Chicken Feet

A few years back I spent a week in the Dominican Republic.  We stayed with a family.  One of the meals they served us a Dominican "delicacy."

          Chicken Feet.

I did my best, and I did eat my fair share, but I did not enjoy it.  After all, where I come from, that is the part of the chicken that we throw in the garbage.  Which got me thinking...

          One culture's delicacy is another culture's refuse.

Years later I invited a friend to come and share at a class I teach.  This friend is someone I respect, he has lots of wisdom, and experience.  He is, however, from another culture.  I shared with him the background of the people in the class, I shared the content of the class up to that point, and I gave him a topic to share on.  The class was horrible.

As I reflected on the mess, I realized that he had brought us some ideas and practices that were very helpful and powerful within his own culture.  However, they were ideas and practices that we had explicitly rejected as unfit for our use.  At least in this case, his culture's delicacy was our culture's refuse.

Which of course, got me thinking about how much of what I think of as a delicacy would be seen as refuse in my friend's culture.


Coaching for Non-Athletes

I've spent a good chunk of my life in the athletic arena.  As a competitor in various sports from the age of 5 all the way through college as a division I wrestler.  And after college as a coach at every level of competition from youth programs to college athletes, primarily in the sport of wrestling, but also in soccer and baseball.

There is something I have noticed about the relationship between a coach and a competitor that has a great parallel to leadership in general.

A coach has the ability to offer tremendously pointed critical feedback to their athlete.  In point of fact it is essential to their job as a coach to offer this criticism without softening the blow.  But most athletes don't feel this criticism as an attack, but rather as a help.

What is going on here?

What lessons can we learn for mentorship in other venues?

1) A coach is trusted to be completely invested in the success of the athlete.  In point of fact, the coach loses when the athlete loses, and wins when the athlete wins.  This trust is inherent in the relationship.  What does it look like to build this kind of trust in coaching relationships outside of the athletic arena?

2) A coach is trusted as an expert on the sport they are coaching.  This is usually because of two important facts: the coach has had a successful career in that sport far surpassing the level of those in the program, and the coach is able to defeat those he is coaching in direct competition.  What does it look like to demonstrate this level of mastery in an area of expertise other than athletics?

3) A coach doesn't simply offer criticism, they offer a practical vision of success.  The coach is a walking example of victory.  The coach can demonstrate successful techniques and strategies for the athlete to watch and learn.  The coach offers stories about what victory feels like.  How can a compelling vision be offered outside of the athletic arena?

4) A coach doesn't simply point at the objective and say, "get to work."  The coach also provides the strategy for success.  The coach offers a clear pathway to accomplish victory.  The coach leads the athlete through a process that is designed to end at the success of the athlete.  What does is look like to advocate for productive strategies in areas other than sports?

5) Criticism is offered within this larger framework of vision and strategy, coming from a trusted expert.  This criticism is focused on specific details, and designed to motivate the athlete, not to demoralize them.  This criticism is usually balanced by equal amounts of praise.  A good coach is always happy when the athlete is hard at work, but a good coach is never satisfied.  What does it look like to offer this kind of constructive criticism in other endeavors.


Sex Education

I had a conversation recently with an administrator at our kids school about sex education that got me thinking about the messages we have taught our children over the years...

We teach them that sex is good and powerful, uniting people emotionally, and creating new human beings in the process. Sex, sexuality, and our sexual parts are not shameful, but rather, they are personal and private. It is something to be shared with the right people; trustworthy people. Obviously this includes parents and doctors in appropriate settings, and eventually it will include a wife, or a husband.

We have given them a full understanding of intercourse and the reproductive cycle. But we have not talked with them about specific sexual acts other than intercourse, except as those questions arose from our children's conversations with other children.  This is because those are things that are properly explored within the context of a wife and husband who are bound together for life.

We have taught them that all good things can be abused, including sexuality. We have taught them that our personal desires are often the enemy of our own health, and that this is true in the realm of sexuality as well. Sexual irresponsibility is destructive to the individual, and to those they are in relationship with. It is emotionally destructive to self and others, and it can be physically destructive to self and others.

We have explained to them that our culture enshrines the pursuit of personal desire as the highest ideal, and that this leads to much confusion and experimentation in many areas of life, particularly sexuality. Most of their peers will be having sex before marriage, and many of them will be experimenting with their sexual behaviors, their sexual identity, and even their gender in ways that will cause unnecessary pain.

We have taught them to be respectful of the choices, behaviors, struggles, and identities of other people, and that all people are to be treated with reverence simply because they are people. But we have also taught them that many of those choices, behaviors, struggles, and identities aren't healthy, and that they should avoid those behaviors personally.

We have talked with them briefly about sexual addiction and pornography. We have also explained more exhaustively how sex outside of marriage builds intimacy with someone other than your spouse, and that this will cause pain and confusion later on in life.  Extra-marital sex can also lead to unwanted pregnancy, disease, and even death.

We have taught them explicitly to wait until they are married to engage in sexual behavior, but we have also interacted with them quite a bit about the messages they receive from peers and cultural figures that contradict that wisdom. We have shared with them some of our own personal history with sexual behavior (both our mistakes and our successes).

We have also talked with them about grace and forgiveness, and how one mistake, or even a long pattern of mistakes, can be forgiven and overcome, no matter the consequences.



"When the satisfaction or security of another person becomes as significant to one as one's own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists. ... Under no other circumstances is a state of love present, regardless of the popular usage of the term." 



"You can have my sympathy or my respect, take your pick."
Anonymous Web Comment

On its face this comment is insightful.  I am not sure, however, that I agree with it wholeheartedly...

Maybe it works as a platitude to apply to my own self-pity, and perhaps something to teach my children.  But I don't think it is a helpful way for me to think about treating others.

So perhaps it is better said:

"People will either give you respect, or give you sympathy, but they will rarely give you both."


Why I am Politically Disengaged

I am intentionally disengaged from the political process in our country.

To be clear, I voted in our recent election, indeed I have only opted out of voting once in my life.  I care about the direction of our country.  I am moderately informed about the policies that we create and enforce.  I have opinions about what those policies ought to be.  There are even a few people that I will discuss those opinions with from time to time.

So what do I mean when I say I am disengaged politically?

   I don't listen to 24-hour news media (right or left).
   I don't rant on social media.
   I don't put bumper stickers on my car.
   I don't call people communist.
   I don't call people racist.

I am disgusted by the vapidity and rancor of those who do these things, so I opt out.

Whats more, in the end I don't care too much who gets elected, or how things unfold.  I don't get angry or afraid, nor do I get excited or hopeful.  I definitely don't think about trying to have any significant effect on the process.  Indeed, US politics is like the weather in that I can no more change the course of our nation by voting than I can make it rain by spitting in the air.

The interesting part is that I actually studied Political Science in college.  For years I studied our political process formally, and sat around talking politics with my friends informally.  It was an enjoyable pastime, something akin to golf or chess.  We didn't yell, or call names; we were dispassionate.  Something in our national discourse, however, has changed.

In my mind it changed in connection with the 2000 election, but I may be wrong about that.  What I am not wrong about, is that I used to be able to sit with a group of people and talk politics without anyone name-calling, crying, yelling, or running out of the room.  In the years since leaving college it is increasingly unlikely for this to happen.

I may be wrong about the causes, but my suspicion is that the rise of social media and the 24 hour news cycle are to blame for this.  We are now inundated with conflict-mongering "news" channels that have to create drama in order to boost ratings.  This means we have to find the one KKK member, or the one Communist Party member, and put them on camera to create the idea that our nation is locked in combat between crazy people.  In order to make money they sell the story that the KKK and the Communist Party each represent 50% of our nation.  (In reality these groups together represent approximately 1 in 50,000 Americans.)

What is more, we then take our fear and anger and broadcast it without a filter, to everyone in our online social network.  It then gets re-broadcasted as fodder for the conflict-mongering cycle to continue.

As a follower of Jesus, my response is to simply walk away.

To be continued...