"Blogger" n. Someone with nothing to say writing for someone with nothing to do. This is the blog of Eric Swanson containing the developing thoughts and reflections on the externally focused church, the kingdom of God and what I see God doing in the world, in my life and the life of my family and friends. I also occassionally throw in a little commentary on good restaurants I like along with a few pictures.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Trick or Treat
This evening Liz and I went up to Longmont to have dinner with Jeffrey, Ashlie and Gentry and then to go Trick or Treat with them. Gentry was so cute--"Trick or Treat." Apart from getting candy from Satan's house we had a fun time.
I realize some people prefer "Harvest Parties" at the church but I took my Andy, Jeff and Kacey one year to a harvest party where they were required to dress as "biblical characters." Jeff went as Lazarus risen (so he looked like the Mummy), Andy went as John the Baptist holding his own head and Kacey went as the Witch of Endor. We found it was easier just to Trick or Treat in the neighborhood.
Monday, October 29, 2007
In 1977 National Geographic published an article entitled The Horse That Never Was. The article described Da Vinci's conception of the Sforza equestrian monument and told the story of the destruction of his model in 1499.
A pilot and art collector Charles Dent read that article and conceived a dream to build Leonardo's Horse - Il Cavallo - and give it to the Italian people as a thank you gift for the treasures of the Renaissance. Although he never lived to see its completion, he left $1.5b of his estate to see his dream fulfilled. The project was designed by a Japanese-American sculptor, Nina Akuma and after another $4.5 was raised the statue was finished and unveiled in Milan on September 10, 1999 five hundred years from the day the original model was destroyed.
 Gelb, Michael J. How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci. Delta Trade Paperback reissue edition (June 2004) 30.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Atlanta Compassion in Action Weekend
A couple of weeks ago Unite! Atlanta, working together with Hands on Atlanta and Great Day of Service combined their hearts and hands to serve Atlanta. It was a classic example of people of good faith working together with people of good will in the community. Unite! director, Chip Sweney sent the following stats my way.
October 5-7, 2007
On October 5-7, 2007, Unite!, Hands On Atlanta, and Gwinnett Great Days of Service collaborated efforts to mobilize volunteers for service throughout metro Atlanta. The following are estimated results from our efforts.
Combined Serving Statistics
Unite!, Hands On Atlanta & Gwinnett Great Days of Service
500 Service Projects
Unite! Serving Statistics
Compassion in Action
61 Participating Churches
250 Service Projects
5 Katrina Homes Framed
7 Home Repair Projects
11 Public School Projects
20 Apartment Block Parties
30 “Welcome Baskets” made & given to refugee families
55 Church, Grocery Store & Neighborhood Food Drives
200 “Basic Needs” gift bags for homeless children
750 “Encourage-a-Teacher” Gift Bags
1,000 Bibles given away
25,000 Lbs of food collected
61 Participating Churches
Prayers for Good Luck Go Unheaded--Cal loses to UCLA
#10 Cal snatched defeat from the jaws of ho-hum football, losing to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, 30-21 today. All prayers for good luck mistakenly went to the Bruins. As Cal was driving...and well within field goal range, Nate Longshore threw the potential go-ahead touchdown pass. Now click on the attached video to see what happened next.
Forces for Good
Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. Jossey-Bass (2007)
Since Don Simmons notified me about the release of this book I had been looking forward to reading it. I pre-ordered it on Amazon and it came in the mail yesterday. My expectations were met and exceeded. Forces for Good is significant because it really defines the new world we are living in. The best nonprofits no longer think merely how to improve their management, operations, efficiencies or results but have figured out how to collaborate with other domains of society to change the world.
The book is the result of a two year study on what enabled the best nonprofits to have such high levels of impact. “Our findings were nothing like the conventional wisdom about nonprofit management we had read before” (1). Below I will place some quotations from the book that will whet your appetite for reading this gem.
“The new philanthropy is all about leverageing financial resources by investing in the most entrepreneurial agents of change—those that have figured out how to scale their impact exponentially. It’s the end of charity as we know it, and the beginning of high-impact philanthropy…. Merely building a great board or delivering adequate services or even running an efficient nonprofit is no longer enough. In order to be true forces for good, they must learn new ways of thinking and acting” (4).
Stages of nonprofit development
“Most early research on nonprofit scale focused on program replication as a means of expanding social impact….Then in the past decade, the focus shifted to building organizational capacity in order to deliver programs more efficiently…More recently, nonprofits have been told to look to the private sector for models of success, in part because of the increasing cross-fertilization between the sectors. ‘Nonprofits need to be run more like business,’ is the common refrain. Although we agree that nonprofits can learn proven practices from their for-profit counterparts, this still isn’t enough. Better management practices can create only incremental, not breakthrough, social change. And even the best businesses cannot tell us how to change the world, because that is not their primary purpose…. We believe the next leap is to see nonprofits as catalytic agents of change” (5).
What they learned
As we learned in the course of our research, great nonprofits follow six practices to achieve more impact…. In a nutshell, organizations seeking greater impact must learn how to do the following:
Work with Government and advocate for policy change, in addition to providing services
Harness market forces and see business as a powerful partner not as an enemy to be disdained or ignored
Create meaningful experiences for individual supporters and convert them into evangelists for the cause
Build and nurture nonprofit networks, treating other groups not as competitors for scarce resources but as allies instead
Adapt to the changing environment and be as innovative and nimble as they are strategic
Share leadership, empowering others to be forces for good (6)
“We don’t have time for incremental change—we need dramtic change if we are to solve the complex global problems that plague us today. The stakes are high on all sides, and we must rise to the challenge. Ding anything less would squander this momentous opportunity to advance the grater good. Fortunately, these great nonprofits—and the lessons we can learn from them—can show us a new way” (7).
“The secret to success lies in how great organizations mobilize every sector of society—government, business, nonprofits and the public—to be a force for good. In other words, greatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations than how they manage their own internal operations…Great organizations work with and through others to create more impact than they ever could achieve alone” (19).
Great social sector organizations do these six things:
1. Advocate and serve. The more they advocate and serve, the greater the levels of impact they achieve.
2. Make markets work. Tapping into the power of self-interest and the laws of economics is far more effective than appealing to pure altruism.
3. Inspire evangelists. Great nonprofits see volunteers as much more than a source of free labor or membership dues. They create meaningful ways to engage individuals in emotional experiences that help them connect to the group’s mission and core values. The see volunteers, donors, and advisers not only for what they can contribute to the organization in terms of time, money, and guidance but also for what they can do as evangelists for their cause.
4. Nurture nonprofit networks. High-impact organizations help the competition succeed, building networks of nonprofit allies and devoting remarkable time and energy to advancing their larger field. They freely share wealth, expertise, talent, and power with their peers, not because they are saints, but because it’s in their self-interest to do so.
“The first four practices are more external; they represent how these groups dramatically expand their impact outside the borders of their own organizations. Each of these practices influences an external stakeholder group with which the nonprofit works so as to do more with less. In observing this external focus (ooooooh, I like that term!), we also realize that working outside the organization entails special practices inside that help these nonprofits relate more effectively to their environment. This led us to discern two additional internal practices that enable high-impact nonprofits to operate successfully in the outside world and bridge boundaries” (21)
5. Master the art of adaptation. They have mastered the ability to listen, learn, and modify their approach based on external cues—allowing them to sustain their impact and stay relevant.
6. Share leadership. These CEOs are exceptionally strategic and gifted entrepreneurs, but they also know they must share power in order to be as stronger force for good. They distribute leadership throughout their organization and their nonprofit network—empowering others to lead (21-22).
In the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the increased role the church can have in a community. Although multitudes of churches are still trying to mobilize their people into the community, there are other churches that have taken a step beyond this and are mobilizing the other sectors of society to engage the community. This is the an untapped leverage point for the church.
A couple of days ago, Sam Williams and I were in Las Vegas at Hope Baptist Church (www.hopebaptistchurch.com). We flew in early enough to catch a performance of the Blue Man Group—an incredibly innovative and interactive form of entertainment, art, media and music. Hope was planted out of a church in Woodstock, Georgia in 2001 and under the leadership of Vance Pitman, has an average a weekend attendance of over 2000. More impressive, they have planted four churches and helped start two others. The meeting was convened by Brian Audia, who leads a non-religious 501(c)(3) called Surgance (www.surgance.com). The mission is “Channeling waves of servanthood toward community transformation.” Great mission statement as it recognizes that catching a wave is easier than causing a wave. Brian was the one who headed up New Hope New York—an initiative that resulted in 37 church plants in NYC with a combined weekend attendance of over 3000. Interestingly they went to New York to serve the city to impact the city. “We worked with anyone and everyone,” says Brian. Brian is a connector and entrepreneur. He went to the president of the Bronx Borough, and asked, “What can we do to help?” The president asked them if they could paint inner city schools. Brian assured him that they could. That was the beginning of an initiative called “Paint the Town.” Brian visited MS80, a middle school in the heart of the Bronx. A teacher took him to his classroom and showed him a three-foot hole in a blackboard. “its been there since I got here, 23 years ago.” Pain the Town partnered with Benjamin Moore, who provided free or at cost paint and supplies, World Vision, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, The Staubach Group, NYU, Columbia University, etc.—private, public and social sectors. The result? In 2004, they mobilized 4000 volunteers, gave 53K man hours, painting 1, 300,000 sf of walls, $1,000,000 of value invested in schools. They had block parties of 1500-2000 people where 700 people filled out comment cards asking to be contacted. Working with Upward Sports, they hosted sport camps for the kids reaching some 15,000 kids. The work goes on. To date they have mobilized 33K cross-sector volunteers. “People are dying to give themselves to something that will outlast them,” says Vance, lead pastor at Hope. This year alone they have seen 200 people come to faith.
Paint the Town and Surgance are working models of what it will take to transform community. I read some place this year that “the future is here right now, but it is unevenly distributed.” That’s a great quote. I understand that to mean that if we look close enough we can see right now, through the positive deviants, innovators and early adoptors, what will be effective in the future.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Rockies Roll: Sweep DBacks to Win NL Penant
Wow! The Rockies are going to the World Series, having won the past 21 of 22 games, winning 7 games straight to win the NL Pennant. Now here's the bad part. A couple weeks ago Jeff bought 10 tickets for tonight's game but since I made a commitment nearly a year ago to be here in California, everyone went to the game but me! I'm happy for them to be able to say, "I was there." This is quite unbelievable!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
For one brief shining moment
Cal fans woke up this morning to find the Bears ranked number ten having our "prayers for good luck" go unanswered as they fell to Oregon State 31-28. Are we depressed? Are we heartbroken? No, a thousand times No! After all only 24 hours ago we were the "unofficial #1 ranked team in the country" for about an hour and a half. No team ever stays #1 forever. Our number 1 ranking was not going to last forever but we did get there. So, since Cal has not been #1 since 1938, they will probably not be #1 again in my lifetime. So yesterday afternoon...for an ever so brief but shining moments we were unofficial champions of the (collegiate) world. And for true Cal fans, its a moment we'll always remember.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Cal #1...unofficially...at least for a few hours
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Dog without a boy
I have been looking at the issue of calling during the past couple months. It is interesting if you look at it in the Bible. You can find a great many examples of people getting a specific call from God to do something. But as you look at calling, there is something else very interesting that surfaces. God, being a relational God, and us being relational people are also called relationally. We know the story of Paul’s call; we see Barnabas and John Mark and Titus and Luke who all go with Paul on this mission. The Bible gives no evidence of specific visions from the Lord to these other people. Paul refers to calling not as an individual calling but as the calling of all believers (1 Corinthians 1:23-31 Ephesians 4:1). “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” 2 Timothy 2:8 “called us to a holy calling.” There are many more. We are called and we are chosen to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10) Look at Abram’s call. God tells Abram to go to Canaan and he will bless him and will bless the earth through him. So does Abram go alone? No, he takes his wife, he takes his nephew, and he takes this whole big group of people with him. (Genesis 12:1-5) They are called because he is called and he decides to bring them along with him. Because of their relationship with Abram, through his call, they are also relationally called. Think of your own life. How many big things have you done for the Lord where you have had a specific call? How many things on the other hand have you done where people you have a relationship with are going to do something and you are excited about what they are doing and you see how God could use you and grow you, so you go along with them? I know God has used and is using you to do great things.
Why do we wait for God to call us to do his ministry? Has he not already called? Can non-Christians tell people about Jesus? Do you follow Christ? Then you must walk as he walked. 1 John 2:6 His mission was to proclaim the kingdom (Matthew 4:17, 23) and we are called his ambassadors 2 Corinthians 5:20. As ambassadors our job is to proclaim the king and his kingdom to those people who haven’t heard. Don’t spend all your time collecting people who already know Jesus but instead go to the distant places to show people the kingdom and introduce them to the King. Take your friends. Take your family and go. Bring the Kingdom of Heaven to the kingdom of hell. Go and change the world.
"'Not called!' did you say? Not heard the call,' I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face -- whose mercy you have professed to obey -- and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world. -- William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army
Externally Focused Campus Ministry
What is a follower of Christ like?
Describe an ambassador, what is his job?
If there were no Christians on your campus, would anybody notice?
Would there be any difference on your campus if there was no Christian fellowship there?
If the school wanted to kick all the Christians off campus would anyone object or come to your defense?
What do these questions do? They help us to evaluate our effectiveness. Do we really want to change our campus and the world? If we really do and we are not, we are doing the wrong things. Some times good things can be wrong because they aren’t helping us accomplish our mission. We need to change the way we spend our time. What kind of things change a campus, a city, a country or the world? Or better, Who can change a campus, a city and the world? Only Jesus. The only way we can participate in these changes is to be like Him, to do the things He is doing.
13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.- Matthew 5:13-16
You are the salt of the earth.
Salt changes things. Salt is a preservative. It helps things last longer. It gives flavor and richness to make everything it touches better. Salt is essential to life and health. Salt brings healing and was an essential part of sacrifice and covenants.
Leviticus 2:13 Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.
God uses salt to change cities and bring life back to land and revive its springs.
2 Kings 2:19-21 The men of the city said to Elisha, "Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive."
"Bring me a new bowl," he said, "and put salt in it." So they brought it to him.
Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, "This is what the LORD says: 'I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.' "
If salt loses it’s saltiness it is worthless and is thrown out. How can salt lose its saltiness? It can’t physically lose its saltiness or lose its chemical properties which make it salt, but salt is only called salty when it is compared to something that is not salty. When salt is surrounded by salt, it is no longer salty. Another interesting thing about salt is that while in moderation it has many different uses and benefits, while it necessary to life, too much salt is death. The most salty places in the world are worthless and devoid of their purpose. The Dead Sea is dead because it is too salty, no fish can live in it. Too much salt is bad for your health. Land covered with salt is useless for growing crops and is just trampled by men.
How do we be salt? Salt is valuable when it is lightly scattered upon non salt. A group of Christians that are involved in their campus and involved with their roommates with the ultimate goal of sharing this good news are salt. If the group is meeting four or five times week then they are not spending time showing their classmates what salt is like. The salt looses its saltiness. It is worthless and dead. Instead of bringing life to the campus, it brings death to those in the group.
You are the light of the world
Light changes things. Light changes darkness. Light promotes life and growth. Light changes people’s attitudes and hearts. Its effects are seen most clearly in the darkest places.
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness [a] will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Being light and salt involves us going to the dark and dead places. It involves proclaiming the gospel with both good news and good deeds.
Acts 13:47For this is what the Lord has commanded us: " 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' "
If we aren’t regularly sharing, people won’t see the light and become new. There will be no change. We will be useless light, the kind that is hidden under a bowl, bed or bushel.
Hidden light is worthless. How do we show our light?
As you walk in light as he is light, the results are self evident. People come to know the Lord and life springs up where there was no life before. And those new believers who have been changed through the light of your life begin to change the campus and world as well. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death [a] a light has dawned.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Cal's luck increases--moves to #2!
What a delight to watch Stanford knock off #1 USC on Saturday night...(followed by the Rockies sweeping the Phillies in the National League Championship Series!). How does a team that is favored to win by over 40 points (USC) lose to a team that went 1-11 last year? Here's my theory: If you play / played sports you'll understand. In most every game, some athletes play very well, most give an average performance and a couple perform below par. If you play a 12 game season, you will well remember your best game of the year and...your worst game of the year. In Saturday's game, no doubt every Stanford player will say he played his best game of the year against USC. Conversely, every USC player will say individually played his worst game. It's this mismatch that allows these type of upsets that happened this year when Appalachian State beat Michigan and Colorado upset Oklahoma.
But one way or another Cal is ranked #2--the highest ranking since Pappy Waldorf was the coach in 1951. It looks like our prayers for good luck may be answered.
From the Cal Website:
A bye week, coupled with a USC 24-23 loss to Stanford, helped the Golden Bears move up one spot in both the AP and USA Today polls to No. 2 in the country. The last time Cal was ranked higher than No. 2 was the Oct. 16th ranking in 1951 when the Golden Bears climbed to No. 1 following a victory over Washington State. The Bears held that ranking for one week before losing to USC. California has now been ranked in the AP poll for 24 straight weeks and 50 of the last 54 weeks of rankings. The Bears have been ranked in the top three just eight times in the last 68 years. Overall, Cal has been ranked in the top three 15 times, including seven straight weeks being ranked in the top two during 1937, the second year of the AP poll. The 1937 team, coached by legendary Stub Allison, captured Cal's last football national championship after defeating Alabama, 13-0, in the 1938 Rose Bowl.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Rockies on a Roll!
What a treat to see the Rockies beat San Diego Monday evening--in the bottom of the 13th to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Some say it was the loudest cheering ever heard at a Denver sporting event. Play the video and decide for yourself. With foresight Liz scored $9 ticket for the family. With today's win in Philadelphia, the Rockies have won 14 of the last 15 games!