Tuesday, June 30, 2009


When Aaron and I decided to embark on an MCC term, we knew that many parts of that decision might overwhelm us. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind to us. We have been completely surrounded by friends helping us navigate all that it takes to make this move. Daily, without hesitation, they came and held us, doing all the work that needed to be done. We were overwhelmed with the energy and enthusiasm during their help and we continue to be overwhelmed by their love and dedication to us as a family. Thank you to all the elves who helped and all the other elves who offered help and well-wishes along the way (pictures to follow....)

This is SOME of what they did to help us....

sew my curtains
replace the window
feed the kids
trim back the bushes
sing “Ice, ice baby”
scrape the porch
buy groceries
replace the window again
feed the kids
say a prayer
sort all the playmobil toys
preserve childrens’ treasures
organize baby photos
sing “Wagon wheel”
feed the kids
wash the windows
sing “You’re my angel”
repair the wall
paint the wall
paint the wall again the right color
bring hot drinks
probably 12 trips to the thrift shop
find great deal on Chicago hotel
choose house paint
negotiate travel arrangements
google all directions
sing “Love is alive”
buy second hand suitcases
pack the suitcases
label all items.
inventory the house
host a Spanish camp
bring cold drinks
sing “I’ll fly away”
write a letter of recommendation
adopt our dog
call airline to negotiate size of luggage
measure all luggage
convince us we don’t need that
feed the kids
bake a rhubard pie
loan us some cash
feed the kids
mow the lawn
sort the clothes
sit with kids and sort more clothes
write silly notes
take pictures
sing the river song
buy more cold drinks
give advice for a stronger marriage
hold the babies
buy us toothpaste
go to the eye docter
store bikes
sell bikes
bring me coffee
adopt our frogs
sing “Give us hope to the end”
feed the kids
wash the cars
sort hardware
service the cars
go get boxes
teach the kids some Spanish
sell the cars
install a ceiling fan
rip out old knitting projects
say a prayer
take some pictures
sort the legos
bribe the children
go to the bank about eighteen times
fix the light
hardware store
get the mail (indefinitely)
get cold drinks
take care of the owls
spend gift cards
play soccer with us
comfort a sad child
pay bills
sing “Can’t help but wonder where I’m bound”
feed the kids
have a garage sale
drive for Thai food
go to the dentist
buy our vehicles
strip the hardware
put on doorknobs
stabilize the steps
spray for weeds
assemble boxes
learn some Spanish
stabilize the porch railing
bring cold drinks
stabilize the friend
help with new computer
take pictures
sort tools
buy appropriate chords and chargers
pack away dishes
throw out rotten food
repair broken chair
feed the kids
say a prayer
offer to keep things
feed the kids
mulch around the house
table time
list things on Craig’s
organize music
say we are doing the right thing
buys kids shoes
watch the US beat Spain in the Confederation’s Cup
take pictures
install lights
get cold drinks
sing “Every rose has its thorn”
cancel insurance
feed the kids
take some pictures
put a map on our blog
bring muffins over
take Jen swimming
send an encouraging email
buy a webcam
say a prayer
purchase a swimsuit
send the swimsuit back
purchase another swimsuit
purchase a matching swimsuit
order more luggage
find free luggage
make appointments
feed the kids
make copies of keys
make us laugh
go on dates
get cold drinks
give some advice
tell us to get up and work
feed the kids
buy popcicles
research rain in Bogota
make taco salad
dance on the patio
sing “Bust-a-move”
grill ribs
sing “Will the circle be unbroken?”
rent a van
sell the bikes
feed the kids
organize cables/wires
get cash
loan us money
bring some more salsa
wash our clothes
clean out spices
advise on shoes
send us poems
pick some flowers
bring cold drinks
leaving supper in the fridge
family swims
say some more prayers
loading brush
listen to Gypsy Kings
eat garden beets
feed the kids
trips to the dump
feed the kids
scrub the walls
carefully pack instruments
volunteer to take more on
be our banker
order a computer
make us ice cream sundaes
compliment the cleaning products
argue about leaky faucet
fix the leaky faucet
clean storage containers
talk about visiting
feed the kids
bring me coffee
get cold drinks
scrubbed the mold on the washer
organized recycling
swept the floor
tell stories
buy more sticky notes
laugh some more
feed the kids
sing “If I had 1,000,000 dollars”
bring over garden green beans
make the beds
unmake the beds
get wet
rent some movies
take family pictures
leave us notes
go look for the stuffed monkey at the thrift store
find and return all library books
take more pictures
six loaves of bread
sing a bit more
return movies
organize all garden tools
pay late fees
wash sleeping bags
reserve museum tickets
bring cold drinks
feed the kids
polish the jewelry
explain “gorilla (guerilla) attack” to kids
cheese and crackers
sort all doll clothes
post ebay items
create a slide show
feed the kids
think logistics
get cold drinks
jump on the trampoline
make a scrapbook
buy our furniture
sing some Avril with Zoe
take more pictures
go get take-out again
say a prayer
transport luggage
organize earrings
use all the sticky notes in the house
take some more pictures
wash our clothes
picnic at the park
decorate the van
advice from MCC alumni
sidewalk chalk some blessings
take more pictures
load the car
bring us caffeine
know we will be together again
say “luv-ya-bye”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Last Meditation (or maybe the first)

This morning I gave my last Bethel College Cabinet meditation. We all rotate each week and the meditations are as varied as our Cabinet members. This time I chose to go into a little detail about how I approached my work with students and how it can also transfer to how the Administration can think about their role with others on campus and their leadership in general. This also signifies for me an end to my professional time with Bethel. My last day is tomorrow and it is certainly time to transition to thinking and preparing for Colombia.

The content, research, and methods briefly described below have been the focus of my professional development for a couple of years and have recently culminated into the final stages of an exciting trainer certification for me. It is my hope to continue to explore and implement these ideas in our work in Colombia.

These thoughts are pretty elementary. I am hoping to provide more examples and a little more depth in some upcoming posts.

Cabinet Meditation
June 11, 2009

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Also known as the ethic or reciprocity.

We have all heard this saying countless times. In fact, I would guess that many of us try to implement this idea into our lives at some level. Often I have interpreted this saying as "Treat others like I would like to be treated". I simply looked at the literal translation: If I want to be treated fairly, nicely, lovingly, respectfully, then I should treat people in those ways and, at the same time, if people are treating me poorly I often find myself wondering how I can approach them differently so as to not illicit such a response.

Over the last 15 years I have thought off and on about the meaning of these ethics and what more there might be to them. I can say it probably all started here on this campus as a student when reading Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink...that was my first under the surface look at the notion of "turning the other cheek".

In the last five years I have stumbled across and engaged in various readings and trainings that I have found to have some deep connections to these lessons. In fact, much of my time at Bethel has been a time of regular attempts at putting these morals into practice and discovering how truly profound they can be. To better illustrate how this has transpired I would like to take the next few minutes to describe for you some of the assumptions under which I have been working and even some of the behavioral research that has informed my work with students on a personal level over the last several years. I'll attempt to refrain from "researchy" language however.

First, I approach life (at least when it comes to this area) with two assumptions:

1. Individual human behavior is highly predictable.
2. There is incredible variety and opportunity for growth and change within each person.

Yes, these assumptions appear to be incredibly opposed to each other. We will see if I can clarify AND bring us back around to maybe a slightly different understanding of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It is clear to me through reading, studying, observation, and personal experimentation that the vast majority of us have one of a few lenses through which we view the world and a clear set of what can be called psychological needs. The psychological needs we can think of as the specific information, beliefs, contact, emotion, alone time, and action that, when met appropriately, will fill our tank and keep us operating in healthy ways.

An example: For myself, and people fairly similar to me, the way we come at the world is through likes and dislikes. Typically we filter the world and what comes at us with a fairly immediate reaction (like or dislike) first before moving on to other perceptions. We are motivated by contact or physical interaction and usually seek out what we think will be fun, exciting, or creative. In addition, there is a set of very observable behaviors that we can go through when experiencing distress and there are distinct and efficient methods for bringing us out of distress.

Where as, another sizable group of people may experience the world and what it has to offer through their values, beliefs, and opinions and they are motivated by recognition of their work and convictions. They too experience a very observable set of behaviors when experiencing distress and have a different set of distinct ways to bring them out of distress.

An even more specific example: My first descripition fits my personality structure it is the way I come at the world the majority of the time if I have the option. The second description would fit many people that usually sit around this table and also fits my wife. It is beneficial at this point for me to say again, that these descriptions do not begin to describe the intricacies, variations, and details within each of us. There is much more depth that I am going in to today. I am not at all interested in ideas that pigeon hole people. These brief descriptions simply provide a framework for communication that research has shown to be quite reliable. So, the specific example...

Given our very different profiles I'll briefly describe the same situation from the perspective of Jen and me:

When staying home with the kids I would focus the vast majority of my attention on the kids and not really pay attention to other household issues. It was more FUN to interact with the kids, play, visit other families, and take little field trips...whatever moved us.

Jen, however, would provide excellent care for the children, attending to their needs, address household chores with efficiency, and plan each day to provide the best value for our childrens growth and education.

Jen would come from work all day and ask me "What did you DO today" and I would ask her "How ARE you". Can you see the different styles and preceptions used not only in the behavior but even in the words, gestures, postures, and tones? I think we were attempting to give each other what we needed ourselves. I won't tell you how those interactions continued!

There are four other distinct behavioral groups that are all different from each other and different from what I have discribed thus far.

Interestingly enough, all six of these can be found within each person to variying degrees and can be accessed and nurtured with practice. Moreover there is also potential for our lense and motivators to change, which all means there is an incredible amount of variety within each person.

So, maybe now it is more clear why I can operate under these two seemingly oppossed assumptions: on one hand our behavior is highly predictable in an observable way given our individual make-up and yet there is great variation and room for change in each of us.

How the heck does this apply to the Golden Rule?

The research, which provides a framework and roadmap for understanding behavior by grouping our behavior into 6 very distinct types as I mentioned, also provides a clear process for connecting AND motivating each type. In other words, all of us can learn to communicate with others like us and different from us in ways that help insure we are connecting and also in ways that are motivating. In fact, many people are quite natural at this.

The point...what if the ethic of reciprocity or the Golden Rule doesn't mean just treat each others like you want to be treated. Rather, what if it was more to the point to think of it as "Treat others in ways to best connect and motivate them given who THEY are not what we need"

If I meet a person who receives the world through a lense that sees logic, work, and thinking and is motivated by recognition of work and time structures but I try to connect and motivate them by interacting with them the way I am wired or the way I want to be treated (slapping them on the shoulder and saying "what's up dogg") we will be miscommunicating for sure and I no longer believe I would be living by the Golden Rule.

All this is to say, if we are aware of the variables involved with connecting and motivating people is it appropriate to treat them the way we prefer to be treated or is it more efficient and beneficial to interact to meet the needs of others first? That seems to feel better. In fact, the beauty is when people experience interactions suited to their needs they can more easily reciprocate to meet the needs of others. It is a win-win.

At the micro level it pays to be cognizant of our own preferences how they inform our own behavior in everyday interactions, including in distressful situations, and how they differ from others around us. You may leave your desk clear and clean everyday and not everyone does. Your most trusted colleague or loved one may prefer to wing it or be spontaneous and you may think or believe that is irresponsible or inefficient. Giving them a planner and itinerary may not be well received.

At the macro level this has implications as well. At Bethel we prize tradition, commitment, mission, integrity, and rigor among other things. By analysis of the words we use alone we have the potential to resonate with at best 40-50% of the 18yr olds with whom we come in contact. I think a closer look would reveal closer to 30%. The rest of them resonate with fun, incidence (action), imagination, and feelings.

The process of working here has developed my sense and abilities of what it takes to work within systems and with a close group of people. Thank you for your unique contribution to Bethel and to my own life. My hope for each of you as a Cabinet is that you find ways to better connect and motivate each other and our campus community.

Update: I failed to mention, in this blog post, that much of this information I learned from the Process Communications Model (developed by Taibi Kahler) and Nate Regier.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


My moving elves have been here

today they swarmed around us

keeping us entertained

doing the work we could not imagine getting finished

doing the work we did not want to do

advising on suitcases and packing material,

occasionally shedding a tear.

When I close my eyes, I imagine them physically holding me up, sending me on, and I know that this work they do is a gift that will sustain us for a long time after we leave.


Josie has been a member of our family for two and a half years. We had a jar in the kitchen where the kids saved their change for a long time....hoping to add a dog to our family. While she was way more work than I had anticipated, she very quickly integrated into our family and we grew to love her very much. We came to the difficult decision not to take her to Bogota, and to give her to our good friends. They are so happy to have her, and have loved her almost her whole life as well. We have seen her almost everyday since the "transition brunch" and the reunions are so happy and heart warming. I hope she still remembers us when we come home from Colombia. It warms our heart to know she has been adopted by such a terrific family. You can see her puppy pictures here.

Spanish school

My dear friend Lu Ann organized a week-long Spanish camp in honor of my children leaving for Bogota. They played together, worked in learning stations, acted out verbs, and I think employed every possible type of learning strategy for the varied styles represented in the SIXTEEN children ages 2 through 11. Wow. What an amazing gift. If you want to see more pictures, you can look here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


everyone aboard on the merry-go-round some things will rise up so that others come down if the devil don't dance heaven won't shine it's a mighty thick haze and it's a pretty thin line if the faucet is tightened up the love won't flow if the love isn't bright enough the corn won't grow if the night isn't dark enough the moon won't glow

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Mother's New Year Prayer

I am trying to keep this one close to me, as I anticipate these changes and wrestle with fear and uncertainty.

"For all the possibilities ahead of us in this new year, make us thankful, O Lord. Give us wisdom, courage and discernment in the face of so much chaos, despair and fear. Help us to see how, in our circumstances, we can contribute toward peace, faith and love; and give us the will to translate our desires into actions."



Each day we say goodbye to something else. It has been slow and long, but we are grateful for the time it takes to release things, and the dear friends and lovely times we have had here in Kansas.

One of those goodbyes was to our "neighborhood school" Northridge, where I was an employee first, then Mom. Our children have enjoyed walking, biking, skateboarding, and rollar skating there for the last six years. We will miss this school dearly.

We celebrated the very last day with balloons on our bikes, a party at the park with whipped cream whiffle ball, and a "spray down" from the local fire department. It was glorious!


On April 19 our family had a beautiful commissioning service at Shalom Mennonite Church. We were humbled by the amount of support and love we felt from this community. It was holy. And Micah brought some humor as well (see snake on shoulder) Thank you Kristin for the photos.