Monday, December 30, 2013

My 3 Words 2014 | #mythreewords

My favorite web development in 2013 was the launch of Early in the year, Lutheran Confessions had the honor of ending up 39th on a popular list of Christian blogs you should be reading. Thanks to Christian Piatt for creating that list.

One of the creators of, Nick Kellet, is inviting participation in My Three Words, an internet meme created by Chris Brogan a few years ago. Brogan's three words for 2013 were Walt. Ender. Monchu. Nick Kellet's three words for 2014 are Big. Collaboration. Experiment.

There's a lot of diversity in how people develop their three words. The three words are designed to help you focus your goals and objectives for the year.

Here's what Chris Brogan says about the value of choosing three words rather than listing task-specific goals for the new year:
In an effort to tell bigger stories, I’ve found that the concept of three words allows me to think in more dimensions about what I want to do with my life and it lets me apply lots of tangible goals instead of what most people do when they focus on just a finite task. It’s a bit like turbo-charged goal planning.
I invited folks in my social media network to share their three words with me, figuring hearing from others might be inspirational. It was! Here's a sampling of #mythreewords I heard for 2014 from friends around the world:

1. Love, care and share
2. Escuchar, equipar, enviar. Listen, equip, send.
3. Rebuild. Positive. Change.
4. Simplify. Domesticize. Write.
5. Create. More. Fun.
6. Focus, proclaim, swim
7. God is First. I am Third (after God and family)
8. Write. write. write.
9. Time to regift
10. Blessed are the ...
11. Health. Giving. Integrity.
12. Patience. Gentleness. Contentment.
13. Nonjudgmental. Listener. Giving.

Sharing these ideas around in your networks is a great idea, because some folks might invite you into their "three words" party. I plan to create more fun with some folks who especially liked #5 in the list above, for example.

So, some background. In 2013, my three words, although I didn't call them that, were definitely Releasing. Missional. Networks. I gave a presentation on this at ELCA Headquarters early in the year. I had the opportunity to write and present about it regularly during the year, and it's a set of words I'm still pondering and implementing in my own life and ministry.

For 2014, I'm struggling a bit more with the three words. But that's not a bad thing.

Consider the alternative... no planning for 2014 at all. That's an option, but not a good one.

But whenever I make a list of tasks for 2014, it gets long and sort of unwieldy. I actually did this about a week ago, and came up with the following:

1) Neighborhood church: I’m going to invite walk partners and walk our neighborhood once per week, knocking on doors and asking people what we can pray for for them, then include those prayers in worship Sunday mornings.
2) Setting a timeline to be leading my own Huddle by April of 2014.
3) Shift at least two hours of each week towards intentionally equipping others for ministry.
4) Gather at least one intentional community of any size, any shape, that specifically devotes itself to prayer for the ministry of our congregation, and renewal in the Spirit.
5) Work with our stewardship team to explore innovative and new patterns for fund-raising. I’m especially interested in learning best practices for fund-raising from non-profit leaders in our own community, and may even try to convene a colloquium on this with representatives from churches and non-profits.
6) Study enough to translate the faith really well in our culture and context. 
8) Run more, and get more freelance submissions out there (this last one is personal rather than professional).

You can see, I think, that these are focused, clear goals... but they're rather task specific, and difficult to memorize. The list could also be expanded ad nauseum, attempting to be exhaustive but ending up exhausting. Returning to Chris Brogan, he writes:

At first I was leaning towards Lord. Have. Mercy. as my 3 words for 2014. I like those words, because they are a big picture story of who I want to be, focused in prayer and faith, and indicative of who I want to be in relationship with in 2014--God, the merciful one.

But, spending a bit more time with it, I think I've finally focused in on my three words for 2014. They're a little weird and enigmatic, so bear with me if you would. They are:

Merciful. Drone. Trombones.


I hope to practice mercy in 2014. I was inspired to consider this word in a new way after listening to an interview between Walter Brueggemann and Krista Tippett on On Being the other day. Here's the excerpt:
Ms. Tippett: OK. You know, another one of those words that recurs a lot in your writing that comes also from [Scripture] is another word that we don't have in our culture very often. It's mercy. We talk about forgiveness, we talk about reconciliation. Mercy to me is something different, something bigger. Tell me about that. 
Mr. Brueggemann: You may know that the Hebrew word for — Phyllis Trible has taught us that the Hebrew word for mercy is the word for womb with different vowel points. So mercy, she's suggested, is womb-like mother love. And it is the capacity of a mother to totally give one's self over to the need and reality and identity of the child. And mutatis mutandis then, mercy is the capacity to give one's self away for the sake of the neighborhood. 
Now none of us do that completely, but it makes a difference if the quality of social transactions have to do with the willingness to give one's self away for the sake of the other rather than the need to always be drawing all of the resources to myself for my own well-being. So it is this kind of generous connectedness to others and then I think our task is to see how that translates into policy. I think that a community or a society finally cannot live without the quality of mercy. The problem for us is what will initiate that? What will break the pattern of self-preoccupation enough to notice that the others are out there and that we are attached to them?
Giving ourselves away for the sake of the neighborhood. That's inspiring if difficult. Willingness to give one's self away for the sake of the other rather than the need to always be drawing all resources to myself for my own well-being. These are the kinds of practices I believe can only happen when we are grounded in prayer and inspired by the Spirit. 


I am inordinately obsessed with and terrified by drones. I'm fascinated by the delivery system Amazon is developing to fly in products straight to your doorstep. They call it Amazon Prime Air, and their goal is to get products delivered to you in less than 30 minutes. 

On the other hand, I am profoundly disturbed by our use of military drones in various "theaters" abroad, not to mention our government's recent inability to assure us that they would not use drone strikes here on U.S. soil. No matter how you analyze the data, far too many civilians are being killed. Such strikes are, from my perspective as a Lutheran Christian, clear violation of just war practice, and need to be condemned. Our ELCA Social Statement on Peace is worth a read as a reminder of who God is calling us to be as peacemakers in God's world.

Unfortunately, mostly we aren't speaking out about drones, or any number of a wide range of immoral practices and injustices, and our silence becomes complicity in stunningly immoral action. The more I think about it, the more it bothers me. The more I consider my own silence on a whole range of social injustices, the more worried I become that my silence is actually active complicity.

As a preacher and blogger, I have some responsibility to spend time translating real faith into the real world, and remaining silent on issues like human trafficking, world hunger, our opportunity to end malaria in this generation, and so many other salient "wicked problems," simply isn't an option. 

Not only that, but I need to speak out and take action in ways that really matter. I doubt that simply posting something on my blog about it will make a difference. I need to put my money and my feet where it matters, and not just type out words about it on a screen.


Stay with me here, if you would. I used to play trombone. I used to play trombone a lot, both jazz and classical. Since college, with a few notable exceptions like a brass ensemble at Luther Seminary, my trombone has sat in my closet untouched. Although I feel bad about this, that twinge of guilt I feel at not playing trombone has rarely driven me to retrieve the trombone from the closet and practice. I'm in the habit of not practicing and playing trombone.

I'd like to change this habit. I'd love for 2014 to be the year the trombone re-emerges. 

Do you have some places in your life that feel like that trombone, stuck in the closet? 

The trombone stands in as a symbol for other changes I'd like to make, like running more. It also stands in symbolically for the recovery of gifts and strengths I have, for whatever reason, allowed to atrophy, but that if reincorporated, could greatly enhance life now and create intriguing pathways into future action.

But the trombone is not just a metaphor for changing habits. The trombone is also really and truly a trombone. It's not a drone (although you can listen to really cool trombone drones here). Music is a huge part of what I find life-giving in this world, and I would like to incorporate more music-making into my daily existence. It might enliven other aspects of life in surprising and unexpected ways.

Here's to merciful drone trombones. Consider designating your own three words, and add them to Nick Kellet's

1 comment:

  1. My initial semi-snarky thought? These three words: Get over it. But then, as I pondered this a bit more, I realized that this is something I really need to practice in 2014. Would love to blame last year's reactive responses on the heightened sensitivity that comes with having a book come out, but that can't account for *all* of it!

    In other news: trombone? Very cool. Having played baritone horn in concert and marching band, I spent many years being jabbed in the lower back by the trombonists behind me!

    Blessings on you and your family now and for the new year.