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Leaders Are Readers

It is increasingly difficult to stay grounded in a super fst-pcd (not a typo, I intentionally left out the vowels to make a point) world that we live in. I speak from experience on that statement. I find that the best way for me to stay grounded and centered in a world of breaking news is to breathe, read the Word and read a good book and integrate through prayerful contemplation. 

Recently, I have held out two books that might be able to help you discern the times and find your place in it with social commentary and a plea to develop deeper commitments. Two things that I am interested in. So here is an unusual post about two highly recommended books for the pool or your vacation reading. I have always held up the notion, “that leaders are readers.”

The first is a book by NY Times op-ed writer, David Brooks. In his newly released The Two Mountains: The Quest for a Moral Life, you will be encouraged to sip a cup of your favorite summertime beverage and savor the moment of what is really worth your time and efforts for the short years you have on the earth. Is it career, success, to make your mark or to pursue personal happiness or a life that is other-centered and the embrace of a life that is interdependent verses independent?

This book is meant to help us all lead more meaningful lives by surrendering our lives to four basic commitments: a cause, rooting ourselves in a neighborhood, social solidarity and love. This is a new year book in the middle of the summer. It is a take stock and recommit or surrender for the first time to four primal commitments. Take the Second Mountain Challenge, this summer and Dare to Wonder.

The second book is another barrier breaking seminal work by San Diego State professor of psychology Jean Twenge. In her iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and completely Unprepared for Adulthood and What That Means for the Rest of Us, (that’s a mouthful) you will receive kudos and a new type of challenge that we have never encountered before in child-rearing. This is the first book that takes all of the available research on those born after 1995 and puts them together in a very readable and accessible format that will inspire, provoke and challenge all of us who are paying attention and really care about the common good.

This generation grew up with cell phones, had an Instagram page before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. They are iGen. Dr Twenge drawing from over 11 million respondents over multiple decades delivers surprising attitudes toward religion, sexuality and ethics as well as unprecedented levels of anxiety and loneliness. As this new group of young people enter adulthood, parents, educators, leaders of organizations and employers have an urgent need to understand them (just when we thought we were starting to get a handle on Millennials-Yikes!). Because where iGen goes, so does the nation—and the world.

Have a great summer and enjoy the reading.

Tobin

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Fierce Tenderness

I’ve been thinking about an impossible possibility lately. Tom Long* tells the story of a young girl about five years old who came to church on Pentecost Sunday with her parents. Pentecost Sunday is the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit of God coming into our midst interrupting and transforming the people of God, and the world. The little girl was all dressed up for the occasion, something that I find quite adorable. When she came forward for the “Children’s Time,” her parents were sitting in the second row. The Children’s pastor told the story of Pentecost with great animation, the fire, the speaking in tongues, the earthquake, the wind – it was dramatic. While the pastor was in the middle of the dramatic retelling of the story, the young girl stood up, looking towards her parents, put her hands on her hips, and in a loud whisper said, “I don’t believe a word of it!”

Pentecost Sunday is coming around again, are we like that young girl? Or maybe you have heard the story so often that it does not set off the alarms in your own head. We have heard this story many times and with all good stories there is a temptation for “familiarity to breed contempt.” For those of us in mainlines who take the story of the text seriously, these become more difficult to get our minds around with science and all. But this is not science, this is faith. This is not ideology, it is theology that makes a difference in our lives, or at least ought to.

Sometimes this day seems more like an unwelcome guest that comes around on the holiday, like the SNL caricature drunk uncle who has had too much day-drinking, as the story itself even suggests.

While recently re-reading this story, a good thing for your pastor to do, I was astonished by a phrase that has always been there but eluded me to this point in my life. I could handle the “fireworks”: the tongues, fire and wind, but the harder part of the story for me to get around was the part of the story that reads “these people from diverse cultures were speaking different languages and understood each other!” Whaaaaat?? Different languages understood each other.

It seems that we are all speaking different languages these days and not understanding one another. This tendency to wage war with words and weaponize our words has now become the new norm. It is difficult to stretch into the notion that we can speak different languages and understand each other.

I am trying desperately hard in my own life to talk less and listen more. The people we sit next to in the pews and shop with at the local store and the ones we cannot see across the globe need us to speak different languages and understand each other. Will you commit with me to slow down, stay engaged and be tender with one another and everyone. It is the interruption and transformation of Pentecost. What a bold impossible possibility. It can be a movement of God to ourselves and the world that there is hope for us to coexist together with good folks everywhere.

May the winds of Pentecost blow a fierce tenderness in your life,

Pastor T

*Adapted from a sermon by Joseph S. Harvard III in the Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2019.

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