Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Cities

My favorite end of the year post..... And this year, good lord. 2015 was the best year of my life and I'm sad to see it end. It was a fantastic year driven by lots of significant moments and the travel was mostly just a sidebar to the amazing experiences with the people I love. Thank you 2015.

1 - Charleston, SC, USA.
2 - Reykjavik, Iceland.
3 - Fairfield, CT, USA.
4 - Nyack, NY, USA.
5 - Deep Creek Lake, MD, USA.
6 - Philadelphia, PA, USA.
7 - Seattle, WA, USA.
8 - Indianapolis, IN, USA.
9 - Prague, Czech Republic.
10 - London, England.
11 - Virginia Beach, VA, USA.
12 - Nashville, TN, USA.

[2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 in cities]

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 in Books

Not Impossible
The Martian [the movie is as good as the book]
My Share of the Task
Eldership and the Mission of God [note]
Team of Teams
Gaining by Losing [notes]
Let My People Go Surfing [from a recommendation from Marko]
Charity for All
Delivering Happiness
Redeeming Sex [this deserves a re-read to take notes]
League of Denial [this could change American culture as we know it]
Small Cloud Rising
H3 Leadership [notes]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy 18th!

Dear Katie

Well, this is your 18th birthday, which mostly means that you could be rid of your parents' unreasonable rules if you really wanted to. I write that as mostly a joke - we know that you have such a strong belief in living a life of passion and that you don't waste time or energy on something you don't believe in. That makes some things super fun around our house. =)

We are immensely proud of the person you have become. You have given your whole heart to important things, using your gifts and talents and voice to serve those that don't have as much. That's a sign of true passion - one that uses longings not just for their own gain but to sacrifice for others. It is also a foretelling of the One who was passionate to the end, the One that we celebrate this time of year.

Around 18 years ago or so, we hoped our kids would be like what Psalm 127 details. And it has come to fruition - you are a heritage from the Lord and a reward from Him. And like an arrow in the hands of a warrior, fly straight and true for the Lord's purposes.

Love DAD

Monday, December 21, 2015

Welcoming back Shannon

Shannon is on the left here and we had a little Ember contingent welcome her back from Arizona as we planned for a little leadership outing. By all accounts, her time with Amadeo was incredible. She hugely blessed their community and her time there was significant in her journey as well. Every person we have sent there has had a similar experience.

During her welcome back, we had her walk through a few simple decompression exercises that we've used with great success:
+ your trip summarized on a 3x5 index card.
+ your trip summarized in 20 seconds, 2 minutes, and 20 minutes [this one is just an outline]
+ a list of people you met and want to continue to remember, and why.
Great fun for me was hearing some of our guides suggest the 3rd one when I didn't exactly have one more planned - they get it!

Shannon's holy discontent has become more clarified from her time at Amadeo - to build discipling cultures. Watch this one...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Burn

::: Incredible Growth of the Bible in Iran

::: Two Super Reads on our Most Influential Churches
Hillsong NYC
Mosaic LA

Photo: 2008 summer team numbers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Planning for 2020

I've been working on a 2016 strategic plan for The Ember Cast here and there over the past few weeks. It's a thrilling experience - 2015 was a phenomenal year for us as an organization and I'm excited to see what 2016 will bring. There are already a few awesome engagements we have committed to.

I've toyed with strategic plans before but this is the first year that I've actually put a lot of this down on paper. The intention of putting it on paper has made me think clearly about what Ember will do this year and what Ember won't do. It's been a fun exercise and, of course, is subject to Board feedback and approval.

Depending on how rebellious you are, you might think running your own organization is total power and undiluted freedom. It might be that, but with freedom and power comes responsibility - responsibility to do what you created your organization to do. Execution requires intention.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Well's Annual Christmas Toy Store

This is the before view of the annual discount toy store hosted by The Well in Curtis Bay. As part of the Christmas season, we served there as a family this past Saturday. I've been continually impressed by Mandy and her team at The Well - they've hosted two service experiences for us so far, and Saturday's toy store was no exception.

If you've read either Toxic Charity or When Helping Hurts but need to see it in real life, The Well has lots of good examples. The toy store is a textbook example - it is a discount store, people don't get the toys for free. They register their information, which includes their children and ages, pay for the toys, get assigned a personal shopper and go shopping. Once they have their toys, they get them gift wrapped. It's an annual tradition eight years running now and this year, when we got there 2 hours before it opened, there were already 15 people in line. They also have a small set of people that help out with preschool to middle school kids in case parents don't want to shop with them.

Lots of different church teams were there too to help out and I loved meeting some of those leaders - these are the like-minded people you want to hang with. My favorite part of the day was walking around the neighborhood with a local pastor - that story is for another day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Burn

::: The Most Instagrammed Places in the World

::: Smartphones and Refugees

::: The 9 Guidelines for the Design of London Tube Stations

::: A scared world needs a fearless church. - A W Tozer via Chad McCallum

Photo: Hungarian keyboard, summer 2007.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Challenges to Movement Pioneers

When Bill trains movement pioneers, he reads out a list of challenges they will face, based on actual experiences over the years. He asks, "Which of these would prevent you from fulfilling your calling?"
1. My spouse decided to call it quits and go home.
2. My parents ordered me to return to my home country.
3. No local school is available for my children.
4. My financial support base is cut by 25 percent.
5. My financial support base is cut by 50 percent.
6. I am diagnosed with a serious degenerative disease.
7. My sending agency collapses.
8. I have to give up home country citizenship in order to do ministry.
9. I am publicly discovered in sin and dismissed by my agency.
12. My organization supervisor and I strongly disagree on strategy.
15. One of my children is discovered to have leukemia.
16. My spouse dies.
17. One of my children dies.
18. One of my coworkers is killed because of his or her ministry.
19. Someone from my agency that I sent to the field is killed.
20. The first believe from my people group is martyred.
24. I am offered the pastorate of a large congregation in my home country.
From Pioneering Movements - Leadership that Multiples Disciples and Churches by Steve Addison. I've subscribed to Steve's blog for many years - the blog and all his books are excellent reads.

Related: Movements Move

Monday, December 07, 2015


Last week, our older daughter Katie, gave some public testimony at a public hearing for the Howard County State Delegation. [You might have seen this on Facebook.] She testified in favor of legislation that would make it easier for local authorities to inspect county "massage parlors" engaged in suspected forced prostitution and human trafficking.

You may not like the system, but that doesn't mean you just sit around doing nothing.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Friday Burn

::: How Demographics Rule the Global Economy
Best read of the week if you are interested in understanding how the world looks.

::: The Most Popular US TV Shows Around the World

::: Why Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Should Use Their Money for Fundraising

::: 5 Ways Freelance Creatives Make Unpaid Time Off Work

Photo: Prague tram, July 2015.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Post 3416

In late 2002, I started an experiment with a thing called Blogger. 13 years, some 3400 posts and 2700 comments later, this blog is one of my most treasured tools. Some of my posts have been to tell you what we have learned, some of them have been about what could be possible and some of them have been just for me.

No matter who you are or what you do, you must be able to communicate your ideas. Writing it down for yourself or your friends or the public forces you to focus and frame the idea, to get the words right, to send it off into the world. That's why I believe that blogs are still one of the most valuable tools for leaders. It's why I make all our ProtoGuides write one and why lots of blogs are on their reading list.

It's never been technically easier to get your ideas out to the world and writing my blog hasn't cost me a dime. Quite the opposite, it's helped me connect with like-minded missions leadership catalysts all over the world and given me lots of other related benefits by being in those relationships. That value has been priceless.

So, happy 13th!

Photo: Not sure what they are laughing at.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

New Traditions

It seems fitting to write end of the year donor receipts at the end of Thanksgiving weekend. I personally do the receipts which I still think is an important task of the founder and executive director of a [fledgling] nonprofit. How else could you grasp the scope and depth of the people who have donated to your organization?

Besides 3 or 4 regular/semi-regular donors and some institutional giving, this year, we had just over 170 donations for just over $22,000. The grand total was around $27K and around 9% was spent on overhead such as marketing, insurance and other business expenses [but don't get caught in the Overhead Myth]. Obviously 2015 Prague was the bulk of that spending, which was around $25K. We invested around $350 in our network of leaders doing things outside of The Ember Cast. We spent $41 on copies. Tools of the trade include Quick Books, Excel, Word and MailMerge.

I believe I have a new Thanksgiving tradition.