Three Reasons (Not) to Avoid Hard Conversations this Holiday Season

My first guest post from my wife, Rev. Jenifer Stuelpe Gibbs!

A consistent topic has floated through my social media the last few days. The topic has been covered through cartoons, memes, jokes and even a Saturday Night Live (tv show) skit. Some are incredibly funny and made me giggle. All of them make light of difficult conversations which might arise when families gather during the holidays. Most joke about how to shut those conversations down, ignore them, or evade them so as to “survive” the holidays. The jokes are funny because they point to a deeper truth, which is that holidays aren’t always easy for everyone and relationships can be messy.
What struck me was this; every form of media commended not ever having the hard conversations. There are certainly times not to have the conversations. The truth is, not everything requires a conversation. But avoidance of hard conversations seems to be a trend and now the norm. We’ve all done it. [Read more…]

What to Learn from an Awful Management Decision

Lots of folks were talking about this play last night and again this morning. When looking with the all knowing eye of instant replay it’s obvious it never stood a chance. But they snapped the ball anyway. 

Here is the disaster:

Coach Pagano quickly took the responsibility for not communicating clearly enough what had to be done in various scenarios. Good leadership there. But how did they get there?

They took a chance. They lined up hoping that the oddity of it would fool New England’s special teams unit and it didn’t. If it had then they might have picked up the line to gain. It was worth the risk. Since it didn’t work at all, there are a few things to learn:

  1. If we are good leaders, we’ve had decisions go at least that badly. Most leaders don’t have to think back that far to remember when they tried something that seemed good at all the time but exploded from the word “go.”  Risk is necessary for leadership. Have grace on yourself when it is a disaster. 
  2. Everyone saw it was bad but the one making the decision. Even the quarterback knew this wasn’t going to work; he was surprised when the ball was snapped. The one person that had to make the decision (the wideout tasked with playing center) couldn’t see it or didn’t know what to do. Football is too fast to get much feedback. But if someone could have spoken into his helmet they could have alerted to the impending disaster. The people with a little distance may be able save you if you can listen to them. 
  3. If a few things had gone different, we’d be talking about the genius of it. Coach Pagano explained that the play had two ways to catch New England in a penalty (offsides or 12 men/substitution penalties). It also could have been a three yard run if New England had only put two men on the ball. And the escape valve was a delay of game that wouldn’t cost the punting unit at all. The difference between success and failure is sometimes small. 
  4. Preparation matters. Snapping the football wasn’t the only mistake. The entire line was in a wrong formation. However much this was practiced, it wasn’t practiced enough to keep the ball from being snapped in a clearly losing situation or to keep the line from missing the formation. In this case better preparation would certainly have made the difference between a decent attempt at trickery and the disaster we saw. 

Rarely do our mistakes get played out in HD with the entire field in clear view. What can you learn from the Colts disaster that will help you lead?

Do Not Despise the Foot: A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

How do we affirm Paul’s “body of Christ” language when the world is not only divided between Jew and Gentile, but is made up of radical diversity even within the Church? In our unique university Christian community there are Catholics and Pentecostals Methodists and Evangelicals and lots of other kinds of Christians. Paul’s language call us to see those that are different as a gift to the whole of the “body.” Listen as we learn to appreciate the great gift that each member our diverse Christian community offers to us all.

Helenor Davisson: First Ordained American Methodist Woman

A portrait of Helenor Davisson made from the only known photograph of her, which is badly faded.

In August of 1866 the Civil War had just ended and America was slowly becoming a United States again as confederate states began rejoining the union. Perhaps more astonishingly, in that same year President Andrew Johnson vetoed the bill that eventually become the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship and equal protection under the law for black Americans. He did so in spite of such broad congressional support that his veto was overcome by a 2/3 super-majority. In the highest leadership position in the country, prejudice was preventing even basic rights for black Americans. Nine years later the Supreme Court would rule against women’s right to vote. Progress was coming on several fronts, but this was still an age of considerable challenges to equality. [Read more…]