29 December 2012


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22 December 2012

Poetry: What Her Heart Remembered

What Her Heart Remembered (Mary, A Witness)
By Michael Card:  From the album The Promise:  A Celebration of Christ's Birth

Out in the stable yard
She sees a glow
Could it be angel light?
How would she know?
Shepherds stand wondering
Afraid to come in
But the baby that's born tonight
Will free them all
To never fear again

As He lies in a cattle trough
She kneels by His side
Sweet baby breathing
Soft infant sighs
Soft sounds of swallowing
As soft fingers part
Marvelous memories
She pondered then and hid them in her heart

Like a good
Mother would
She learned His cries
If He'd awake
With a bellyache
From hunger or fright
But now and then
Sometimes when
The dark would descend
He would weep
A dark so deep
For all her love
She couldn't comprehend

Her warm loving carpenter
His strong gentle hands
His dark and bewildered eyes
Can they understand?
That this Baby she's given him
Is theirs for a time
In truth came to give Himself
The Treasure and the
Ransom of mankind

18 December 2012

Snippets: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni's book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team illustrates the process of team building in the workplace.  The majority of the book tells the story of a CEO working to turn a dysfunctional executive team into a strong team, and the principles of team leadership are explored through this narrative.  The book's final short chapter reiterates and expands upon the principles explored in the fictional narrative.
     Lencioni explores five key dysfunctions in his book, and indicates ways in which they can be overcome.  In the last chapter, he describes the dysfunctions in the following way:
1.  The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members.  Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group.  Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.
2.  This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction:  fear of conflict.  Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas.  Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.
3.  A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment.  Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.
4.  Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction.  Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
5.  Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive.  Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team. (epub edition, 205-06).

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

17 December 2012

December Reading Log

Here is this month's reading list (to date)
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:  A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni
  • Half the Sky:  Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn
  • Good News of Great Joy by John Piper

Review: Half the Sky

Half the Sky:  Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn is in many ways a primer on global development through the lens of women's issues.  The book touches on a wide range of issues, including human trafficking, girl's education, and microcredit.  Their central thesis is that freeing women from the injustices they experience in many countries around the world is key to improving the lives of women, but also for achieving positive changes for men and children in developing countries.
     In many places, the book is difficult to read, as the author's recount the heart-wrenching stories of many women in the developing world.  The book also provides hope, as many of these women overcome their hardships to be leaders in changing their communities.  The book is likely to inspire readers in some places, and cause disagreement in others, as the authors hold to neither a conservative or liberal point of view on many issues, and highlight successes achieved by organizations with different ideological purposes.  This viewpoint, however, makes it quite likely that most readers will disagree with at least some of the author's recommended solutions to the women's issues presented in the book.  However, in many ways, their balanced approach challenges the weak areas in both the traditional conservative and liberal approaches to development.  For example, when addressing the progress of women in China, they write,

So was it cultural imperialism for Westerners to criticize foot-binding and female infanticide?  Perhaps.  But it was also the right thing to do.  If we firmly believe in certain values, such as the equality of all human beings regardless of color or gender, then we should not be afraid to stand up for them; it would be feckless to defer to slavery, torture, foot-binding, honor killings, or genital cutting just because we believe in respecting other faiths or cultures.  One lesson of China is that we need not accept that discrimination is an intractable element of any society (epub edition, 430).

This same realistic, balanced viewpoint is seen in a discussion of spending in impoverished families, as the authors address the different patterns of spending when women have access to money.

Perhaps it seems culturally insensitive to scold the poor for indulging in festivals, cigarettes, alcohol, or sweets that make life more fun.  Yet when resources are scarce, priorities are essential.  Many African and Indian men now consider beer indispensable and their daughter's education a luxury...If we're trying to figure out how to get more girls in school, or how to save more women from dying in childbirth, the simplest solution is to reallocate spending.  One way to do that is to put more money into the hands of women. (epub edition, 405).

In places the book is difficult to read, in places it is inspiring.  Kristoff and Wudunn lead their readers to think carefully about different issues facing women, and to consider how they can be a part of the solution.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

30 November 2012

Snippets: The Hobbit

In honour of the upcoming movie release, I read The Hobbit (for the first time) this month.  The selection below speaks of journeying- the unwilling part of travel when being at home seems much easier than the harder path of completing the quest.

Long days after they had climbed out of the valley and left the Last Homely House miles behind, they were still going up and up and up. It was a hard path and a dangerous path, a crooked way and a lonely and a long. Now they could look back over the lands they had left, laid out behind them far below. Far, far away in the West, where things were blue and faint, Bilbo knew there lay his own country of safe and comfortable things, and his little hobbit-hole. (Kindle location 837)

The Hobbit

28 November 2012

Links: Interviews and Reviews

This week I've stumbled upon several interesting reviews and interviews:

The Hole in our Holiness

The first, a review of Kevin DeYoung's The Hole in our Holiness.  I haven't yet read the book, but have read several other by this author, and am looking forward to DeYoung's new title.    Christianity Today is publishing a four part series of reviews.  Mark Labberton composed the second of these reviews, saying,

"DeYoung examines various facets of the biblical call to holiness and considers some of the strongest voices for holy living within his own Reformed tradition. He writes with theological conviction and passion, laying out a case for the recovery of faithful character and piety as one of the highest priorities of Christian pastors, leaders, and laity alike. Surely DeYoung is right about how needed holy living is among God's people, because it is both our calling (it's intrinsic to identification with our holy God) and our mission (it's essential as an authentication of our new life in Christ)."

Read the rest of the review here.

The Creedal Imperative

Also in Christianity Today is a review of Carl Trueman's book The Credal Imperative.  Fred Sanders reviews the book, pointing out Trueman's advocacy of creed's as a counter-cultural expression of faith.

"Trueman builds up this biblical case for creeds, layers over it the historical case from both the patristic church and confessional Protestantism, and puts the burden of proof on what he calls the "'No Creed but the Bible!' brigade." Given this biblical and historical trajectory of churches using creeds, "the question is not so much 'Should we use them?' as 'Why would we not use them?'"

Trueman acknowledges that there is a case to be made against creedalism, but he thinks that case is spurious because it is entirely cultural: The spirit of our age ignores history, distrusts institutions, values emotions more than words, and hankers after novelty. For moderns, the loftiest goal is to be authentic, to speak spontaneously from the heart, giving voice to unique insights from our own points of view. For this mindset, the idea of reciting a set of ancient words in public agreement with a group is, if the word be allowed, anathema.

As a result, anti-creedal evangelicalism is, ironically, "not countercultural, but culturally enslaved." Trueman is passionate and eloquent about how creeds enable churches to dig in their heels and stand with the great tradition, pushing against the modern temperament."

Read the rest of the review here.

Why You Should Read Chesterton

Trevin Wax has included several interesting author interviews on his blog in recent weeks.  Most recently, he interviewed Kevin Belmonte.  Belmonte compiled the book  A Year with G. K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder (Thomas Nelson, 2012).  I have only read one of Chesterton's books, Orthodoxy, and the post introduced me to several other titles.

In the post, Belmonte shares a number of insights from Chesterton's life, as well as key quotations from his work.  He writes of Chesterton,

"When he most greatly needed to make sense of life, that shard of truth returned to Chesterton. A scene from a much-loved children story rallied to his aid. It gave him courage to believe. He began to see the world, once more, like a great tapestry woven by the Master Story-teller. He followed the thread of thanks he re-discovered to back the light—to faith."

Read the full post here.