Church Innovations’ Partners Post

October 30, 2009

11 Days In: What Am I Looking For, Again?



Why is it that, when I am looking for peace, abundance, shalom, life seems to want to bother me with irritating things? Highway congestion. People’s nervous tics that they don’t notice but which suddenly loom large for me. Bad usage and spelling on signs. Anxiety and frustration seem to me suddenly to be everywhere. Is this just a bad time for a peace-quest?  Or am I just especially tuned in to whatever seems to be standing in my way?  Hmmm.


I am trying like anything to keep in mind that the peace that I seek is not tranquility, the absence of work or struggle. The peace I seek is abundance, shalom, the fullness of life.  Tranquility peace may be found in a silent cemetery.  But that is not where I live my life.  Abundance-shalom peace may be present in a silent cemetery, too, but it is also in a house overflowing with people or an argument or a noisy fair-going crowd or a phone call inside a party inside a restaurant inside a very busy day.  If I block out the noise, I’ll lose the music; if I withdraw to stillness, I’ll lose the movement.


Spiritual practices are what I need to help me listen deeply amid noise, see the particular amid crowds, recognize the movement of God amid strangeness.  I believe I have had those skills in my lifetime, but I think, like musical talent, such skills may get rusty with disuse. A quest for the kind of peace I’m seeking, I am learning, is not purely accidental. While I am sure that the Lord will bless my search for peace, abundance, shalom with delightful surprises, I must also work at the habits of noticing so that I’ll see them when I’m in them. What do you think?


Peace. Pat

October 28, 2009

9th Day in the Quest for Peace

Filed under: Uncategorized — ptellison @ 4:03 pm

I am discovering that our (my) addiction to tension (and change, I think) makes peace, abundance, shalom a little tough to find. Others who have ever been on a quest are now saying, “Duh.” Ok, well, I thought of myself as a person of peace, a person who, at my own whim, could drop the need for speed and tension and just drop into the peace-consciousness of a spiritual master. “Yes, Grasshopper. You understand it.”


Setting myself the quest to seek peace has, it seems, come at a very inconvenient time.

Big training event at work: lasts all day and into two evenings!  Daughter planning a wedding: many places to see and many things to think about! 

Halloween: up a couple of pounds at Weight Watchers and candy lying around the house this week!

Yikes! I am really just too busy to be out looking for shalom.


What is peace – the peace that passes human understanding? The abundance of God through Christ Jesus, perceived because the Holy Spirit turns your head in its direction? Shalom – fullness of life? I found it several times last week as I began the quest, twice over the weekend (though it vanished almost as soon as I saw it), and a couple of times during the big training at work. It feels like…it feels like…oh my gosh. Someone has just tagged me in a photo on Facebook. I wonder what photo it was…I am going to find out. I’ll be back. 


October 22, 2009

3 Days into the 40 Days and Nights

So Noah gets onto the ark and God shuts the door behind him. The rain falls and the ark begins to float. Three days into the voyage… don’t you wonder what happened? Sounds like the start of a joke.


Well, I’ve begun my quest for peace, abundance, shalom. In three days I have told quite a few people about it. In the first 24 hours I told my Weight Watchers group, about 45 people I’m with almost every Tuesday morning. Some of them actually applauded. One of them even came up after the meeting and told me she recommended I read the New Testament to find real peace. She had good peace/abundance stories.  During the second 24 hours I told my colleagues on staff. Ooh! they said. That’s sounds like a great idea.


Today is the third 24 hours. I am in the midst of a giant filing project you might call a clean-up. There are, of course, thousands of files (real paper ones) that we’ve accumulated in research and development in the 20 years (Yes! This week it’s 20 years!) that I’ve been at Church Innovations. Thousands of old files create mountains of piles, especially with our overlapping categories of consulting, teaching, and research/study. I imagine Noah was encountering mountains of piles by the third day as well. So I took a moment away from the paper and sat at my computer to make a diagram of the piles and to sort the work…multiple layers of multiple innovations over multiple years. And the Lord is generous! In those multiple overlapping categories I have found some new and intriguing possibilities, just in time for our Board to interview me about the future of CI’s Research and Development work.


Peace. Abundance. Shalom. Out of the old, something new. Out of the tried and true, innovation. Out of the flood, new creation. Bless the Lord. I can’t wait until day 4!        Later! Peace. Pat


October 19, 2009

Addicted to Tension: Seeking the Peace

I heard a speaker say recently that North Americans are addicted to tension.  She didn’t mean just interested in it, the way you are interested when the plot of a play or a novel or a movie suddenly twists and things get more tense. She meant ADDICTED.  We actually go looking for more tension, needing it, flipping the channels of our lives for disagreement and all manner of trouble.


I wanted to retort, “No – that’s just the Jerry Springer crowd – not everybody likes that. Not reasonable, intelligent people.”  I wanted to. But the more I think about it, the more I might say that I often go looking for problems, and then of course I manage to find them. Sometimes I am indeed troubleshooting, as part of my job. I look for problems in a manuscript or article. When I find them, I fix them, like a plumber, plugging leaks in meaning.  But sometimes I’m just watching TV when the weather forecaster appears, and, although the meteorology might be excellent, the grammar is poor, and that is a leak I cannot plug, and so I merely wring my hands and lament the death of the English language, yada yada yada.


Just as I had better not waste a lot of my God-given energy and time on grammar I cannot fix, I had better not chase after other kinds of trouble and tension I cannot do anything about. Yet, I often do, and so do many around me. It is, in fact, a waste of energy and time.  It is not good stewardship. But I see so many people going around looking for things to worry about, to be tense about, that have to agree with the speaker. We must in fact be addicted to tension.


So, for the next 40 days and 40 nights, I am going to go around looking for peace. Abundance. Shalom. I will be carrying a notebook. And every time I find it, I will write it down and describe it. I am going to un-addict myself to tension and substitute peace-seeking. 40 days and nights puts the end of my quest on Thanksgiving weekend.  I will post as I go.  I don’t expect I’ll stop encountering tension; this is a very tense time for many people for many reasons. But I hope to find something else entirely. Anyone with me?       Peace.    Pat Taylor Ellison


October 14, 2009

Grateful for Abundance

It’s amazing how much of our thinking and imagining is shaped by a sense of scarcity rather than abundance.  We say no to things because we’re afraid we will run out of money, energy, time, or other resources, when those things we’re saying no to might be God’s very call to us.  Please don’t hear me say we should say yes to everything. That is not it. We are going for SHORTER lists, not longer ones, but we are trying to determine first where God is calling us, and then operate out of a belief in God’s abundance for any work and  relationships God has called into being.


It is in that spirit of gratitude for God’s abundance that we want to say welcome to a new partner congregation in the Bremer Grant project:

Randolph Heights Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, MN.  This lovely neighborhood church is not sure precisely how its work in the project will look (have any of us been sure?!) but wants to give it a try.


We are currently designing Year 2 work for Faith Lutheran in Madelia, Our Saviour’s Lutheran in Butternut, Paz Y Esperanza in Willmar, St. Barnabas Lutheran in Plymouth, Central Baptist in St. Paul, and Bethlehem Lutheran in St. Cloud.  To help the planning process, just e-mail Pat Ellison at or call her at Church Innovations 651-644-3653.

October 8, 2009

What I Learned Being in a Different Play: Oomph and Dip

A few posts back I wrote that, when the seasons change, we often find ourselves surrounded by new scenery, new people, new activities – a new play. In summer in Minnesota, for example, we see our neighbors as we never do in the winter. Because we actually see them – they aren’t hidden under layers of jackets and boots. On a vacation, you might go to new places and buy groceries in a new store and get your coffee in a different Java Emporium.  


When you’re in a time of trying out new things, what do you learn?  In that previous blog entry, I said I’d tell you what I learned during a time of new experiences.  I learned that I still like traveling and finding my way in new places – I still find it an adventure. This love of adventure is not shared by everyone – I also learned that.


I learned that learning and navigating the new takes energy, and, although it’s energy I love to spend, afterward I’m tired.  I think perhaps it makes everyone over 55 tired and it makes people under 10 tired. Just look at who’s asleep on benches in big parks late in the afternoon – new and stimulating things, even when they’re positive, wear us out a bit.


What did I learn about others?  When people face the new, they are running on extra oomph. This extra oomph doesn’t just appear out of the blue. It’s either manufactured out of a lot of anticipation, or it comes from the adrenaline of the moment. It burns kind of hot, too, so when that extra oomph is used up and only regular energy remains, there is a dip in capacity.  We have to take that dip seriously – not feel bad about it – just take it seriously.


When high schoolers put on a play, they rehearse for several weeks, gear up, perform the play, and then dip. They work hard, develop anticipation, spend it in the performance, and then try to get right back into their regular routine. But their dip usually leads to quite a few colds and sometimes a couple of cases of mononucleosis.  


I for one am listening more to people’s energy level during periods of change, during periods of spending the extra oomph. I for one am trying to take care of myself and others, using the dip time for a little reflection period on what we’ve done and what we’re learning before we leap into more activity. If we are leading change, we’ve got to get out in front to watch for the oomph and the dip and provide direction for both.      Peace. Pat Taylor Ellison



October 1, 2009

Community-Building by Dancing

Last weekend my family attended our nephew’s wedding in Florida.   It was a lovely ceremony in a beautiful, modern, air-conditioned Roman Catholic church (outdoors we experienced a very humid 92 degrees), and the reception was held at a hotel restaurant on the 11th floor, which sported a beautiful marble veranda.  People were elegantly dressed, toasted the happy couple, ate wonderful food, and began to dance both indoors and outdoors as the sun set. 

Suddenly, in the middle of a really popular dance song, the clouds opened and the ran came, first a little, then more and more.  The music continued, and the dancing continued.  Everyone outdoors got wetter and wetter.  They laughed and kept on dancing.  The people inside, after murmuring to one another how glad they were to be inside and dry, stared at those still outside in wonder.  They stared, and then they stepped out into the rain.  When the lightning came, everyone went inside, of course, but soon the rain abated and we were dancing in both places once again.

And not just dancing in couples.  Group dances: The Electric Slide, The Cotton Eye Joe, The Cha Cha Slide, a Bunny Hop – Conga Line, a Stroll with ever-rotating partners strutting down the aisle…  People who normally said no to dancing were letting their hair down, possibly because their hair was already down from the rain.

Among those wedding guests, pretense vanished and play began on a level playing field, and with a remarkably low alcohol influence.  Just community.   When I have heard in the scriptures Jesus referring to the coming Kingdom of Heaven as a wedding feast, I have never thought about the dancing.  But I believe that is what I will picture from now on – the delight of dancing together with all God’s children as we feel the rain of our baptism uniting us into the Kingdom of God.

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