Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Katie and Becca

When I was 26, I was just about done with my phase of watching MTV and eating cereal for breakfast. Meet two other 26 year olds that hung with us for a few days this week - Katie, 3rd from the right and Becca, 2nd from the right. Katie is on her 20-something country, about half of those done with significant global missions perspectives. Becca just started a nonprofit to help with children, poverty and education in Liberia.

We met Katie last summer in Italy when she and a friend joined our Ember team for a week after returning from Greece checking out the refugee situation there. She told us her and Becca were connecting through DC on their way to Liberia so we naturally invited them to stay in the international Ember office. DC monument tour at night, visiting with some Ember peeps, meeting our kitchen remodel contractors. This trip to Liberia is around vision - lots of observation and dreaming to spur strategy and action.

Ember is fortunate to hang with these kinds of people - the young, energetic, passionate for the world, willing to start something from nothing. You might not be 26 but it's never too late to be the person you were meant to be.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Italy Mtg #4

One of the best and easiest tools to help build your team - the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This is the chart for Italy 2017.

I have done this with almost every team I have led and, even more importantly, teams have referred to it when thinking about another team member. That is what you want - a tool to help you fast forward relationships so that people become brave, vulnerable, courageous and trustworthy.

Lucky for us, I think we have one ENFJ that isn't on the list.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Why We Send Students

::: What Would Jesus Disrupt?

::: Skateboarding, the Biggest Female Sport in Afghanistan

::: Strategy is a commodity, execution is an art. - Peter F. Drucker

Photo: Ember Advance 17 team.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ember Advance 2017

A long tradition for us and our student missions efforts this past weekend: Ember Advance. I love this it so so much. This year, for the morning, our team assisted one of our clients in their student missions training efforts. This included:
A time where teams prayed for other teams.
3 rounds of workshops with missions practitioners [including world class content about: being a team that your hosts like, the Abrahamic covenant, and embracing faith versus the idol of control].
Team building with their teams.
Debriefing over lunch on how the morning went.

After that, the Ember team, which was most of the Italy team and guest EQuis, did the Myers Briggs, played some of Tess' Christian college games and went downtown to church with National Community Church. We had dinner on Barracks Row and then walked to the Capitol to see it at night.

Our big goals for Ember Advance included serving our clients with a fantastic student missions training experience and spending lots of time hanging and serving together as a team and I'm glad to say both goals were exceeded. We expect a lot from the students that are involved in this experience and each one of them made me proud as they ran team activities with confidence, humility and the end goal of building better teams.

Big thanks, like almost every year, to Amy who jumped in with lots of team building advice. She is a master at this having trained thousands over the past two decades.

In a previous life, this was called Mission Advance. I have a private, big dream to reinvent this whole thing for 2018.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Burn

::: A Pastor, an Imam and a Rabbi Sit Down at a Bar

::: These Friends Traveled Across America for Free

::: 10 Demographic Trends Shaping the World

::: The future has many names. For the weak, it is unattainable. For the fearful, it is unknown. For the bold, it's ideal. - Victor Hugo

Photo: Not doing the hula hoop thing anymore.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Eleven years ago, we executed a student missions preparation weekend based on a few simple ideas. First, make teams travel some short distance before their actual trip. Second, give them a chance to interact with some missions practitioners. In late June of 2006, Mission Advance was born at Cape Henlopen, DE, USA. I still have the fondest memories of that weekend - sending teams to the boardwalk to serve, the sandcastle building contest, how it rained for 16 hours straight, being one of the last cars allowed to leave the eastern shore. Ah the memories.

The idea of Mission Advance [not retreat] still lives with The Ember Cast. It is one of our core distinctives - this ability and availability to facilitate a preparation weekend with student teams around some of these ideas that are still important when it comes to student missions.

We do it again this coming weekend with one of our clients. Lots of students, team building, and missions practitioners. After this kind of morning, the Ember Italy team takes a little field trip. The best thing about Ember Advance is that you could do the same thing with your teams.

Photo: Ember BOD Joyce, 3rd from the left. June 2006, Bridgeville, DE.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Support Trends - 2013-2017

Support trends for The Ember Cast's overseas teams for the past few years. Maybe this data will help some of you in the midst of raising money for your teams.

Some items to note, so far:
+ Suburban context for all of these teams.
+ Overall budget is around $31K.
+ 129 donations - $12217 - average of $94/donation.
+ 17% are electronic donations.
+ 27% is creative revenue.
+ Two teams [Poland and Italy] and budgets are rolled together for big picture percentage. Poland's costs include on the ground costs for Italy since they will be joining us.
+ Vision determines budget, hopefully not the other way around.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Friday Burn

::: A Look Inside Airbus's Epic Assembly Line

::: Churches and Generation Z

::: Why Do Students Get Summers Off?

::: I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean. - G.K. Chesterton

Photo: Cultural mapping, DT Annapolis, March 2017.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Ember and CMP

In 2010, right after the inception of The Ember Cast, we were invited to join a group of college students at Salisbury University to serve with them during a weekend of community impact projects, which included serving at local nonprofits, being a presence in a few low income neighborhoods and missionally imagining what students could do to help their community flourish. Little did we know how long our involvement would last with some of these students. Over these past seven years, we've had the best time serving with and encouraging an incredible group of young people who have activated, initiated and started many things from nothing. They have inspired us more than they realize.

One of the things some of them started is the Community Mentoring Program - a medium whereby college students mentor elementary school kids. This mentoring includes tutoring for school, attending a local church, helping their parents and being a role model. Of course, this type of mentorship is awesome but the best part has been these leaders engaging their kids in service opportunities - kids who are being served reaching out to serve others as well. Ember has been fortunate to facilitate a few of these experiences and last weekend, we got to serve with CMP for a short while on the National Mall in DC.

A leading indicator of emerging global student leaders is their ability to start something from nothing. Find and lead volunteers, develop a budget and raise some money, build a business, start an organization, serve someone less fortunate, paint a compelling vision. These are acts of rebellion against the status quo of the future and why Ember is so attracted to these emerging global student leaders. Oh and by the way, this behavior can be taught and modeled.

Photo; Wendy and Jake, DC, April 2017.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Elevators in an Age of Higher Towers and Bigger Cities

::: The Retail Meltdown of 2017
What's up? Travel is booming. Hotel occupancy is booming. Domestic airlines have flown more passengers each year since 2010, and last year U.S. airlines set a record, with 823 million passengers. The rise of restaurants is even more dramatic. Since 2005, sales at "food services and drinking places" have grown twice as fast as all other retail spending. In 2016, for the first time ever, Americans spent more money in restaurants and bars than at grocery stores.

::: How to be Insanely Well Connected

::: God doesn't speak to your today from your current situation, because He's already been in your tomorrow. - Steven Furtick

Photo: Speaking of elevators.... top of the Burj Khalifa

Thursday, April 27, 2017

17 Italy Mtg #3

Concept: Contextualization
Mantra: Disciples are made on the road, not in rows. - Kim Hammond
Support Update - 25%
Task: Start conversations with strangers. Because most of us have been taught not to talk to strangers and it has made us uninteresting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Wider Circle and Middle School Students

Last week, The Ember Cast had the honor of facilitating a service experience for the junior honor society of a local private school, our first ever school group client. We took this opportunity to work with A Wider Circle, a nonprofit based in Silver Spring, whose purpose is to break the cycle of poverty one family at a time. In the past few years, I've had a number of people mention how great A Wider Circle is, and they were all correct, I was super impressed.

A Wider Circle runs four programs: a furniture and clothing donation distribution program, a workforce development program [interviewing, resumes, free professional clothing], wrap around support [pair 4 families not in poverty to a family struggling for a support network], and neighborhood partnerships. Their typical customer is a single parent with 3 kids living on $12K a year, they serve between 20-30 clients a day, they have 60 full time staff, they partner with over 300 other nonprofits and government agencies in the DMV, and they average 200 volunteers every weekend - a huge operation.

Our time there was spent helping with the Neighbor to Neighbor program, the furniture and clothing distribution aspect of their service. Our kids did lots of work including cleaning up a pantry section, sorting boxes of books, and moving and cleaning houseware products. Although we didn't have any direct contact with their customers, our work was planting a stake in the future - we served someone we hadn't met...yet. Ember is grateful for the chance to spur on these students for a future that they shape and mold through their service and character.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Burn

::: The Pope Opened a Free Laundromat for the Homeless
Link via The Hustle
I think I met those Laundry Love guys mentioned in the article at The Idea Camp.

::: A Fully Autonomous Suitcase
Link via The Hustle [again]

::: Netflix Says English Won't Be It's Primary Viewing Language for Much Longer

::: "The rate determining step of our mission is not the opportunity in front of us, but the leaders developed through us. - @dave_rhodes" via Dan Sadlier

Photo: Old souk, old Dubai.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ember Upcoming

If you are interested in what we do and how we do it, ping for more details:

+ Student service experience - local nonprofit and private school - Friday 21 April
+ Local church mobilization training - Saturday 22 April
+ College service experience - Saturday 29 April
+ College student fellowship - Thursday 11 May
+ Local church student mobilization training - Saturday 13 May

Photo: old and new Dubai.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Creative Revenue Plans - 2017

Ember believes that missionaries of the future will rely on a 'portfolio of revenue.' [credit for this term goes to Ben Arment.] In other words, they will need to actually make some money outside of personal donations. Since 2013, our summer teams have been required to dream and execute a Creative Revenue Plan - a way to make some income based on their talents and gifts. This unique income will go directly towards 10-25% of funding of their missions experience. Prayer and financial support letters are also required.

We ask students to dream up these plans by helping them assess their talents, skills and networks, and this is done as part of their application to summer teams. I'm proud to say that over $16K over revenue has been made as part of these Plans over the past 6 years and it represents students growing in skills such as pricing their product, making a pitch, dealing with customers and lots of hard work. All skills that benefit just about everyone.

This year's plans include: dog walking, landscaping, tutoring, lawn mowing, babysitting and my 2017 favorite - humor [I have no idea what that means.]

Photo: Creative Revenue, buy a Meklit summer special. summer 2015.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Father of the Gazelle

We are cooking - well my wife and mother in law are - a few little Easter dishes since Kt is hosting a little Easter get together later today with her friends at school. So a little jaunt to the grocery store this morning. You should always take advantage of going to a grocery store in another country - it is an excellent cultural experience.

Fascinating mix here: an unreached city and country, hearing the call to prayer a few times a day, attending a church tomorrow for Good Friday [Friday and Saturdays are the weekend here], all with the backdrop of Holy Week.

We are not serving gazelle tonight.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Top of the Burj Khalifa

One should never underestimate the significance of architecture in Christianity. - Diarmaid MacCulloch via Justin Long

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Perspectives Peeps

Some of the people and conversations from two classes I taught last week:
+ B, who heads to Turkey later this summer. There are 81M people there but Christians number in the thousands. He gave an open invite for anyone wanting to go with him, long term.
+ Bill Gates is not a friend of unborn babies.
+ What are your best travel tips? [Chase Sapphire cards and put a dryer sheet in your luggage.]
+ MeganC, who was in a student ministry we served with before Ember, who is now serving full time with international students.
+ J, who married a long term missionary sent out to Latin America by one of the host churches. They moved back to be sent out again by this church to plant a Hispanic church in the Annapolis area.

Perspectives has some of the best content for cross cultural people as well as the chance to mingle with these kinds of people.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Empire State of Change
New York City churches tread the line between community center and place of worship; they are a mixture of ESL classes in the basement, bi-vocational pastors, after-school programs and co-op gardens behind project buildings. They are dinner parties on Wednesday nights, and artist collective meetings in recording studios.

::: Building Resilient Kids
In the most accurate sense, it means that a child has good adaptive capacities to metabolize various experiences, even difficult ones, and continue to thrive. It is an important quality for later success in all areas of life, and in my opinion, one of the best things to build into a child.

::: More than 100 Chinese cities now above 1 million people

::: When we reach the end of our days our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default - William James via Jon Tyson

Picture: Missions leadership weekend, Annapolis, March 2017.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

2017 Support Letters - #1

One non-negotiable of Ember's summer teams is that support letters have to look beautiful. We want them to look like someone took a lot of time and energy in putting them together and that the readers are hopefully impressed when they open them.

Tess has taken all the responsibility for multiple years for helping guide students to not only write good letters but make them beauuuuutiful.

Monday, March 27, 2017

17 Italy Mtg #2

+ More Intros
+ Mantra - In every apple, there is an orchard. [Hirsch]
+ Concept - Indigenous
+ Detailed Support Letter Packaging
PS - They are happier than they look and are starting to perk up.
PS - Not the whole team.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Burn

::: How Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya Is Winning America's Culture War
Ulukaya's distinctive character has always defined how Chobani operates. Ask people who work closely with him, and they'll tell you that there are effectively two Hamdis: the driven businessman out to obliterate his rivals, and the empathetic humanitarian.

::: Starchitect Norman Foster on Taking the Torture Out of Flying

::: The Happiest and Unhappiest Countries in the World

::: Quit looking for the leaders and start building them. @bobhyatt

Photo: Westminster Bridge, Prague 2015 team.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

17 Italy Mtg #1

+ Intros
+ Pictures from Italy from last year - give a sense for look and feel
+ Mantra - We throw fire
+ Concept - Person of Peace
+ Support Letter beginnings
+ Team Schedule

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ember Summer Send 1

Every other year or so, someone that has spent a lot of time with The Ember Cast asks to dream with us. This usually takes the form of what we call a 'Summer Send' and represents some of our best opportunities. We get to play recruiter between someone we know well and partners that we admire, doing interesting things, and able and willing to invest in the emerging generation. Summer Sends usually last most of the summer and are the next logical experience for people like this, most of whom have done a one or two week experience with us.

This summer, our first Summer Send we are working on is sending Tess and Lindsey to Poland for part of the summer. While there, they will have the opportunity to work with the staff of a brand new church plant, do some cultural analysis and observation to help this staff, and do some exploration of their city and culture on their own.

Tess and Lindsey are uniquely perfect for this. They both have been around Ember and short term missions for a good number of years, have experience in navigating culture as well as teaching others how to do it, and have leadership initiative beyond their years. I'm thrilled that Ember can be a small part of their journey in throwing fire. Thanks in advance for supporting these two.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Burn

::: How the Blind People Use the iPhone
This is really incredible.

::: Hong Kong's Skyline Farmers

::: The Astonishing Focus of Namibia's Nomads

Quote: "Rules for Self Discovery:
1. What we want most;
2. What we think about most;
3. How we use our money;
4. What we do with our leisure time;
5. The company we enjoy;
6. Who and what we admire;
7. What we laugh at."
- A.W. Tozer via Dan Sadlier

Photo: Soundcheck with Shane. Subscribe to Shane's Muslim Connect.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hiring and Interviewing at Google - Work Rules!

Notes from Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock. Highly applicable to the way that you run an organization and the kind of teams you intentionally build.
The presence of a huge training budget is not evidence that you’re investing in your people. It's evidence that you failed to hire the right people to begin with.

In other words, most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4 percent of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds. "Tell me about yourself." "What is your greatest weakness?" "What is your greatest strength?" Worthless.

The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29 percent). This entails giving candidates a sample piece of work, similar to that which they would do in the job, and assessing their performance at it. Even this can't predict performance perfectly, since actual performance also depends on other skills, such as how well you collaborate with others, adapt to uncertainty, and learn. And worse, many jobs don't have nice, neat pieces of work that you can hand to a candidate. You can (and should) offer a work sample test to someone applying to work in a call center or to do very task-oriented work, but for many jobs there are too many variables involved day-to-day to allow the construction of a representative work sample.

There is a better way. Research shows that combinations of assessment techniques are better than any single technique. For example, a test of general cognitive ability (predicts 26 percent of performance), when combined with an assessment of conscientiousness (10 percent), is better able to predict who will be successful in a job (36 percent).

The neat trick here is that, while interviewers can certainly make up their own questions if they wish, by making it easier to rely on the prevalidated ones, we're giving a little nudge toward better, more reliable interviewing.

One early reader of this book, when it was still a rough draft, told me, "These questions are so generic it’s a little disappointing." He was right, and wrong. Yes, these questions are bland; it's the answers that are compelling. But the questions give you a consistent, reliable basis for sifting the superb candidates from the merely great, because superb candidates will have much, much better examples and reasons for making the choices they did. You'll see a clear line between the great and the average.

Sure, it can be fun to ask "What song best describes your work ethic?" or "What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?" - both real interview questions from other companies - but the point is to identify the best person for the job, not to indulge yourself by asking questions that trigger your biases ("OMG! I think about the same things in the car!") and don’t have a proven link to getting the job done. We then score the interview with a consistent rubric. Our own version of the scoring for general cognitive ability has five constituent components, starting with how well the candidate understands the problem.

A concise hiring rubric addresses all these issues because it distills messy, vague, and complicated work situations down to measurable, comparable results. For example, imagine you're interviewing someone for a tech-support job. A solid answer for "identifies solutions" would be, "I fixed the laptop battery like my customer asked." An outstanding answer would be, "I figured that since he had complained about battery life in the past and was about to go on a trip, I'd also get a spare battery in case he needed it." Applying a boring-seeming rubric is the key to quantifying and taming the mess.

Remember too that you don’t just want to assess the candidate. You want them to fall in love with you. Really. You want them to have a great experience, have their concerns addressed, and come away feeling like they just had the best day of their lives. Interviews are awkward because you’re having an intimate conversation with someone you just met, and the candidate is in a very vulnerable position. It's always worth investing time to make sure they feel good at the end of it, because they will tell other people about their experience - and because it's the right way to treat people.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Over The Edge

Ember was honored to be a small part of Bay Area Community Church's first annual missions conference titled On the Edge - what a fantastic event! The intended audience for this event included people already committed to go on one of their 20 missional experiences this year, or people interested but not sure where to commit to, or people not wanting to go but just to send others. Huge congrats and thanks to Casely, Trevin and Michele and their global missions team - this team continually raises the bar for local churches engaging their communities to serve across the planet. It was also great fun to have our friend Shane as part of the event and around for the weekend.

Here are some best practices that I took from having a behind the scenes view:
The team hosted a dinner for their trip leaders on Friday night, with very specific direction and encouragement for the conference on the next day.
Every time Trevin talks about some kind of task, he prefaces it with describing specifically what the win is. "The win for this is..."
The team published a mobile friendly link for people to commit to a team. This eventually links to the longer application process.
There was a set of required workshops for first time participants. The team wanted to be very specific about content for this set of people.
World class presentation for handouts, brochures, lobby banners, etc. Everything BACC does in terms of presentation is excellent.

These kinds of missions mobilization events are not normal. They only happen with lots of dreaming, planning and passion.

Photo: Clancy, Shane, Casely, Michele, Trevin.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Europe's Most Godless Country
Iceland. And I've been to this church in this article.
[PS - Not a huge fan of the TGC but whatever]

::: 20 Questions with Scott Harrison of Charity Water

::: Leadership Principles at Amazon
As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others.
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results.
Link via Tim Ferris

::: Chatbot that overturned 160,000 parking fines now helping refugees claim asylum

Photo: Ember guides and George. DTA, March 2017.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Ember 2017 DTA Leadership

The Ember Cast is always honored to help our clients and partners with some of their student missions training opportunities. We had one such opportunity last weekend, traveling with some leader teams to Annapolis to spend about 24 hours focusing on successful student missions leadership.

Concepts during the weekend included: Frames for Teams, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Island Survival, the Tuckman Team Model and Culture Mapping. Friday evening was the majority of this leadership content while Saturday was up and about all over downtown Annapolis. Our time in DTA was driven first by a hybrid cultural scavenger hunt/geocache challenge - latitude and longitude on index cards. Later in the day, Ember Guide Trevin gave us a walking tour of some of the lesser known parts of the city, including the more marginalized neighborhoods contrasted with the more affluent which also included the context behind Downtown Hope, a church plant right in the middle of the arts district.

If you are wondering how this weekend was designed, there were three subtle but prominent pillars to the experience:
Disciples are made on the road, not in rows - one of our core Ember mantras [Kim Hammond]
Highly Reproducible - everything that we modeled could be reproduced by these leaders.
Less is more - instead of too much structure, less gives leaders more opportunities.

Special thanks to Ember Guides Tess, Trevin and Ember spawn Emily for making this weekend happen. And you can do this too. And you should, if you have short term mission teams traveling this summer.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

On the Edge - Workshops

On The Edge, Bay Area's first annual global missions conference. Here are some of the workshops, registration ends tomorrow. Would love to say hi if you are there.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Friday Burn

::: The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Travel in 2017

::: Tim Keller steps down at Redeemer Pres in NYC
Through the City to City church planting program, Redeemer has launched 381 churches in 54 cities worldwide.

::: Mountain View high school in line to win big with Snap's IPO
Link via The Hustle

::: Discipleship takes place in the living room more than the classroom & in the streets more than the sanctuary. @dreamawakener

Photo: Antelope Canyon, January 2017.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Jer 17:9 In Context

Too many Christians today are living back in the old covenant. They've had Jeremiah 17:9 drilled into them and they walk around believing my heart is deceitfully wicked. Not anymore it's not. Read the rest of the book. In Jeremiah 31:33, God announces the cure for all that: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." I will give you a new heart. That's why Paul says in Romans 2:29, "No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is the circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit." Sin is not the deepest thing about you. You have a new heart. Did you hear me? Your heart is good.
- John Eldredge, Wild at Heart

Monday, February 27, 2017

Question 4.2

From a 2017 Ember application: Describe a personal experience where you lived out the phrase, "Find a way or make one."
I was in a corn maze with a group of friends and we got lost. It started to get dark and we wanted to get home so instead of looking for the exit, we ran through the corn stalks to get out.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Burn

::: What I Learned Growing an 8 Figure Business
What very few entrepreneurs realize, though, is that it’s much easier to grow your business through your current customers than it is to go out and find a whole bunch of new customers. Challenge: How would you 2x your business if you COULD NOT get any new customers?
Iterate the way you communicate
Communication is the single biggest challenge I DID NOT expected as our business scaled.

::: How to Respond When Someone Expresses Initial Interest in Missions

::: As We Become Cameras
Fascinating read on the smartphone camera becoming ubiquitous and how watches went through a similar transition.
Humanity’s appetite for time grew on a similarly aggressive curve.
Before the industrial revolution, it was uncommon for clocks to have minute hands. Only a very select class could afford a private timepiece until the 20th century.
Until the 1840s, time was local and highly variable. Each town set its own clock, from which private clocks would be roughly set by hand. The time in Pittsburg might be 27 minutes earlier than that in New York and no one much cared.

::: Pack twice the money and half the gear. - Anonymous

Thursday, February 23, 2017

On The Edge

This is Casely on the left and Trevin on the right, doing a FB live video yesterday promoting their summer missions efforts at Bay Area Community Church, which is just outside of Annapolis. BACC, like a lot of churches we know, has a very strong and mature global missions process and this year, they are sending out around twenty short term teams. Their senior pastor and Casely, who is their global missions pastor, spent most of January traveling, visiting 5 of their partners around the world. Crazy.

Part of their process this year is a one day training and mobilization conference called On The Edge, on March 11. If you have any interest global missions, cross cultural church planting, living in another culture for a season or anything like that, this gathering will have some excellent content and is a great opportunity to hang with people that like that kind of stuff too. Ember's good friend Shane is doing some of the teaching and I'll be hosting a workshop as well.

Ping for more details.

Update - registration.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Happy Birthday Deanna!

A long time ago, before she was my wife, Deanna told me that she liked to travel. This was a stark contrast from me, I almost never went out of my zip code. Little did I know.

Fast forward a few decades, years and moments, and last summer we found ourselves in the Middle East, both for the first time. It was incredible to meet so many parents of university bound kids, just like us. From misunderstood cities and countries and cultures, in a region of the world also many times misunderstood, my wife engaged each one of them as a curious visitor, a listening ear, and a new friend. Maybe they just wanted to speak to a blonde American.

In these strange and tense times, Deanna reminds us that perhaps the best gift to a crazy world is being a kind, listening visitor with the perspective of blessing others because we have been blessed.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Obsession with ending poverty is where development is going wrong.

::: Missionary dies thinking he is a failure. 84 years later, church planting movement found in the jungle.
Link - Fixed Link

::: The UAE's ambitious plan to build a new city - on Mars

::: Don't assume you are the good soil. - Francis Chan via Jon Tyson

Photo: scheming with Ember guide, Trevin.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book Notes - You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, James K. A. Smith. Very intriguing - like the best ideas, not sure what to do with this yet.
In other words, your understanding of discipleship will reflect a set of working assumptions about the very nature of human beings, even if you've never asked yourself such questions.
There is a very different model of the human person at work here. Instead of the rationalist, intellectualist model that implies, "You are what you think," Paul's prayer hints at a very different conviction: "You are what you love." What if, instead of starting from the assumption that human beings are thinking things, we started from the conviction that human beings are first and foremost lovers? What if you are defined not by what you know but by what you desire? What if the center and seat of the human person is found not in the heady regions of the intellect but in the gut-level regions of the heart? How would that change our approach to discipleship and Christian formation?
To be human is to be on a quest. To live is to be embarked on a kind of unconscious journey toward a destination of your dreams. As Blaise Pascal put it in his famous wager: "You have to wager. It is not up to you, you are already committed." You can't not bet your life on something. You can't not be headed somewhere. We live leaning forward, bent on arriving at the place we long for.
If you think of worship as a bottom-up, expressive endeavor, repetition will seem insincere and inauthentic. But when you see worship as an invitation to a top-down encounter in which God is refashioning your deepest habits, then repetition looks very different: it's how God rehabituates us. In a formational paradigm, repetition isn't insincere, because you're not showing, you're submitting. This is crucial because there is no formation without repetition. Virtue formation takes practice, and there is no practice that isn’t repetitive. We willingly embrace repetition as a good in all kinds of other sectors of our life—to hone our golf swing, our piano prowess, and our mathematical abilities, for example.
In his important book After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre famously says, "I cannot answer the question, 'What ought I to do?' unless I first answer the question, 'Of which story am I a part?'"
Because when the thin gruel of do-it-yourself spirituality turns out to be isolating, lonely, and unable to endure crises, the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd might find itself surprisingly open to something entirely different. In ways that they never could have anticipated, some will begin to wonder if "renunciation" isn’t the way to wholeness, if freedom might be found in the gift of constraint, and if the strange rituals of Christian worship are the answer to their most human aspirations. What Christian communities need to cultivate in our "secular age" is faithful patience, even receiving a secular age as a gift through which to renew and cultivate an incarnational, embodied, robustly orthodox Christianity that alone will look like a genuine alternative to "the spiritual."
"To do by 'feel' what cannot be done by regular conscious thought": that's not a bad description of the goal of discipleship. To conform to the image of the Son is to have so absorbed the gospel as a "kinesthetic sense," a know-how you now carry in your bones, that you do by "feel" what cannot be done by conscious thought. You have been remade in Christ such that there are ways you love him that you don’t even know. You have a Christlike "feel" for the world, and you act accordingly "without thinking about it."
While we might assume that the emotionalism of contemporary youth ministry is anti-intellectual, in fact it is tethered to a deeply intellectualist paradigm of discipleship: the whole point of keeping young people happy and stirred and emotionally engaged is so that we can still have an opportunity to deposit a "message" into their intellectual receptacles.
But this is a sign that we have given up on incarnate modes of formation bequeathed to us in liturgy and the spiritual disciplines. Instead, we have created youth ministry that confuses extroversion with faithfulness. We have effectively communicated to young people that sincerely following Jesus is synonymous with being "fired up" for Jesus, with being excited for Jesus, as if discipleship were synonymous with fostering an exuberant, perky, cheerful, hurray-for-Jesus disposition like what we might find in the glee club or at a pep rally.
This now intersects with our core theme because our (culture-)making, our work, is generated as much by what we want as by what we believe. We are made to be makers, but as makers we remain lovers. So if you are what you love, then you make what you love. Your cultural labor—whether in finance or fine arts, as a fireman or a first-grade teacher—is animated less by "principles" that you carry in your head and more by habits of desire that operate under the hood of consciousness.
Whether we're entrepreneurs launching a tech start-up or first-time parents starting a family, our "creative" work as human beings made in God’s image is sort of pulled out of us by our attraction to a vision of the good life. Our making bubbles up from our imagination, which is fueled by a Story of what flourishing looks like. We all carry some governing Story in our bones that shapes our work more than we might realize because that Story has taught us what to love (and as we emphasized in chapter 2, you might not love what you think because you might not realize what Story has really captured your imagination). If you are what you love, and you make what you want, then we need to be attentive to how our wants are formed if we want to be faithful makers. We need to curate the unconscious, the storehouse of governing stories. Be careful what you worship; it will shape what you want, and therefore what you make and how you work.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Americans Have Been Driving Less But Now They are Just Sitting at Home

::: Essential Tips for Smart Travel in an Uncertain World
We have paid a lot of attention to Wendy's travel tips in the past two years...

::: 1 in 7 Christian Pastors are Now Under the Age of 40

::: Living the right kind of life is more important than having the right opinion. Protest with your lifestyle. - Jon Tyson

Picture: The Painted Desert. Jan 2017.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Ember Summer Project #1

Today, I am thrilled to announce our first summer project, the 2017 Ember Italy team. This team is in the midst of being assembled and represents our second experience focusing on and learning about the global refugee issue. Similar to last year, we will work with some trusted partners in southern Italy.

Most of you have followed the refugee crisis in the news for the past year or two. What you hate to imagine is true - 'no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.' The circumstances with our partners in Italy have enormous potential in almost every sphere of humanity and we as we have watched it grow and evolve this year, we are thrilled to return for a second time. It is our hope that our efforts help in some small way with this very large issue and that our students are propelled through this experience to mark human history and fight for the future of humanity.

Thanks in advance for your support for this team.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Store #27

From 1987 to 1990, during my college career, I worked part time at the REI store in College Park. I loved every minute of that job in footwear, helping prepare people for their outdoor adventures with a group of incredibly talented and passionate people.

My time at REI was so formative for me. I learned to deal with the public [like detailed in this excellent post], I worked for an incredible manager who modeled leadership to me, and I was infected with adventure. For an only child growing up with two immigrant parents, adventure was exactly not what my family was looking for.

The College Park store closed last week and I joined other alumni to mark the last evening. Thanks store #27 for all those lessons, but mostly for giving me the adventure bug and hopefully passing that to my kids. I am not fearless, but I pray my kids are. Like my friend Ben Cloud says, faith is spelled R-I-S-K.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Jim Estill, The Man Who Saved 200 Syrian Refugees

::: Iceland Knows How to Stop Teen Substance Abuse

::: Thermostat Controls in Hotels are Often Placebos
Link via NextDraft

::: Paranoid obsession with security is a psychosis of empire. - @BrianZahnd via @DanSadlier

Photo: Em and I, desert adventure.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

3 Days with Amadeo Church

Ben and Mandy Cloud are dear friends who started Amadeo Church in 2006. It's a phenomenal church that has made an impact on our family and The Ember Cast for their values, how they impact the community and their very ethos. Em and I were privileged to spend this past weekend with them for a leadership gathering and their Sunday services.

I love the StrengthsFinder psychometric and have led leadership sessions around the results here and there. I don't do this very much because frankly, you can find people that know the results a lot better than me [my friends at LeadershipVision] It is also a very big time investment if you want to do it right. You need a minimum of 2 sessions of 3 hours each.

Amadeo had 40 of their key leaders gathered for 4 hours on both Friday evening and Saturday to walk through their top talents and how and why it can be worked out in their ministry teams, with their church and for their community at large. An incredible time. They did it right too - every one of these leaders was well engaged with the discussion on talents and how it translated into their influence. They were vulnerable with each other, open to learning the content and ready to receive a leadership weekend. I can't tell you how gratifying that is when you are the guest speaker.

These days, the most effective church leaders are the ones that consistently push their personal and organizational limits on becoming better at developing leaders.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Big Epiphanies

One of the things I've been working on for a few weeks, besides starting a new job this week [tell you more about that later], is planning for a leadership weekend with one of our church partners. One of the core tools will be this - the StrengthsFinder psychometric.

Self-awareness is so rare among leaders - 'leaders' not meaning those in charge but rather those with influence. If you can persuade someone to do something with you, you might be more of a leader than you give yourself credit for. And if you exercise any kind of influence, you [should] know that the most difficult person to lead is yourself.

If you like to pray for this kind of thing that Ember does, we'd appreciate that. Pray for big epiphanies.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Plan to Prepare

Short term teams are a unique dynamic - you mostly travel to a new place with new people to do new things. What could go wrong?

Ember has had the privilege of working with lots of short term teams and we love the opportunity at helping these kinds of teams prepare. We had the honor of facilitating one of these preparation sessions last weekend for a team traveling to the Caribbean for some medical and child welfare work.

Teams have a better chance becoming stronger after spending time working through the concepts of personalities, trust and teamwork. That's why we almost always have everyone take a psychometric assessment, talk through our frames for teams and do some kind of hands on group activity. Remember, this isn't a group project that you probably loathed in school - there is a lot more at stake. The other good news is that if you are leading a team this coming summer, you have plenty of time now to plan preparation.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Burn

::: 2016 has Been One of the Safest Years in Aviation History

::: The 10 Most Difficult Languages in the World

::: Ingredients for an Innovative Culture

"The ends of the earth are now in our Jerusalem. The question for churches: Do we like our new neighbors?" @LarryMcCrary

Photo: Beignet cart, Bandol France, July 2014.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Frames for Teams

Our latest "frames" that we use for working with teams...

+ A team is not a group of people who just work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other. Simon Sinek via Craig Groeschel

+ The key ingredient to building trust is not time. It is courage. - Patrick Lencioni

+ It's really demeaning to think that, in this deep desire to be liked, you’ve compromised giving clear, unambiguous feedback. - Steve Jobs

+ In any human interaction, the required amount of communication is inversely proportional to the level of trust...As a company grows, communication becomes its biggest challenge. If the employees fundamentally trust the CEO, the communication will be vastly more efficient than if they don't. Telling things as they are is a critical part of building this trust. - Ben Horowitz

+ "For the Christian, there are strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, 'You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends, 'You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.' The friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument which God reveals to us to each the beauties of all the others." - C. S. Lewis

+ I'm choosing to take something important to me and make it vulnerable to your actions. - definition of trust - Feltman via Brene Brown

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Google Translate invented its own language to help it translate more effectively.
Link via Ember Board of Director, MPM

::: Why Cities are Where They Are
Super interesting video on geography, urban growth and development and urbanization. Make sure to pay attention during the few minutes on wide versus tall continents.
Link - 15 minute video via

::: 13 Things You Need to Give Up If You Want to be Successful
"Somebody once told me the definition of hell: 'On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.' - Anonymous"

::: The Global Youth Collective - Roosevelt Island Center of Community Development
Run by Dan Sadlier, Hope Roosevelt Island. Love this.

::: "He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg." - Chinese Proverb ‏@willmancini

Photo: Perspectives class, New Freedom, PA.