Friday, February 17, 2012

This is from Wikipedia "
Incense (from Latin incendere "to burn")[1] is composed of aromatic biotic materials, which release fragrant smoke when burned. The term incense refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces. It is used in religious ceremonies, ritual purification[2][3]aromatherapy[4]meditation, for creating a spiritual atmosphere, and for masking unpleasant odors. The use of incense may have originated in Ancient Egypt, where the (oleo) gum resins of aromatic trees were imported from the Arabian and Somali coasts to be used in religious ceremonies.[5]"

I am practicing burning incense in the church. I am in my office with the leftover charcoal with a smidgen of incense grains still burning.  Thank God I have a ceiling fan to circulate the air or I would not be able to see the computer screen.  Here is a small quote from the ELCA website:
 Incense deepens our experience of the liturgy because it incorporates the sense of smell. The liturgy involves all of our senses, showing the significance of our bodies and all of God’s creation. The sweet swell of incense is a doorway to the holy in the same way that beautiful music, flowers, and stained glass can lead us to ponder the mystery of God’s presence. As “catholic Christians” we rejoice that we can incorporate the richness of Church’s tradition in many forms, and thus feel connected to the Church around the world and through the ages.

I guess I never thought of the sense of smell in worship.  Maybe I will continue to experiment.  Baby steps.  I plan to use incense during Ash Wednesday. Especially in morning when I am making my self available for Imposition of Ashes from 6am to 8am.  Why are Lutheran so "anti- Catholic" when it comes to incense.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I am reading the Book "Simple Church" and "Church Unique".  Church Unique is written by Will Mancini from Houston.  He is a Church Consultant, a very costly one.  I am on his mailing list.  I will paste an article from Auxano Insights email.  Read the post and see why am excited about these books.

Vision to Reality: The Real Challenge
It has been said that vision without action is a daydream, and that action without vision is a nightmare. I have never met a leader who wants to fly without the twin engine of leadership- vision and action. Yet we all have confronted the great dilemma of how these two relate. More specifically, leaders constantly wrestle with the question of how vision crystallizes into reality. What are the most important steps to translate a God-sized dream into meaningful progress within the church?
Several factors amplify the challenges that arise when defining how vision translates to reality. Let’s consider two. First is the diverse “wiring” and gifting of church leaders. Some are entrepreneurs who thrive on creating chaos in order to seize the next dream. Others are managers who create order to effectively “metabolize” steps toward the dream within the organization. Clearly, ministry progress requires both roles, positioning teamwork as a crucial aspect of the vision to reality equation.
A second consideration is the change tolerance of people within the organization. Some folks adopt early while others do so painstakingly late. Some are change junkies while others are status-quo addicts. In keeping with a digestive metaphor, some congregations have fast metabolisms while others resemble a bear in hibernation. Leaders often identify their church in nautical terms- is “turning the ship” in your church like driving a speedboat or ocean-liner?
As important as these two factors are, I believe they are just two aspects of a numbingly long list of leadership topics that call out for our attention. Book after book, and article after article, leaders reach for tools, ideas, and practices in order to beef-up their horsepower. But what if the very volume of resources and ideas out there is actually distracting leaders from the real challenge of translating vision to reality? What if in the clamor to put more tools in the toolbox, one has missed finding the keys to a better one?
This article is about those keys.
But before talking about the keys, let’s pause for a moment to consider why we need a set of keys. Great “solutioneers” know that studying a problem very, very, very well is the most important aspect of finding a solution. Einstein once said that if you gave him an hour to solve a problem, and his life depended on getting the right answer, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and figuring out what questions to ask. "For if I knew the proper questions," he said, "I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes."
So here are some of my questions: What if the real challenge of translating vision to reality is something inherently wrong with our current models for vision? What if strategic planning models and long-range planning teams spend countless hours developing a vision or a plan that by its very nature is “unrealizable?” What if we changed our paradigm or working definition of vision in a way that made it naturally and organically more likely to blossom? What if we could make vision so clear, that action was inevitable?
I believe the real challenge of translating vision to reality is the seven-letter word: clarity. By identifying this as the real challenge, I mean that it is both more fundamental and logically prior to other discussions. Similarly, drawing a blueprint is more fundamental and logically prior to buying two-by-fours when building a house. Let’s think about this seven-letter word a little more.
Our vernacular applies “clarity” in a jillion ways. We speak of clearing our throat, clearing the football field, and clearing the air. We shop on the clearance rack, hope to be legally clear of charge, receive security clearances, and clear the narrow bridge with our car. We long for clear days, clearer colors on our laptop, and clearer sound with noise - canceling headphones. Teenagers long for clear faces. What is clarity really about? A synthesis of definitions, brings clarity to the concept of clarity: it means being free from anything that obscures, blocks, pollutes, or darkens. Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact. The leader helps others see and understand reality better. Leaders constantly bring the most important things to light: current reality and future possibility, what God says about it and what we need to do about it. A leader’s clarity is the sun in the vision to action solar system.
We might say that clarity is the fuel that runs the twin engines of vision and action. Think about it for a minute—Aren’t communicating vision and taking action only as good as they are first, clear? Clarity is the golden thread that links the two. Let’s consider further the benefits of clarity.
Clarity Makes Direction Unquestionable
Followers cannot travel an unmarked path. The leader’s compass can’t be broken; the trumpet blast can’t be uncertain. Does your church have many missions, or just one? Does your ministry team exist for a purpose or not? If you can state it, don’t just tell me what it is; be so clear about it that the very articulation will generate a gravitational pull. To make the way definable and obvious, you must have clarity first.

Clarity Makes Enthusiasm TransferableWhen a leader leads, there is always an exchange of enthusiasm. Many times this comes with clarity — the moment when a follower gets it. The very experience of capturing a clear idea or mission makes people want to share it. But the ease of sharing it is directly proportional to clarity. When passion and a clear idea are wed, the passion can more easily spread. Cascading contagion requires clarity first. 
Clarity Makes Work Meaningful 
Tasks easily become routine — dull, hollow, and void of significance. The role of the leader is to make sure that brick - making churchgoers always see the great cathedral their bricks are ultimately building. Clarity can lift the mind’s eye to a greater reality. There can be no cultivation of meaning without clarity first.

Clarity Makes Synergy Possible
Collaboration is lost to sideways energy every day in the local church. Why? The three reasons I see most are mistrust, personal ego, and lack of strategic clarity. I have observed that lack of strategic clarity is the most prevalent of the three. Leaders rarely clarify what working together really looks like. Breaking ministry silos requires clarity first.

Clarity Makes Success Definable

Everyone wants to be a winner. But in too many churches, people don’t know how to win. What does scoring a touchdown together look like? Where is a scorecard I can carry that lets me know whether or not I am making a difference? Painting the picture of victory and unleashing people’s drive for achievement requires clarity first.

Clarity Makes Focus Sustainable
Henry Ford said that the great weakness of all human beings is trying to do too many things at once. How does a leader or organization learn to say no to the good things that are the enemy to the best? Where will they get the best missional returns, given limited resources? They must have a conviction forged from clarity about what matters most. If the secret to concentration is elimination, you can’t do it without clarity first.

Clarity Makes Leadership Credible
The silver bullet syndrome has left many leaders impotent. Firing one disconnected idea after the next, year after year, leaves church members cautious at best and disillusioned at worst. Real visionary leadership is not about just having a bunch of creative ideas; it is about having creativity within a clarity that builds momentum over time. From this clarity the consistency and passion of a leader is more credible because followers are able
to internalize what matters most in the church. Leaders earn more confidence with clarity first.

Clarity Makes Uniqueness Undeniable
Many church leaders get stuck photocopying vision form other churches. But the leader’s role requires stewarding what God has uniquely given, and being in tune with what God is uniquely doing. The first step for a leader is to draw attention to this uniqueness, to make it obvious, make it attractive, and show how remarkable it is. Only then can the leader leverage the uniqueness and play to the collective strength of his or her church. There is no appreciation of uniqueness without clarity first.
Clarity Makes Uncertainty Approachable
To fear the future is to be human. It can paralyze people and deter them from living with courage and investing into kingdom initiatives. Even though the biblical leader can talk about ultimate certainties, he cannot talk about intermediate certainties. Questions such as “What will happen to my children?” or “How many people will the church plant reach next year?” retain uncertainties. The leader can combat uncertainty with a clarity that inspires hope and expectation. Marcus Buckingham comments, “By far the most effective way to turn fear into confidence is to be clear; to define the future in such vivid terms, through your actions, words, images, pictures, heroes, and scores that we can all see where you, and thus we, are headed.” To lead by rallying people around a better future, albeit unknown, requires clarity first. 
Clarity- the Real Challenge
I hope that as you read through the benefits of clarity, you discovered what I have found over the last decade—that much of what happens in the name of vision and planning does not necessarily bring clarity. I grieve when I watch teams try to find solutions to their challenges without clarity first, whether it be hiring the next staff, launching a new service time or multi-site, or turning around a situation in decline.
If clarity is so crucial, how can you know when you have it? I would suggest a simple five-point test. Leading with clarity is evidenced when people can enthusiastically answer five irreducible questions:
What are we doing?
Why are we doing it?
How are we doing it?
When are we successful?
Where is God taking us?
While I have much to say about each of these questions, the primary observation is that these questions remain unanswered in most church leadership contexts. In these contexts there will be hundreds of topics and ideas floating around about turning vision into reality. But if these five questions are not quickly and enthusiastically answerable, there is either no vision, or no effective working model for the vision.
The answer then is not a new tool, but a new toolbox. And the keys to open it are found in clarity. With a commitment to clarity first, any leader can maximize the twin-engines of vision and action. Only then, will he or she walk out of daydreams and nightmares with a vibrant vision that creates a better future. - Will Mancini