Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Longing for Emotional Intelligence, Loving the St. Louis Cardinals

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

Over the past year I’ve picked and skimmed through Primal Leadership, a book that encourages leaders to strengthen and utilize their emotional intelligence. I realize that emotional range is not my strong suit and would like to be more empathetic towards and more prepared to collaborate with people who have a far richer emotional life. I often find myself in awe of people I know and love who can remain open to an almost infinite range of emotions without sacrificing self-control or failing to accomplish their goals.

Unfortunately my preliminary pursuit of emotional intelligence has been an utter failure. Many times when I try to move beyond my two-tone range (anger & fear) in order to be more open to the emotions of others, I experience a profound disconnect between emotion and response. For instance, there have been numerous occasions when I have sat down to share really difficult news only to find my mouth smiling. Even more troubling, I have occasionally felt so emotionally numb that I almost want something somewhat tragic to happen. I know someone has said that tragedy is essential because we don’t learn much from happiness, but my head knows damn well to avoid the former at all costs.

In sum, I’ve found that I cannot trust my emotions. Maybe that will change over time without recourse to expensive therapy. I certainly hope so, because as much as I desire emotional intelligence it is a characteristic for which I will spare expense.
My emotional poverty is just one of the reasons that the Eucharist, my family, and the St. Louis Cardinals (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) are so vital. I’ve written about the Eucharist before, prefer not to post too much about my family, and today is the Cardinals World Series parade. So I’ll focus on the latter for just a moment.

This postseason the Cardinals delivered me from rage to ecstasy in the most unexpected ways. Unlike the regular season 2006 Cardinals who fell of the cliff in September and I openly hoped would finish out of the money in order to spare us the embarrassment (yeah, I was wrong there too), this team tripped into September as an annoying curiosity. I was pissed that Mo traded Rasmus in a win now move for a club unlikely to win anything at all, in the weeks that followed failed to see I’ll Buy A Vowel record a high leverage hold, and I was convinced that if all else went right the middle infielders would do us wrong.

Thus, you can imagine my surprise when the Cardinals stormed into the playoffs – for my money, the final night of the regular season was the most exciting of the season spare World Series game 6 – and I stumbled through October in something of a daze.

I gave the Cardinals a 25% chance to defeat Philadelphia, only to see them come from behind to defeat a team that won more games in the regular season than the Cardinals won total. I am terrified of Roy Halladay and gave them a 20% chance to win game 5, so you can imagine my surprise when I finished a Kupenda meeting only to find the Cardinals in the same position they were after the first – leading 1-0. I still have not seen that game, so it is still standing – scantily clad in torn Carpenter jersey – before me, far more eagerly expected than Christmas.

After the way the Cardinals played the Brewers in August and September, I knew we had a shot at winning the LCS. However, after a tarp machine failed to fulfill my request to swallow Morgan, and we were obliterated by Braun and Prince in a high scoring game 1, I certainly had my doubts. Fortunately our stupid rally squirrel bested their even stupider beast mode to win us a ticket to the big event.

By the time the World Series arrived I was so mystified by the Cardinals run that I felt almost overwhelmed during the games. Although assisted by Twitter – which as someone said is “the best sports bar in the world” during the World Series – I didn’t even realize how stupid it was to let I’ll Buy A Vowel face Napoli in game 5. However, I wasn’t so brain dead that I didn’t simultaneously realize that it would be stupid to put Craig in motion in front of Pujols and predict that the Cardinals would do just that. When we headed back to St. Louis down 3-2 I wasn’t all that upset, since I never expected the Cardinals would come this far anyway.

As I mentioned elsewhere and earlier, the last two games reminded me why I invest so much life in the ups and downs of the soap opera that we call the St. Louis Cardinals. I invest because the potential payoff is ecstasy. Watching your team grind through 162 games and prevail over serious playoff competition and random debilitating chance to win the World Series is sublime.

For that reason, I physically trembled when the Cardinals outdid the 1986 Mets by surviving their last strike not once, but twice. When Freese finished the game with a laser to dead center I (virtually) joined the jump pile in my living room. Then, on Friday night, I got to do what I had been longing to do from the start of the Rangers series. I went downstairs shortly before the top of the ninth, woke up Preston, and took him upstairs to celebrate the World Series with me a and a few friends.

Dreaming to celebrate the World Series with your kid, who is almost exactly the same age that you were when the Cardinals beat down Harvey’s Wallbangers in 1982, can kill you. When the walls collapse on those dreams, as they almost always do, you are blinded by Bart Giammatti’s admonition that baseball “breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart,” and wonder how you forgot that wisdom along the 162 game way.

Fortunately that did not happen this year. The Cardinals won it and in less than 50 minutes the Clydesdales are going to clop and tape is going to ticker through the St. Louis streets. Although I couldn’t get to the Lou, my heart will certainly be oriented in that direction and I’ll be following online alongside of Lydian, the kid I hope to wake up next time.

One of my friends says that I get downright bi-polar about the Cardinals. I don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was so. What I do know is that when the Cardinals win, especially in as unlikely a way as they did this year, the world feels more alive than it does most other times.

Maybe that’s a mark of my superficiality. I don’t know. In all honesty, I don’t even care. However, I’m going to keep reading Primal Leadership – actually just went back to recheck it when I had to take a crying and screaming break just a few moments ago – and hoping that someday the ecstasy and emotions of the Cardinals seasons (especially ’82, ’06, & ’11) take up residence in other rooms of my life.


Random Reflections on 11 Years in Ministry

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

I almost started by saying, “ten years in, where to begin?” then it hit me. I’ve been in New England eleven years and that’s a really lame rhyme.

Here are some disconnected strands and fragments of ideas that are ricocheting through my heart and mind as I look back on eleven years of ministry and start this sort of fearless ministry inventory.

1. I felt at home in New England almost the moment the decrepit Lincoln Christian College bus rolled in during “Week of Evangelism” 1997. My connection to this place and these peculiar people has yet to abate and I suspect, hope, dream that they never will.

2. Although I’d like to report otherwise, I haven’t been able to sustain a partnership with the Christian Church, Church of Christ (CCOC) tradition of my youth out in this area. If you’ve read or spoken with me before, this is not news. However, what I’ve realized the past few days is that over the past eight years or I have not only experienced a growing disassociation from the CCOC, Restoration House Ministries, Danny Clymer and the like, but have also experienced some degree of growing disassociation from evangelicalism as a whole. As much as I would like to lay the blame for my disassociation from tradition at someone like Clymer’s feet, I’ve also worked with other young evangelical leaders in the area who are no longer interested in or do not think they can sustain a collaborative relationship with me. I’m neither angry with nor bitter about any of my former colleagues in the latter group, but am simply observing what appears to be reality.

3. In regards to evangelicalism, it seems to me like there is a rapidly growing split between neo-fundamentalist evangelicals – especially of the Calvinist stripe – and evangelicals who are open to the evolution of their theology and unexpected new relationships/missional engagement with our incredibly pluralist society. The first person I heard talk about this shift was Dr. David Wells at Gordon-Conwell in the early aughts. He openly admitted that he embraced a foundationalist theology, could probably be characterized as a fundamentalist, and wasn’t sure that non-Calvinists should be considered evangelicals. In later conversations with friends like Jenny Wise, he distinguished evangelicals who looked at theology and practice as a foundation with those who looked at theology and practice as a journey. I am a part of the latter group along with others – many of whom would self-identify with or would have sympathy with the Emergent Conversation. Dr. Wells clearly sees himself as part of the former group and is part of what appears to be a rapidly growing neo-Calvinist movement within evangelicalism. This latter movement – which includes a number of people I deeply value, whose ministries I treasure, and am honored to work beside – appears to be generating a significant amount of growth in white and Korean American Evangelicalism. The rapid growth of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Churches as well as the associated Acts 29 church planting movement is, in my mind anyway, paradigmatic of this growing neo-Calvinist movement. Unfortunately, it seems to me that there is rapidly growing differentiation – as well as often a rather startling lack of charity – between the foundation evangelicals and the journey evangelicals. I suspect that as the foundation evangelicals take even stronger positions of leadership within large denominations and quasi-denominations such as the Southern Baptist Conventions, fewer and fewer of the journey folk will speak of themselves as evangelicals. Although I still speak of myself as an evangelical, I think the latter migration is happening already and I have decidedly mixed feelings about it.

4. All that being said, I think Soong-Chan Rah – see The Next Evangelicalism – and the great folks at the Emmanuel Gospel Center are right in suggesting that the first and second generation immigrant churches are the new strength of American Protestantism and Evangelicalism. We’ve only begun to see how globalized Christianity is going to reshape our understanding and practice of the faith. I’m generally excited about this process, though a little nervous about the potential of the continuing growth of patriarchal theology and practice within the church (you can substitute complementarianism for patriarchal if you so choose).

5. I have started to understand my faith much more in light of practice than I do in terms of a fixed theology. I think the reasons for this shift are my natural emphasis – though sadly inconsistent practice of! – on prayer, my family’s current location within an Episcopal parish, my understanding of preaching as a spiritual practice, and other unknown factors. I am becoming quite comfortable with a life of faith characterized by vibrant Christian practice and an evolving theology. I realize that a lot of people would not be comfortable with that and I’m ok with it.

6. I served in the altar party – as a crucifer – for the first time this past week. Before the service a priest asked me if I was going to pursue priesthood. My immediate, indeterminate response was that I was “not going to stay out of the pulpit forever.” I think that response reflected both my CCOC roots as well as my intended if murky trajectory.

Okay, that’s it. I gave myself 45 minutes to write and I’m going to post with minimal editing. Please keep that in mind if/when you comment. Of course you’re free to question, challenge, or harrumph anything you like.

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