 years old!

John also pointed out that innovative employees keep innovating over 25-35 years. As they employ the best of their skills and experience, the ideas just keep coming.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Big Sur

Today we are beginning the third gathering of our third Leadership Community for Externally Focused Churches. We flew into San Jose yesterday and made the three hour drive to Treebones Resort (www.treebonesresort.com) on the Big Sur coast and even took in the scenic 17-mile drive. Treebones is owned by John and Corrine Handy. John will also facilitat this gathering.

Until February 2006 John Handy was the Senior Vice President of Product Design at Mattel Inc., the world’s largest toy company. While at Mattel John led all worldwide product concept, design and packaging efforts for Mattel’s Boy’s Games and Entertainment Division including the following diverse brands: Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Tyco RC, Harry Potter, Batman, Justice League, Max Steel, Yugo-Oh, Masters of the Universe and Games and Puzzles. Until his retirement from Mattel he led a department of 160 designers as well as a large network of outside design firms and professional investors. Each year his team of designers created and produce over 1200 toy products with 80% ($4b) of next year's revenue generated from products developed this year. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science, Industrial Design from Arizona State University in 1983. John has 20 plus years of toy design experience: 20 years with Mattel, and one year at Playmates Toys where he was responsible for initiating the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line.

Participants are showing up so duty calls but I'll attach a couple photos

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Leading Co-dependents

My good friend Rabs (Rabs R. Rabs) has started a blog. For those of you who know Rabs, you know that what you see is what you get. He is talented and passionate and in my way of thinking the world is divided into two groups--those who love Rabs and those who don't really know Rabs. You can link to his blog at www.freetolead.blogspot.com

I have long posited the notion that the test of true leadership is whether or not you can lead volunteers. I won’t go into detail now on why I believe that statement is true. There is not enough time or space to cover my thoughts in a blog, that topic is for my future book (if I ever get around to it.) But, I do want to address the one caveat to my premise – co-dependants. Co-dependants by nature will do anything to please you, or, as in my NFP (faith based) world, God. Even if God isn’t asking for this level of validation of their commitment to Him.Co-dependents come in all shapes and sizes and will often go to many levels of sacrifice to obtain your approval, or, some self imposed ideal of what God requires of them.How then do you tell if you are a leader or just have a group of co-dependants following you?1) Realize that we are all crazy (co-dependant), but some of us are crazier than others.2) Ask your friends – your true friends.If you don’t have any friends to ask – consider yourself crazier than most and if you are leading, it’s probably just a group of co-dependants.So as a touch point, be wise enough to look at the folks tagging along – are they emotionally healthy? If so, you might just be a leader.

The Penultimate Day of Skiing

On Saturday Liz and I loaded our skis, daughter and her finace, Erik into the car and drove up to Copper Mountain for our last ski day of the season. A great thing for Coloradans is a ski pass one can buy for $70 called a "Four Pass" and is good for virtually any four days of the season. This is a great bargain since a single day ticket is $75. We were expecting Spring skiing--warm ans slushy but we arrived to 6 inches of fresh powder on the slopes and mild-enough-for-for-lunch-al fresco at the base.

Skiing isn't quite like my mom describing Sienfeld's monologue on driving in a car (It's like being outside...but inside. Its like sitting very still....but going really fast) but it has some of the same elements. When you are in the groove, gliding down the mountain, it's almost like you are standing still but going really fast!

Apart from the exhileration of the out-of-doors, the best part was being with Kacey and Erik (and Erik's family also joined us...or we joined them). These are the waning days where Kacey is still my little girl before I hand her off to Erik on May 27th so every moment we have with her is special.

Martin Marty

This morning I received an email from Bob Buford with this short article attached. Bob noted that it is within the calling of Leadership Network to help find, connect and multiply the next generation of leaders--which it is. Of the 350K churches in America only a handful of them will influence the rest. These will be churches of impact, innovation and influence.

Sightings 4/17/06Remembering William Sloane Coffin-- Martin E. Marty

Where are the Bill Coffins of today? That question comes up in most reflective comments on the death of William Sloane Coffin, Jr., the most celebrated and charismatic liberal Protestant preacher of the last half-century. Not long ago we responded to major secular figures who were asking, "Where are the Reinhold Niebuhrs of today?" as they recalled the gifts and influence of the most noted twentieth-century Protestant theologian. Catholics and Jews ask, "Where are the John Courtney Murrays and Abraham Joshua Heschels?" -- top thinkers and doers of a few decades ago. Where are the Martin Luther Kings of today? One of these years there will be obituaries for Billy Graham, and though the TV screens offer arrays of evangelists, we will be asking, "Where are the Billy Grahams of today?"Note that the question is always in the plural: Coffins, Niebuhrs (though there were two of them!), Murrays, Heschels, Kings, Grahams -- as if each had not been unique, as if there were multiples made from their mold. There weren't. And note that none of them had been anticipated. When Coffin emerged in the 1960's, no liberal Protestant preacher had been nationally acclaimed since Harry Emerson Fosdick, titan in the twenties. The Niebuhrs came on the scene decades after any Protestant theologian had been a celebrity. Name one between Walter Rauschenbush, pre-World War I, and the Niebuhrs. Who, Catholic or not, paid any attention to any Catholic theologian in the half-century before Murray? And Heschel? Maybe Jews knew of antecedents, but the wider public did not. Not at all. I'm old enough to remember the emergence of all these, including Graham. We all thought that Billy Sunday in the 1920's had ended, had killed off, the possibilities for urban evangelism. Then came Billy Graham.These questions about "Where are the ...?" are legitimate and can be thoughtful and probing. Some show awareness of context and changed agendas, and are not all moved by nostalgia for mythic figures who themselves once had enough trouble forming constituencies, clienteles, audiences, and congregations when they came on the scene. Maybe some mix of genes and circumstances assured that there were "giants in the earth in those days." But the world, the nation, and its religious agencies have moved on, and one cannot recreate the circumstances that made them credible and offered them a hearing.
The better question, since issues as large as theirs are with us now, is: How do we, as a nation and in religious sectors, summon energies, inspiration, resources, will, and potential constituencies so new sets and types of leaders with new tactics and messages can emerge? Even as we ask, we are allowed this week, at least, first to join the rememberers and the nostalgic in noting the loss so many of us feel as friend Coffin departs the scene. The Martys got to say goodbye personally to Bill in Vermont a year ago October, but he kept saying hello anew in books, writings, sermons, mumbles, witticisms, proclamations of the gospel, moral nudges, and even breaths and gasps. My hunch is that he will still do his gospelling posthumously.

But we are allowed to miss him, to really miss him, and, if we share the faith, to thank God for his presence and hope for whatever kinds of truth-telling leadership may emerge.

Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com.


Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Greeting

I know this morning the tradional "ancient Easter greeting" will be echoed in churches around the world will be, "He is risen!" followed by "He is risen indeed!" But the first Easter morning greetings were a bit more complex (and a bit more ancient). Mark's gospel records that when Mary Magdalene "told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping," that Jesus was risen and that she had seen them, "they did not believe it" (Mark 16:11). Instead of responding, "He is risen indeed" they said something more like, "Huh? He is?" When Jesus appeared to two of them, "[t]hese returned and reported it to the rest" He is risen! "But they did not believe them either." Another, "Huh? He is?" The resurrection is too important to be reduced to an affirmation. It is the cornerstone of our faith, for as St. Paul argues, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Corinthians 15:14). Real faith always includes a bit of doubt for without doubt we only have knowledge and we don't live by knowledge but by faith. One who has knowledge ceases from beeing a seeker and those with doubt remain teachable and open to truth. Most of us can quote Matthew 28:18-20 regarding the great commission, but scarce few can quote Matthew 28:17--"When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." Worshipers and doubters side by side, going forth with love and in obedience to be first domino people who launched the gospel to the ends of the earth. Obedience does not take perfect knowledge but faith and God always can use people of faith.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Amana Iowa

Last week I was in Iowa for City Impact Roundtable. On the way to the airport I stopped by the Amana Colonies--known for communal living and reliable appliances. The Amana were Germans who emigrated from their country to ours in the 18th century so they would be free to practice their faith and communal living (sharing of work and resources) until they discontinued the practice for practical reasons in the 1930s. About a third of the residents are decendants of original settlers. I had the chance to talk to one of the original settlers at the Museum. She came over with her husband in the 1750's. She's now stuffed and stands behind the desk in the museum shop dispensing bits of Amana Wisdom via modern digital communication. Pretty amazing.

Exerpt from JB's Easter Sermon

I got a note from John Bruce (pictured left), dear friend and pastor at Creekside Community Church--an externally focused church in San Leandro doing a great work and having a great witness in their community. Easter is a time to remember the kingdom and the work God has called us to do. Acts 1:3 explains why Jesus stuck around for 40 days before his ascension--to teach about the kingdom! Acts closes with Paul under house arrest teaching about the king and the kingdom. Below is JB's thoughts. He is right on the money.

When we read the four accounts of the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospels, or we read what the other New Testament writers have to say about Christ’s resurrection, we’ll find that nobody ever says the resurrection of Christ is all about going to heaven when you die. In fact, there is very little about going to heaven when you die in the New Testament. Sure, Paul tells the Philippians believers that they’re citizens of heaven, but he doesn’t just mean that heaven is where they’re going to end up. Philippi was a Roman colony in Macedonia and a lot of the Philippians were Roman citizens. But that didn’t mean Rome expected them to return to Rome when they retired. Their job was to spread Roman culture in Macedonia. And when Paul tells the Philippians they are citizens of heaven, he doesn’t just mean they’ll go to heaven when they retire. He means their job is to spread heaven’s culture on earth. Which is the point each of the Gospel writers make in their accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. If Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John had wanted to say that “Jesus is risen; therefore you will be too!” they certainly had the opportunity. But they don’t. What they do say is, “Jesus is risen. So let’s get to work!” Because His followers now have access to a new life, to a new power and to a new mission. Christ has risen and God’s new world has begun. When Paul wrote an entire chapter about Christ’s resurrection, his conclusion wasn’t, “So let’s celebrate the fact that we’re going to heaven.” No, his conclusion was 1 Cor. 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. Christ has risen and God’s got a job for us to do - so let’s get to work. And what’s that work? To bring the life of heaven to earth.

Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project on earth; not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. Isn’t that what Jesus prayed? “Your will be one on earth as it is in heaven.” The bodily resurrection of Jesus is more than proof that God can do miracles, more than proof that the Bible is true, more than proof of life after death. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of a new way of life for us and ultimately, for the entire world. It is the beginning of a new age - a new creation - which will ultimately make all things new.

You see, Christians have made Easter less than it is - which is probably why we had to throw in the silly rabbit and eggs, just to keep things interesting. Easter is about more than me and the fact that I can have a personal relationship with the risen Christ - as much as that means to me. Easter is about more than a guarantee of life after death. Easter is the beginning of God’s new world. When Jesus defeated death and burst out of the tomb, the history of the universe changed course. That’s when the real New Age began. Easter is the victory of the Creator over evil, and of life over death. Easter shouts that God is victorious, that His kingdom shall come and His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. Easter is revolution is its most fundamental sense. The status quo is upset. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of God and of His Christ. And every child of God - every new creation - is now summoned to labor for that kingdom; to show what the kingdom of God is like by our character, our virtue and our actions,

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Missional Church

My very good friend, John Bruce, sent me this link on the missional church. It's very worthy.

The Missional Church http://lchouinard.blogspot.com/2006/01/missional-church.html

Two significant definitions helps us to isolate certain features of a missional church:“The missional church rejects the association of Christianity with American values and the association of the church with entertainment, marketing, and corporate business models. The missional church is reading both Scripture and culture with new eyes. It sees that what is determined by the Christian faith is more than being a good, upright citizen. It sees the church as something different from the smooth corporate model of business. This emerging church calls for honest, authentic faith that seeks to be church in the way of a more radical discipleship.” (Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Evangelism, p. 129)“A missional church is one whose primary commitment is to the missionary calling of the people of God. . . it is one that aligns itself with God’s missionary purposes in the world. . . The missional church is a sent church with one of its defining values [incarnating Jesus’ life and values in the culture it is embedded]”.(Frost and Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come, p.229)
(1) A missional church is externally focused.
(2) A missional church is culturally engaged without being absorbed.
(3) A missional church is incarnationally not institutionally driven.
(4) A missional church is about discipleship not church membership.
(5) A missional church is patterned after God's missionary purpose in the world.
(6) A missional church seeks to establish Kingdom outposts to retake territory under the control of the Evil One.
(7) A missionary church seeks to plant,grow, and multiply missionary communities.
(8) A missionary church trains and equips new leaders to enter territories under seige by Dark Forces. We learn in the context of mission not in the security of our comfort zone.
(9) A missional church highlights character, virtue, and compassionate deeds as the most effective witness to God's Kingdom.
(10) A missional church connects to Jesus through mission not doctrinal precision.
(11) A missional church adopts an organizational structure and internal forms based on mission not ecclesiastical traditions.
(12) A missional church sees itself as organic and not in static institutional forms.
(13) A missional church pursues relationships across generational, ethnic, economic and cultural lines of distinctions.
(14) A missional church seeks to partner with the community to "seek the shalom" of the community.
(15) A missional church assembles to seek God's presence and to be realigned with God's missionary purpose.
(16) A missionary church seeks to reawaken a movement ethos as together we engage our cultural context.What other features would you add if the 21st century church is to be missional?

Note from Per Eric

I got a comment on this blog yesterday (without an email address) asking me if my mother's name is Violet and if she was of Finnish descent. And indeed all that is correct. She turned 80 last August and is in great health and next year will celebrate 60 years of marriage to Boyd. I'll attach a recent picture of the last time I was in Stockton.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bob Norsworthy & Brett Johnson--Equip

Yesterday morning Sam and I met with Bob Norsworthy and Brett Johnson. They work with an organization called Equip and their mantra is "Transforming communities by transforming business." They really do a great job. The global day of prayer, which this year will gather 50m believers around the globe was started by a businessman in Capetown (Graham Powers) who went through a "repurposing" of his business five years ago with Brett. They observe that without transforming business and infusing new businesses into communities most transformational efforts fail. Sam commented that he was recently in the Anacostia area of DC that had several several churches on each block, each with complimentary 501(c)(3)s but the community was blighted. They need business. We are looking to begin gathering a group of 15-20 folks from the business community in Boulder to go throuth this transformational process. It's the real deal.

"Turn away from me! I'm hideous!"

My dear friend and co-worker went to his dermatologist / massage therapist / herbalist last week where the doctor prescribed some topical medication that would attack any precancerous cells on his face. The results were...well one picture is better than a thousand words. I think he would have been better off prescribing leeches. We need a better health care plan that allows us to see actual physicians.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lincoln and Lisa McIlravy

Last night I checked into the Comfort Suites in Coralville Iowa owned by Lincoln and Lisa McIlravy. And tonight we had dinner together at Outback. I have known Lincoln since he was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion from Iowa (after being a 5 time--you read that right, state champion). He subsequently placed twice at the world games and was a bronze medalist in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. After serving on the US Olympic wrestling coaching staff in Colorado Springs, Lincoln changed professions in a big time way. He moved his family back to Coralville, Iowa and secured the land and finances to build a Comfort Suites Hotel--an excellent property.

The reason I am writing about this is that Lincoln broke out of the wrestling world, reinvented himself and went into business. It was hard and grueling and the learning curve was steep but he did it! Having been around the wrestling community for many years I have observed that many athletes are unable to capitalize on the dedication that made them great on the mat to anything else. A coveted spot for ex-grapplers is often an assistant coach at some obscure campus in the rust belt. The top of the ladder is a head coaching job with a modest salary. A couple weeks ago Cael Sanderson--the only undefeated four-time NCAA champion and Olympic champion just accepted the head coaching job at Iowa State. This is a good job for Cael but how many Cael's are there? So I'm very proud of the way that Lincoln has leveraged his dedication to really build a sustainable business in a totally different field.

Fox and the hounds

Pulled this off of Neil Cox's website (www.lovingchange.com). Neil is doing a presentation on blogging for city reachers. He's a great guy.

Leadership Principle #13
"When in deep water just act like you know what you are doing."

Monday, April 03, 2006


"Any movement that has benefited society in the long haul has had at its core a group of people who were committed to a cause they considered greater than themnselves and to each other as friends." James MacGregor Burns

Tom White's Streams of Transformation

Tom White's message included ten streams of city transformation:
1. Revivalist--like Blackaby
2. Prayer summits and servant leader teams
3. Supernatural Transformation
4. City Reaching (Silvoso)
5. Renewing the Urban Core (Bakke)
6. Apostolic Reformation (Wagner)
7. Compassion--taking on the pain of the city
8. Megacity models--Houston / NYC
9. Christ Awakening--Bryant
10. LC2C (Love City to Christ)--prayer, care, share

City Impact Roundtable

Got to Cedar Rapids Iowa in time for the start of the annual meeting of City Impact Roundtable--a gathering of 150 or so city reachers from 36 different states. I saw my good friend Andy Rittenhouse from Knoxville and we chatted a bit before I took him back to the hotel since he has been feeling under the weather for the past week. Also talked with Viju Abraham from Mumbai whom Sam and I will be with in October. Ray Williams from Fellowship Bible in Little Rock, Harvey Anderson from Perimeter and many others showed up. After a keynote address by Tom White, we heard from leaders of three cities in a regional city-reaching model--El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces. Barney Field has been laboring twelve years in this field and has done a magnificent job. He's written a small booklet on city reaching called Your City For Jesus--3 Easy Steps, which is dowloadable at www.cityreaching.com. His three steps are united prayer, united people and inited programs. In the program category, Barney shared how he was praying a few years ago about all the folks in El Paso that did not know Jesus. God have him one word--"Bible." So to make a long story short, the city was challenged to read the New Testament 5 minutes a day. The local newspaper published the entire NT in the course of the year and people requested 60,000 copies of the New Testament.

Over dinner we saw a DVD on the worldwide day of prayer. This day in June was started around 6 years ago by a south African business man named Graham Powers. In 2006 they expect 500 million believers to gather in stadiums around the world!

This evening Francis Frangipane, from Cedar Rapids is speaking on what is happening in the city. He's a great communicator with a great heart.