Pacific Northwest Potlatch of Particulars

PotlatchThe longest running tradition in the Pacific Northwest is that of people coming together to share their resources at a potlatch.  The abundance of the region called us to share generously.  Everyone had enough and everyone had something to share.  The potlatch grew out of this soil from the initial immigrants by ice.

The Pacific Northwest is an abundant region and we should generously share.  This is a place where everyone can be assured of enough.  We live in a land of plenty.

Subsequent immigrants by wagon crossed the Rockies and Psalm 65.11 echoed, “Your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.”  Legend says that the salmon flows in the Pacific Northwest were “so thick you could walk across the rivers on their backs.”  This is certainly a geography where the paths, and rivers, “drip with fatness.”

I was recently part of a potlatch. This was a potlatch of the mind, not the stomach.  Leaders in the work of global reconciliation, aid and relief met for a day to share from our abundance.  We had our Starbucks, but beyond that we came to share in this off-the-record, energizing conversation summarized as an “innovation lab.”

During this time, I lead the group in a morning discussion on the Unique Idiosyncrasies of the Pacific Northwest.  Here are a few of the distinctives that filled the white board…

  • Outdoor
  • Self-Reliant
  • Tolerant – Live and Let Live
  • Informal
  • Love for animals
  • Environment
  • Non-Conformity is cool
  • Two worlds in one.
  • Spiritual
  • Diversity is highly valued
  • Innovation
  • Seattle Freeze

The last one stings.  This is not who we truly are as a region.  The Seattle Freeze, where people are very kind but really don’t allow you into their life, has developed recently.  Almost everyone in Washington comes from someplace else.  The population has exploded and 80% of the people live along a very narrow passageway called I-5.  Most of us have landed in this small space as are a part of a series of immigrations:

  • 2010s: Tech/Job/Innovation Migration
  • 1990s: California Real Estate Migration
  • 1960s: Lutheran Migration (Montana, Dakotas, Minnesota)

With each of these migrations we have become more removed from the potlatch nature of this place.  We don’t know each other.  Our families are elsewhere.  We don’t have roots.  We aren’t truly tied to the place.  We’re nice.  We are welcoming.  We freeze.  “Lets grab coffee sometime.”

This is partially a part of our self-reliant nature.  Shoot, we provide power, planes, shopping, software, timber and tech for much of the world.  Even our famous Top Pot Donuts are “hand-forged.”  We aren’t going to leave them up to just bounce around in some oil.

Part two of this blog post will be posted on Monday, April 3, 2017.  Look for “Potlatch Part II.” 


Everyday Crazy Goods

It was a week ago today that I posted a prayer shared by a friend, “God, do something crazy good today.”  There was a strong response on the Facebook…”Everyday,” “Please God,” “He did,” “Love it,” “Perspective,” “I’m going to try this too.”

Was there a strong response from God?  Well, I didn’t win the lottery.  I had to go to work.  I’m still 20 pounds overweight.  If you look at the general state of my life today before I started this new daily ritual, the conclusion would probably be, “No.”

The Crazy Good that God offered this week wasn’t in the ease of my life, size of my bank account or physical physique.

With each daily prayer the answer has come in significant conversations and deeper relationships.  It was found in a…

  • breakfast with a former co-worker, hearing his vision for a new business venture,
  • former Young Life kid, approaching their 25th high school reunion, and talking to Brenda and I about their marriage,
  • watching one son encourage another with a smile and “atta boy,”
  • long phone call with a childhood friend on vacation in the sun,Brenda Brunch 2
  • conversation with a business owner, just met during a breakfast meeting,
  • Saturday spent away from home with Brenda on a long-walk, Bloody Mary’s, brunch and a nap.

When I pray, “God, do crazy good today,” I can assure you that this is not the unanswered vignettes that rest in the back of my brain.  In today’s My Utmost for His Highest entry, Oswald Chambers wrote, life can become “a spiritual acrobatic performance high atop a steeple.”  It is in this precarious position that we cannot operate freely responding to His leading.  Instead we “cling to it, trying to maintain your balance and daring not to move.”

God didn’t put me in a precarious position.  He placed me in relationships, where I can move naturally and with His grace.

I wouldn’t mind a lottery win.  I have a mentor who buys one lottery ticket each week, just so “God can move, if He so chooses.”  Until then, lets keep looking at the people that God puts right in front of us and find the Crazy Good in those conversations.

Notes from C3 Forum Leaders Retreat

This weekend I attended the C3 Forum Leaders Retreat at Alderbrook Resort with a number of good friends.  Here are a few notes from the time. These aren’t all of my notes but the notes of note, if you will.  Those in italics were even more significant to me.  I hope you find them helpful and encouraging.

Cary Summers, Museum of the Bible

God has put things/callings into you, but you are just not getting to it.

Who will go for me? – Isaiah 6:8

When God speaks the next thing we say or do is our answer.

  • This will determine the course of your life forever
  • Living in His manifest of His presence.
  • Live in the manifest of His presence.
  • All of us will have to answer.  There is no out, you must answer.

Your calling will involved a “customer”

Run to the goal line and die doing it – A statement against retirement.

“It will be a hoot and a holler” – Dolly Parton

Nehemiah made himself available.

  • Are you in God’s deal?
  • When you are in God’s deal, the rules (math, time, everything) change.

God do something crazy good today – Cary’s daily prayer.

  • God is going to do it
  • If you are willing to submit to Him
  • You can’t explain these moves

Sticking to the Vision – the following timeline of challenges will roll out…

  1. It will start by being Opposed.
  2. Then there will be Mocking.
  3. Conspiracy.
  4. Discouragement will set in.  Know this, God is not a God of discouragement.  He is a God of encouragement.  If you are discouraged, that is from elsewhere.  It is not from God.
  5. Scare Tactics will happen.
  6. Internal Strife.
  7. Hidden Agendas will develop.
  8. Diversion.
  9. Slander
  10. The last step is Compromise — What will be compromised…
    • Finances
    • Worship
    • Relationships

Engage Great People.

God puts the “steel” in you when it is just the two of you together.

If your vision is right, God will use you to touch others hearts.

We are running 100 miles an hour to get to the starting line.

Quality Negotiation

  • Negotiate with your shoes off.  Enter their culture and honor them in the process.
  • Don’t have a McDonald’s philosophy.  Good negotiation takes years and years of drinking coffee.  It’s not a “grab-and-go” drive-thru kind of deal.

Three Key Principles to Success

  • Hire good people and trust them
  • It’s not about us, it all about God.
  • “I wrote the last chapter,” God.


David Gibbons, Pastor/Artist/Consultant

God is doing something new.

Are we sleeping while awake?

Pain Continuim

  1. We try to cover our pain
  2. Then, as we progress, we Confess our pain
  3. We learn to Embrace our pain/brokenness
  4. The pain can become a Guide – The primary determination of our purpose is our pain – suffering.
  5. It can become a gift. – Most of us won’t get close to God without pain.

Stages of Innovation

  1. Echo – Like a child repeating words to learn.
  2. Experimentation
  3. Emergence – Where we find the essence.
  4. Entropy – It’s bare, simple and there is a lac of order.
  5. Elixir – We finally find the “magic” and this can sustain the innovation for life.
  6. Elegance – We need to learn to dance in the now, enjoying the creation.
  7. Exponential – Growing.

Don’t pick your box too small because you are going to live in it.

The church can create a vortex within it’s building that just keeps pulling it’s people to the center of the building rather than sending them out to the world.

Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing.

Do you know who you are?

The main movement in life is from illusions to reality – Parker Palmer

If you start relating to the people, God will show you the person, the one.

The first face I’m going to see is Jesus – teenage blind girl.


You are called.  You are your calling.

I can feel like a carrier pigeon.  I carry the message but it’s not for me.

March Report

Humility – Measurement – Presentation – Denver

This is my third monthly report. These brief monthly reports are to encourage your faith, expand your heart for the poor and oppressed and give you unique insights into the ministry of World Concern. If you’ve found these briefs helpful and you’d like to continue receiving them, please enroll by clicking here. Join me on this journey.

My hope is to serve you through these reports. Jesus says, “I am the one among you who serves.” Paul calls followers of Jesus, “bondservants” and writes, “I know how to be abased.” Humility. It’s more than our charge or even a way of life, it is a mindset. It is a way of being in our world.

How can you serve someone today? Not just the barista or your boss, but the challenging family member or capricious friend. It’s a new week. Start a simple, supplicatory step. Serve someone.

transformation-discMeasuring Transformation. This last month we at World Concern spent time talking in-depth about how we serve. How do we measure transformation, changed lives? This was the focus of a three-day discussion by mission leaders. The task of putting in a well or providing financing to a business are cut and direct. The well provides water. The business provides income. It works and we know it works.

When it comes to a life transformed, the measurement doesn’t fill a bucket or pocketbook. How do we know when a life, home or community is truly transformed? Even more so, how do we get our arms around spiritual transformation? This was the focus of our discussion.

Katie Toop, World Concern’s Director of Transformation Development, did a fantastic job of leading the time. She left space for disagreements and discussion, but kept us moving towards answers. Katie is an amazing teacher with extensive experience. At the end of three days we had developed clarity around measurements. These measurements took seriously the difficulty of calculating in our isolated locations and among the various cultural, ethnic and religious identities we serve.

I’m thankful to work for an organization that serves the poor, marginalized and oppressed of the world. And I’m proud that World Concern takes equally as serious the spiritual development of the people they serve.

Monday Discussion. Most of you will be reading this email on Monday morning. Well, Monday morning I will be participating with other aid and relief leaders in a panel discussion of how Christian relief and development agencies might better embody religious freedom/reconciliation in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a powerful group and I’m honored to be a part. In addition, I’ll be leading a discussion on being a Christian NGO amidst the unique idiosyncrasies of the Pacific Northwest. I’d appreciate your prayers for me. Thanks.

New Mexico Report and Colorado Next. Thanks of you that prayed for my meetings with World Concern donors in New Mexico. I met with some retired folks and also business owners. The food in New Mexico is amazing but the real highlight was sharing life with these generous people. Later this month I’ll be heading to Colorado. We’ll be having a house party in South Denver with World Concern President Jacinta Tegman. I’ll also be meeting with giving partners. I’d appreciate your prayers for that trip.

Thanks again for your support of World Concern. Remember, if you want to continue to receive this simple month enewsletter register by clicking here. I look forward to “seeing” you next month.