Mar 302012
 

Today’s humongous $540 million jackpot for the Mega Millions lottery could really mess with someone’s or a group of someones’ finances. The odds are slightly better that several people will split the winning rather than one solitary person; even though it’s statistically impossible to win, someone does.

And what if I were to win the lottery and a large chunk of change? Here’s what I’d do (and by blogging it I’m going on the record, so that means you could call me on it if I deviate off plan)  –

  • Set aside half for tax purposes
  • Set aside 10% for as my faith expression of obedience of giving to God’s kingdom. It would go into a charitable fund and I wouldn’t give it all at once
  • Do the math with a financial advisor to set me and family on a course of financial independence based on the standard of living we currently have (debt payoff implied)
  • Set aside a world travel fund to go to 20 world-class cities around the world
  • Set aside a hospitality fund for local & regional gatherings of all sorts – conversations change the world
  • Launch a web-based webcast/netcast network for next generation voices– Asian, Latino, African American, Middle Eastern, multi-racial — to delve into real-life issues of family, race relations, mental health, vulnerability/shame, vocational empowerment, think pieces, social commentaries, globalization (not entertainment, not fashion, not celebrity gossip, not tech, not gaming, not politics)
  • Launch a R&D “skunk works” lab for non-profit innovation with a bias for long-term impact over short-term results
  • Start a publishing digital imprint for next gen leaders that need to be heard, not (only) those who can sell books
  • Establish a giving circle / community fund for the dreams of next gen Asian Americans
  • Host annual summits for gathering thought leaders that can advance needed change in: faith & race issues for evangelicals; next gen faith for minorities; minority philanthropy

Am I idealistic? You betcha!

Here’s the thing. You gotta play to win. I didn’t buy a lottery ticket. So this blog post is entirely hypothetical. What would you do if you won a large amount of money, hypothetically?

Mar 242012
 

When public communications veer off the path of truth, and enters the domain of artistic expression, not only are lines blurred, because both journalism and art/ entertainment are forms of public communications, the confusion of fuzzy logic and the gullible naivite of the undiscerning casts a cloud of anxiety over the masses.

This week the journalistically-styled NPR-ish radio show (and podcast) This American Life retracted its most popular episode, Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory, because it mixed fiction and truth in a story that was regretably aired without more thorough fact-checking. The statement of retraction stated:

This American Life has retracted this story because we learned that many of Mike Daisey’s experiences in China were fabricated. We have removed the audio from our site, and have left this transcript up only for reference. We produced an entire new episode about the retraction, featuring Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz, who interviewed Mike’s translator Cathy and discovered discrepancies between her account and Mike’s, and New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, who has reported extensively on Apple. Ira also re-interviewed Mike Daisey to learn why he misled us.

As a journalistic genre, This American Life is committed to certain journalistic standards, and this one episode got away. On their blog with the press release, the Executive Producer and Host Ira Glass wrote:

I have difficult news. We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China – which we broadcast in January – contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.

 

Episode #460 explained more about the fact-checking after the airing of the original episode, its retraction, and an interview with Mike Daisey to seek an apology and explanation. I’ve listened to both episodes. Painful. (And what might Apple’s legal department be plotting?)

Daisey felt justified in doing what he does as a storyteller and believes his work is a legitimate exercise of artistic license. Sure, a scriptwriter has the freedom to create a work of art as movie or play or book by rendering a dramatization based on a true story. There’s a place for that. That place is not a journalistic-style radio show. Maybe Garrison Keillor? Or Jon Stewart? Stephen Colbert?

This kind of problem will keep aggravating the world of journalism as social media enables anyone and everyone to have a public voice. Everything is looking more like op-ed pieces. Journalism perhaps isn’t able to uphold as high a standard as it used to because of an accelerated news cycle in a 24/7 communication world, or maybe new media is revealing the subjective biases and inaccuracies of the reporters’ work.

I’ve had a few encounters with journalism, and news reporters (with news involving people I knew) did not get the facts nor details right. This recently happened in the OC Register and its February 23rd article Rick Warren builds bridge to Muslims. Rick Warren was forced to respond amidst an already busy highly-demanding schedule. First to clear up theological issues, in an interview with Brandon A. Cox and The Christian Post. Secondly, a line-by-line documentation of the factual errors in News & Views 3/10/12: ON RESPONDING TO FALSE ACCUSATIONS (also posted at ocregister.com), the Saddleback Church email newsletter. Some of the damage may be irreparable, as OC Register noted on 3/9/12 in Effort to reach out to Muslims stirs outcry. And media representative A. Larry Ross wrote up this article, Saddleback Church: Setting the record straight on outreach to Muslims, published at ocregister.com .

My hunch is that as media technologies keeps developing and maturing, the lines will only get more blurred. And, these situations are indicators of a shift of trust away from faceless institutions towards individuals in one’s social network.

Oh, and the dust hasn’t settled yet on Mike Daisey and his American Life episode. There’s more.

On March 19th, “… at a long-scheduled appearance at Georgetown University, Mike Daisey gave his first public talk since the news broke last Friday that This American Life was retracting the now-infamous episode featuring his work. Daisey is a complicated and conflicted figure, and, it’s hard not to feel complicated and conflicted about him and about his work. His talk last night provides a new dimension to the story that is now at the center of a scandal.” —The Atlantic Wire

Mar 182012
 

The 2 most powerful things about the Christian faith get celebrated year after year: Easter for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death to life, and Christmas for the incarnation of Jesus Christ born as a baby from a virgin. Both supernatural and miraculous. And being raised from the dead is a far bigger miracle than a baby’s birth, and so much so that The Apostle Paul rightly argued that the Christian faith is practically null and void if not for the reality of the resurrection: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

So why does it seem like Christmas is a bigger deal than Easter? I have my own speculations and theories as to the reasons why, but I sure want to hear from you. Add a comment. Is it the presents? Is it the snow? Is it the holiday movies?

From this unofficial tally of worship services at 20 larger churches in Orange County, California, there were 99 for Christmas vs. 113 for Easter. So maybe Easter is bigger than Christmas for church-goers, and Christmas is bigger for American culture at large?

My family joyously celebrated Christmas at 10 churches this past December. Not sure how many churches we’ll celebrate Easter with just yet. But I am putting a spreadsheet together to begin scheming…

(cf. List of Popular Churches in the OC and Southern California)

Mar 162012
 

A timely book arrived in the mail last week and I happen to have some time to read it all in one day. The book? Rhett Smith‘s The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? What I love about this book is how Rhett vulnerably and honestly reveals his own life story, how anxiety has been a traveling companion throughout much of his life, even how it showed up as stuttering and near-paralysis before public speaking.

All too often well-intentioned Christian ministry leaders / preachers / teachers / people give encouragement with pithy sayings and the quoting the Bible verses, without the demands of genuine compassion that requires entering in and walking alongside someone’s pain and confusion. (cf. Overcoming Anxiety: Dealing with Anxiety and Worry) If you’d not been schooled in the right-of-center flavor of Christianity, the answer to life is always: Jesus, Bible and prayer, not necessarily in that order.

Thank you Rhett for taking a whole different approach, a very personal one at that. By sharing your life and the things you’ve learned along the way, it draws me relationally and I’m freed to know that my own anxiety is not necessarily coming from a place of doubting God and I’m not someone to be fixed per se. And more than that, anxiety can be invitation from God towards a more rewarding faith.

My confession: This book came timely for me as I’d been simmering about anxiety in my life, not in a paralyzing manner from an overwhelming number of choices, but more of an annoying nagging feeling. My anxiety seems to be recurring about performance, and the discomfort of having to evaluate my work, or worse, to have others evaluate it. Whether I success or not, or could do better, or am celebrated for excellence, there’s that thing about performance evaluation that I just plain don’t like. That’s all I got to say about that right now.

[disclosure: I received a complementary review copy]

Mar 082012
 

Being missional is the topic du jour in the mainstream American church, and there’s no sign of the momentum slowing down. Last week in Austin, Texas, I participated at the Verge Conference 2012 with ~ 2,500+ others in attendance to get invigorated about missional communities + missional churches + being missional, and even getting our “faces melted off” (quoting the emcee’s words verbatim.) What’s stuck with me (on this go around) is how being missional intersects with other circles of Christian efforts: cross-cultural missions, urban ministry, social justice, discipleship, organic church, and more. Missional has moved from being a hot buzz word to being more about an activistic kind of lifestyle.

The annual Verge Conference is just one of many efforts from Verge Network to constantly resource the church at large, in America and all over the world, to be more about living as followers of Christ and serving people at their obvious point of need as a genuine and sincere act of love and service (not so much about the business aspects of running & leading church as an organization, where many other resources in America are readily available.) Stay connected to the Verge Network year round, because they’re always at work in gathering and sharing resources, at times even every day.

Get all the recorded talks (plus bonus content) from Verge 2012 for just $49 before Saturday 3/10. Rich and insightful messages you’ll want to digest and discuss with your group of like-minded zealous Christ-followers.