Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interesting fortune cookies.

I've been picking Chinese food for lunch a lot lately. Each time, I seem to get a fortune cookie that could be read as "guidance" for some kind of major decision or event just around the corner. Here are the 7 most recent fortunes I've received:
  • Many people are seeking you for your sound advice
  • Luck will soon come your way
  • Success will come to your plans
  • You will have fortune as your desire
  • Re-evaluate your plans for long-term success
  • You have great physical powers and an iron constitution
  • Accept the next proposition you receive
It's a good thing I don't live my life by fortune cookies. I prefer the Magic 8 Ball instead. Just kidding.

Newspaper job? Um, no thanks...

The process of finding my "next step" after Antelope Christian Center has been interesting. I have lots of "lines in the water" and have been pursuing various options, all the while waiting for God to make it clear what that next step will be.

A few friends have asked me if I've thought about returning to daily newspapers. The answer is no. My heart left that world many years ago. And logically, here's a good reason to avoid daily newspaper jobs these days:
    Sacramento, Calif. (AP) -- The Sacramento Bee and The Fresno Bee offered voluntary buyouts to a majority of their full-time employees Monday in the latest round of cost-cutting at the newspapers.

    Buyouts are being offered to 55 percent of The Sacramento Bee's full-time employees and a smaller number of part-timers, including most editorial employees, according to Sacramento Bee publisher Cheryl Dell. Reporters in the newspaper's state capitol bureau were exempt from the buyout offer.

    The Fresno Bee's offer is being made to most of the company's full-time employees and includes severance pay and extended medical coverage, Fresno Bee publisher Ray Steele Jr. said.

    Both publications are owned by McClatchy Co., which has seen advertising revenue at its California and Florida newspapers drop 22 percent this year, Dell said.
    Sacramento-based McClatchy owns 30 daily newspapers nationwide. It imposed a companywide wage freeze two weeks ago.

    The Sacramento Bee's move to cut staff Monday comes after that paper eliminated 86 jobs in June. The Fresno Bee cut 44 workers in June.

    The McClatchy-owned Modesto Bee offered all its full-time employees buyouts last week.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are the Olympics a reflection or a predictor?

I was looking at the medal count from the Summer Olympics in Beijing, and I was amazed at how poorly the Russian team is doing so far. My amazement was centered on the fact that in the past, the central rivalry was West vs East, the U.S. vs the U.S.S.R. Obviously, the Soviet Union disappeared nearly two decades ago, but there are many within Russia who would love to see their nation return to the global position once held by the Soviets.

This time around, are the Russians our primary rival? Hardly. In 2008, it's the Chinese. Sure, some of that comes from holding the Olympics in Beijing. But it's also a reminder that China has quickly emerged as a global power.

So here's my thought: Is a strong Chinese performance this year a reflection of the new global stage, or a warning/predictor/forecast of things to come?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Resume updates.

Have you updated your resume recently? It's been several years since I've done a major overhaul of mine. I've added some jobs and experiences, but because of the impending transition in my life, I realized it was time to make some major revisions. I've put in about 4 hours on this puppy so far, and still got more to go. Such fun!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Diversity within the Church.

Interesting article over on cnn.com about racial and ethnic diversity -- or the lack thereof -- in American churches:
    Americans may be poised to nominate a black man to run for president, but it's segregation as usual in U.S. churches, according to the scholars. Only about 5 percent of the nation's churches are racially integrated, and half of them are in the process of becoming all-black or all-white, says Curtiss Paul DeYoung, co-author of "United by Faith," a book that examines interracial churches in the United States.

    DeYoung's numbers are backed by other scholars who've done similar research. They say integrated churches are rare because attending one is like tiptoeing through a racial minefield. Just like in society, racial tensions in the church can erupt over everything from sharing power to interracial dating.

    DeYoung, who is also an ordained minister, once led an interracial congregation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that eventually went all-black. He defines an interracial church as one in which at least 20 percent its membership belongs to a racial group other than that church's largest racial group.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Big change in my life.

Some of you already know the news I'm about to write because I've called you, told you face to face, or you were at church this morning. The rest of you... here it goes...

For the last couple of months, I've been seeking God's direction for my life. I always do this, of course, but this season has been centered on my career and calling. For the last 5 years, I've worked as a staff pastor at Antelope Christian Center near Sacramento, California.

Recently I had a possible job opportunity that would have given me the chance to blend my passion for ministry with my passion for editing and writing. The job, unfortunately, didn't work out, but the opportunity began to stir something inside of me. I entered a season of simply asking, "God, is this where You want me to be? Is it time to move on to a different place of ministering and serving?"

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Seattle and had some great "God time." I returned home with a clear sense that yes, it was time to talk to my pastor about leaving my role at the church and taking the next step God has for me. We met last week, met with the church board, and then announced the news to the congregation this morning.

So, what's my next step?

I have no idea. And that thought both terrifies and excites me.

I'm confident God is in all of this. I'm confident He has a much better plan than anything I could dream or concoct or manufacture. I'm confident He will reveal the next step at the right time and in the right way.

So that's where I am. If I had my choice, the next step would involve freelance editing for organizations, publications, and writers who are communicating the love of God to a wide audience. I have several "lines in the water" and will begin the process of seeing what doors may open. At the center of it all, of course, will be my prayer for God to reveal His plan and purpose.

Otherwise, what's the point?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Second thoughts?

I'm on the verge of taking a big step. Honestly, the step's already been taken. Soon it will be known publicly. But today I had a moment of doubt, a moment when I wondered if it wasn't the right step or the right timing.

No, it wasn't at lunch, when I opened my fortune cookie to read, "Re-evaluate your plans for long-term success." I no longer make life decisions based on fortune cookies and magic 8 balls; that's the one New Year's resolution I've kept since 2003.

This moment happened randomly, while I was driving this evening. I had a small wave of fear sweep over me, causing me to question if I knew what I was doing. And for a moment, I truly wondered if I did. Was it a mistake? Did I misread God's plans? Am I headed for disaster?

And then I remembered a time nine years ago when I took a big step (it was much clearer and easier in that situation), and I remembered how I awoke one morning completely engulfed in fear that I had made a mistake. Fortunately, my roommate was able to knock some sense into me and reminded me that I hadn't made a rash decision, I had taken time to pray and seek counsel, and just hours earlier I was confident that I had God's peace in the situation.

My friend was right. And tonight, I had the same reminder. It's all rooted in Philippians 4:6-7...
    Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A stirring inside.

It's remarkable how life goes. Sometimes everything is expected and predictable and calm and normal. Whatever "normal" is. And then something happens. It can be a small moment. It can be a word from a friend. It can be a line in a movie or a page in a book or a phrase in a song or sermon. It can be a new opportunity or a second chance.

Something happens. Something is stirred.

Dreams and thoughts and ideas re-emerge. Clarity is sought, and found, and sometimes fumbled for the sake of ease and comfort. Current seems less desirable than future, especially when future seems a better mix of past and current, the best pieces of each picked and blended into something new and challenging and inspiring.

That doesn't mean it's easy or simple. The desire for clarity can itself create more confusion than before, when clarity wasn't the goal. And even when the first step is clear, that doesn't mean you've discovered clarity for steps two, three, or four. It simply means it's time to take step one, praying and trusting and believing and praying more and hoping and knowing and praying more and desiring and --

But then it comes time to take that step. It must be taken. It can't be ignored. It can't be brushed aside, even if others will misunderstand or judge or disbelieve or wonder or doubt or challenge or question or criticize. Still, others won't. They, too, will pray and trust and believe and pray more and hope and know and pray more and desire, that steps two, three, and four will be revealed.

In His timing. In His path. In His way. In His hands.

'Swing Vote' an enjoyable ride.

How far is a presidential candidate willing to go to win the support of one single voter?

That's the question at the heart of "Swing Vote," but it isn't the only question the movie raises. Can you be a news reporter and still have a soul? Are some white lies OK if they serve a bigger cause? Do politicians really understand the big issues facing the average American? And if they understand, do they truly care?

On several levels, "Swing Vote" reminded me of "Primary Colors," the movie based on the "barely fictionalized" book about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. "Primary Colors" approached the topic of a presidential election from the insider view of a campaign team; "Swing Vote" tackles the question of what would happen if a presidential election came down to the vote of just one person.

But unlike "Primary Colors," which features a campaign staffer's suicide near the end of the movie and always leaves me feeling negative about the many shortcomings of candidates, I walked away from "Swing Vote" with a sense of why every vote matters, why people still want to have faith in our political system, and how each of us can make the right choice at the end of the day.

In case you're planning to see the movie, I won't offer any spoilers. I'll simply say that the ending surprised me -- but it shouldn't have.

This isn't summer blockbuster fare like "The Dark Knight" or "Iron Man," but it's an enjoyable ride, especially for fans of the political world or the news business.