Saturday, May 29, 2010

Money, Debt and Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

So I'm wrestling with money and debt.

We're working at getting everything inputted into and it's already pretty telling. It's one thing to know where you're at with income, expenses and debts. It's another to see it all in front of you at once, simple and clear and stunningly up to date. The sobering thing is that we're way more "average" USAmericans than I I'd hoped:

We give less, spend more, save less and have more debt than is reasonable.

We have school loans. They are comparatively good as far as loans go, but the interest can still kill you. I'm feeling the weight of the debts more than I used to. I think this is because until I see the bigger picture it's hard for me to feel any given part of it very heavily. I know this in other areas of my life, but it never clicked in the financial realm for me before. I've usually looked at it piecemeal or avoided thinking it.

So, in yet another area of life I need to be regularly tuning in to the big picture.

The good thing is that I like doing that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Vulnerability by Choice

Being vulnerable can be a really bad thing. If you're caught in a hurricane you're vulnerable to injury or death by the forces around you. If you're growing up in an family with abusive or addicted parents you're vulnerable to all kinds of hurt and misperceptions about reality and yourself that are really damaging. If you move around a lot you can become vulnerable to lonliness and damaging coping mechanisms.

There is another kind of vulnerability, though. That's the kind that you choose and which brings you closer to others. This blog lists "community" as one of it's foci. One aspect of growing community I've been learning a lot about recently is vulnerability.

I believe in it, I talk about it, but I'm not great at doing it. Getting better. It's still hard, though.

I have the privilege currently to be working with a recovering addict. His vulnerability challenges me, and has taken our friendship to a deeper place.

I've also had the privilege of meeting with two groups recently where vulnerability was a theme. I'll write more about that in the next post.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vulnerability in a Group

What makes a group of people a safe place to be vulnerable in? What's the benefit of being vulnerable?

I work with a church that just launched a community house project. Five 20-somethings now live in a house, share kitchen duties, work part time, vulunteer in the community, develop spiritual disciplines, choose one cool project to attempt and work at personal growth. Pretty great. For the cool projects, one of them is going to write a book, another one is going to build a bamboo bicycle.

As part of their "launch weekend" I got to spend extended time with the young people and the vision team -- a group of 5 or 6 church members committed to helping get this project off the ground. The first evening I talked about vulnerability and invited everyone to share something they are wrestling with or excited about. I challenged them to go 2 or 3 steps further than they'd usually share, than they feel comfortable with.

Then I shared first. That was the hard part. Theory -- easy, practice -- hard. I talked about my insecurities and dreams related to my leadership work. Can I really do this? How do I do it? Can I really help lay solid foundations for groups to build on? I have a great mentor, but how do I do this job with my gifts and strengths that are different than his?

After I shared I instructed people to thank me for sharing and then ask me if I wanted feedback. Even though I asked them to do this, it was meaningful to be thanked. I could tell people appreciated my vulnerability, and it really helped me to hear it in words. It was also really nice to be asked if I wanted feedback rather than people just jumping in trying to fix me. Some of the feedback I got was really helpful. (One guy said, "Think of the worst you could do -- it will help you realize there's not as much riding on your decision as it feels like.")

After that we went around the circle and everyone shared. Amazing stuff, deep stuff, hard stuff. We pretty quickly forgot the cultural gap between the twenty-somethings and the 40-60 year olds. We were all human, wrestling with human stuff. It will be easier to build community with the group of people who shared their lives than it would have been with the group that started at the beginning of the evening -- with a bunch of ideas about community.

So what makes a group "safe?" Someone laying out the reasons for vulnerability, some guidelines for it, but most of all modeling it and then honoring it when it happens. Whatever you say, if you don't live it and value it when you see it, it's not going to keep happening.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Experiment, Share Process, Find Allies

I'm about to post my sixth delivery of music as part of my CSM (Community Supported Music). I've been at this now almost two years. And while I took an unexpected "music sabbatical" I'm almost up to date with deliveries (well, ok, 6 months behind)!

The purpose of my CSM has gotten clearer as I've sorted out what place it fills in my musical life.

My CSM is a place for me to:

1. Experiment. This is where I push the boundaries of style, theme, genre and content. Expect the unexpected. This is a treasure hunt not a museum exhibit.

2. Share my process. Some people want the end result, the bottom line, the best work an artist creates. Others want in on the journey. Consider the CSM an invitation to join my musical journey. Hear songs never officially released. Follow me down alleys and country roads looking for new ideas and sounds. Hear how I wrote the song, and think with me why it does or doesn't work.

3. Find allies. The feedback and fees from the CSM help me to keep maturing as a songwriter and musician. Whether giving a basic fee or something more substantial, CSM members are patrons of the arts and an important part of my call to live creativity, spirituality and community in my life and music.

To learn more about the concept or to visit a CSM site belonging to me or one of my friends, visit

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Questions about my Next Season of Music

1. Am I really going this direction? If so where do I find this band? I'm thinking about auditioning musicians. Scary.

2. Do I take a thematic approach with this new material or allow for thematic variety?

3. How much do I think about audience as I develop the new material? I wrestle with three values: a. being honest and vulnerable, b. being willing to say things that people don't want to hear and c. writing music that connects to people in their real lives (as opposed to being esoteric and narcissistic).

4. How big a part of my life is this going to be? I think it will start small, but I dream of slow, sustainable growth into something great.

5. When does it start?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New Direction

1. I started talking to a few musician friends about my ideas for the new musical direction and sent around some of the new songs. I got pretty good responses to the songs, and although it's not my best work yet, it could become that.

2. I've been slowly moving towards this idea of starting a three piece band that plays simple, loud music that I write the bones of but that the band brings alive. A three piece band means no hiding that core with interesting guitar, oboe or harmonica leads. I haven't made any of these new need-a-band songs available publicly and don't plan to until there is a band.

3. I continue to experiment as a songwriter outside of this new direction. The songs that I'm posting on my CSM are flavored by this new direction, but they go other directions too. I work at different styles, themes, and song writing methods and revisit old areas. If you want to know more check out my CSM, it's designed for people who are interested in my journey and explorations, not just my best work.