221B Baker Street

One of the most famous addresses in the world isn't a real one. Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character who lived in London at 221B Baker Street. It's a place people went to for help and the address still looms large.
What address comes to mind when you are at your wit's end? In recent current events, we will have heard now of Syria and we understand that we have a history with Russia. We know that refugees seeking help are seeking also an address--a place where one can either call home or visit to feel at home. I can tell you that I grew up on Henry Rd and later moved to Portland Avenue and Heaton Street. Most people could care less, but I knew where I received mail and I knew a place that was called mine.
It's what we want leaders to protect when they go to war.
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Twenty Years of Amazon

by Stan Jantz

It’s been 20 years since Amazon launched a website that changed the world. Okay, that may be overstating things a bit, but it most definitely changed my world. I was the happy owner of a large chain Christian retail stores, doing business the way booksellers had been doing business for centuries: stock a bunch of books, provide a nice environment in a good location with a friendly, knowledgeable staff, and you were pretty much guaranteed to be successful.

When Amazon.com was launched, I was curious, so I registered just to see how it worked. Remember, in 1995 there were no search engines, no Google, no ecommerce of any kind. Smart phones wouldn’t appear for another 12 years. There was just the Internet and email, and both were more novelties than necessities. So the notion of buying my favorite commodity through a computer fascinated me.

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Advice to Boomers: Think Like a Millennial

I had a conversation with my neighbor that got me thinking about the nature of work these days. My neighbor retired from his career as a radiology oncologist last year. He was just 62. As he has reminded me over the years, “I’m the doctor you don’t want to see.”

He certainly helped a lot of people extend their lives, but he also saw a lot of death. “All of those cases accumulate and finally they get to you,” he told me. Besides, he observed, if you do just one thing all your life, there finally comes a time when you say, “I don’t want to do that any more.” So he retired.

I suspect a lot of people in my Boomer generation are in this place right now. Those who can afford to retire have done so or are strongly thinking about it. Those who aren’t there financially wish they could be. I feel for those who are ready to retire but have no choice but to keep their nose to the grindstone. I have no words of wisdom for them.

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That Time Pain & Joy Collided in a Court Yard in Congo

Years ago I found myself standing in an open area wedged between two buildings with a young boy who had a fierce case of the giggles. I would simply look at him and he’d crack up. I will never forget the sound of that sweet laughter or the dark almond shaped eyes of that little boy. He wore faded and worn pink overalls and his bare feet danced around the concrete floor as he laughed.

The memory and sound of his joy-filled laughter is forever etched in my mind. It wasn’t just the sweet laughter that marks this moment unforgettable; it was the culmination of so many emotions and thoughts that this particular place triggered within me.

Tags | Global

Gotham City

As long as I can remember, I have been interested in the world of Batman. Since I was pre-kindergarten, I used a towel  for a cape and donned a mask and tried to save the city against the likes of the Joker, the Penguin, or the Riddler. The truth remains: I still am a fan of the Dark Knight.

In fact, let me point out a few similarities.

We have the same initials: BW.

We both can point to emotional distress and loss as a catalyst for certain decisions and actions.

We both are more nocturnal than the average person and both have a rather tight inner circle. Oh, and there’s more, but you are already rolling your eyes a bit, so I’ll stop here for now.

Teaching my Son to Be a World Class Christian

It was seven years ago today I returned from a trip to the beautiful Sub-Saharan African country Malawi. You can read more about that trip in past posts here and here.  

In the seven years since that experience, I married a wonderful man from Cameroon, began a new career in the pharmaceutical industry and had a sweet baby boy named Justice. With all of that change, I haven’t had the opportunity to travel abroad since Malawi and I miss it like California misses the rain.

Nine years ago I loaded up my car and high tailed it to America’s north east to attend Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS), leaving southern California in the dust. That decision came about after an incredible life changing experience visiting Kinshasa, DRC in 2003.

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Tags | Global

Upstate New York

Most people are busy. That's what we say to each other. 

"Hey, Fred, how are things? Are you keeping busy," asks Barney.

"Yep, looking forward to a break," says Fred.

And they pass each other thinking that that is good, normal, and productive. Keeping busy has become an expectation. We expect to be pulled in different directions and we expect others to also go from one activity to the next. And we hardly give such things a second thought.

But busyness is not a sign of good work or productivity. Busyness, in fact, may be a form of lazyness. It may be a way to avoid setting priorities and it may be a way to numb out and it may be something that is simply not good.

Traveling recently to upstate New York to get away, I found a sense of rhythm again. Unforced and unrehearsed. And guess what? I was still productive. I still managed to get some things done.

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Dubai: Reflections on Modern Change

On the way to Africa a few years back, I stopped in Dubai. It's like Phoenix, with way more money. The airport is impressive and the clash between what's modern and what's tradition and what's western and what's eastern is both dazzling and dizzying.

If you've seen the MIssion Impossible: Ghost Protocol film, you'll note that Dubai is prominent as the heroes navigate tall buildings and sandstorms. Dubai encapsulates modernity's rise in a centuries old desert. Os Guinness notes in his book The Last Christian on Earth that "Christians have always shown a curious inability to consider things from a long-term perspective." The latest isn't always the greatest.

How, then, do we hold on to ancient wisdom in an era of restlessness? What happens to long-term or longview leadership in an age of start-ups?

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Whiteside County, Northern Illinois

At some point, though, I will have THAT conversation. The one about how girls should be avoided and how boys do stupid things and at some point, the conversation will turn toward the physical. My son currently doesn't care much about certain singers or bands, he likes Arkham video games more. At some point, though, girls won't be yucky and not all will look like his sister. The first kiss for me happened in Whiteside County in Northern Illinois. Do I remember her? Yes. Does she remember me? I have no idea--not the point. Did I know what I was doing? Not at all. But, don't we all think we have something, even love, figured out until the idea of the thing crashes in to our daily life? 

This is an inevitable conversation, not because sex absolutely must be talked about in explicit terms, but because love is physical and to deny that is more than Victorian sensibility or aristocratic decorum.

Champaign, Illinois

Currently, my office sits on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This public University is home to more international students than any other public institution in the U.S. Currently, we have nearly 10,300 from all over the world.

What is being brought to campus is ingenuity, creatviity, and expertise that will in turn go out worldwide. In other words, the Illinois footprint extends beyond the borders of its own state. Over 2000 students also leave the U.S. to study abroad. So, a constant exchange is going on. This sparks some fascinating conversations and has meant that we consistently learn to cross borders.

And to this end, let me ask you, what borders have you crossed today? From a spiritual perspective, many acknowledge that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are not the center of all things. From a diplomatic or community perspective, we are also not the center of all things. In each case, we must listen. We must learn. We must engage with that which is different from us.

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