Project Update ~ Book-writing as Marathon

In a conversation about my book project that I had with a long-time friend (40+ years!), it suddenly struck me that marathons are 26+ miles and I started the research for this 26+ years ago. The project has morphed countless times since 1990, but has been on a solid trajectory the past few years.

As I go into editing the next set of chapters, *The Big Prayer* I have is that the Lord will use this to make a difference in people’s lives. The first set of chapters were the core concepts, now the application stuff starts rolling!

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten many bits and pieces for the bibliography section done, along with the framework for a related resources/media materials website, and typed up another one-inch stack of notes. Progress, slow but steady, and it really does add up over time.

Also, the more I review the source materials — the more struck I am by what a providential set of case studies I was led to over a long period of time. The major ones run the gamut from Young Adult Literature series (Divergent, Harry Potter, The Selection, The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, X-Men), to Holocaust and Apartheid studies, to the Band Aid/Live Aid and Make Poverty History charities. As a set, it deals with all the essentials I think are involved when it comes to “Do Good Plus Do No Harm.” It incorporates basic discernment principles and practical application tools about:

  • Healthy versus toxic leaders and organizational systems.
  • Freedom versus control tactics.
  • Responsibility for the traumas of abuse, recovery and advocacy for survivors of abuse, and activism to challenge or change abusive systems.
  • How we can transform organizations for the better.
  • How to look at what next generations experience from the legacies we leave.

And all of them together reinforce the “big idea” of dealing with this as a system where all these elements are interconnected.

So, I keep plugging along, as best I can. Tenacity is the name of the game — especially in a marathon!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities ~ 10 Trend Projections and Predictions for 2016-2020

Since 2008, I’ve been writing about different dynamics in the abuse of power, especially in religious institutions. Every year or so since 2012, I’ve taken some time out to note what I see as possible trends within spiritual abuse survivor communities. (I use communities – plural – because there are theological, denominational, and cultural differences among them, despite the common ground of surviving spiritual abuse.) What’s mostly been on my radar are trends in networking, resourcing, legal issues, and where and how spiritual abuse shows up across the theological spectrum. This year, my list turned out differently. Continue reading

Project Updates for December

I just finished writing an update on my Do Good Plus Do No Harm project, and realized I hadn’t posted the previous one here, only on my Facebook page. So, here’s catching up with the news.

Early December Update

Significant progress the past few weeks on the workbook and overall project.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my God-given design is to write encyclopedias. (Some here probably realized that way before I did.) However, the calling for this book project has also clearly been to create a scaled-back “field guide.” So, throughout the production of this training course, I’ve had some major issues to figure out:

(1) How large the various pieces should be in the book versus workbook sections.

(2) How to fit different elements — text, images, case studies, “lab work” exercises — together in a way that makes sense and isn’t overwhelming.

(3) How to balance the needs of two interconnected audiences: survivors of various kinds of organizational power abuse, and different types of organizational developers.

(4) How to keep it a reasonable length, and make the language practical and accessible instead of too academic.

The combination of answers has eluded me for years. But — good news — it seems I’ve leaped over that last pothole in this steeplechase at last! The issue of the workbook was the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place, I feel like I *finally* have a workable format.

After a couple weeks focusing on the workbook, I spent a whole week getting files and folders for that framework ready, and now I’m in the process of pasting *hundreds* of pieces into their slot to get them ready for a final editing.

I’m feeling encouraged and even more a bit more energized than usual. And it’s getting exciting to know the finish line is very close!

Meanwhile, thanks again to everyone for your encouragement and support, and hope you all have a meaningful Advent season …

Mid-December Update

This has been a low-key day of multi-tasking on odds and ends, much needed after a number of high-intensity weeks on the book project and eBay sales listings. I’ve often said that most writing/editing days are like taking two college essay exam finals. It just takes time to recuperate mentally. But this project has been like two essay finals a day, four days a week, 50 weeks a year, seven years. Hence, need to steward energy well by taking down time regularly.

So, to chill out, today I’ve been copying and pasting notes into the right file for the chapter it fits with. While watching the X-Men movie series. Which I’ve seen a kazillion times, more or less, so I can fade in and out on them and not exactly lose the plot line. And it keeps these characters in mind, which is good since I’m using X-Men as a case study in opposing teams where one has a mission for the “common good” (led by Professor Xavier) and the other has a mission for the “greater good” (led by Magneto). Lots to material to compare/contrast in that case study, and apply to contemporary situations …

Meanwhile, the files and folders are set up for chugging through editing together the rest of the chapters. I’ve gotten the 200+ films I reference categorized and shelved. Most of the 8 to 10 boxes of books I might refer to are reorganized. So, it’s doing whatever tasks I can on a given day to persevere and make progress toward the finish line. And today, it’s fighting off fatigue by multi-tasking with the X-Men.

Hope you have a great rest of the year and a super start to 2016!

2016 — the year this project gets finished and printed, Lord willing! And thanks for your prayers along the way …

GoFundMe Campaign and Great News on Project Progress!

GREAT NEWS — hopefully I have just one last blast before I reach the finish line on volumes #1 and #2 of my 3-volume training curriculum!

Thankfully, it’s been a very productive last couple of weeks. I got my promotional website launched for this Futuristguy’s Field Guides curriculum project. I’ve also planned out the related media pages for movies, books, and other media I use as illustrations and workbook exercises. (I’ll finish those while the books are being proofread.) And I’ve gotten dozens of pages of notes typed up and ready to paste into place.

Plus, I finally got the majority of outlining on the workbooks done for all three volumes. This was a crucial step, because the many workbook sections need to feel connected. And I recently got some great constructive questions and positive feedback from the kinds of people I hope will use this material. That shows me I’m on the right track, and I’m feeling more settled than ever on the approach of tackling both what TO do, and what NOT to do in existing organizations and start-ups to deal with abuse or prevent it.

So, looks pretty much like a straight and steady drive from here! To which I say, “Huzzah! Hoorah! Hooray!”

I could even be done with volume #1 in a few weeks, and with volume #2 in a few months, and then ready for press soon after that. That’s because some financial support has come in, thanks to my friend Dee Parsons at The Wartburg Watch. She set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover 3 months of writing time and the pre-printing expenses for these first two volumes. (It’s about $1,000 for ISBNs, licenses for about 300 images and cover art, etc.) She and Julie Anne Smith from Spiritual Sounding Board are promoting it on their blogs. You might find their posts, my completion plans, and other people’s comments of interest. Here are the links to The Wartburg Watch post, and the Spiritual Sounding Board post.

If you feel led to help out financially and/or pray, great! If not or you can’t, no worries. So many of you have given in various ways along the way — please know I’m grateful for your encouragement, prayers, and supportiveness. This turned out to be a 7-year project, and I know I wouldn’t be this close to done with it, without my network of friends. Biggest prayer needs for next few months are: perseverance, not getting sick, and funds to get finished.

So — there it is. Hope that my next report can be that book #1 is d-o-n-e DONE!

~ Brad

Tributes for Two Teachers ~ Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2015

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Over the years, I’ve come to see how similar many of the underlying dynamics and tactics are between domestic violence and abuse of power in religious contexts – the grooming, verbal assaults, emotional manipulations, implanting of lies, quenching of hope.

My awareness about survivors of domestic violence began earlier than my understanding of spiritual abuse. It started 40 years ago with what I learned from my sister, Romae [pronounced like row + MAY], who had friends who were survivors of domestic violence. She stepped into roles of support, advocacy, and activism, and taught me all along the way.

Then, 10 years later, I helped “Janet” – one of my own friends who was a survivor – edit the story of her experiences. I recently got in touch with Janet, to thank her for making a difference in my life by sharing her story with me.

Both my sister and Janet brought light into dark places to the people around them. Their role-modeling of advocacy and activism helped me learn how to come alongside those who were lurking in the shadows, or emerging from them, and offer them whatever support I could. In honor of Romae and Janet, I decided to share two short pieces I’d written. Part of the tribute to my sister is from the obituary I wrote for her memorial service. The piece about Janet I edited from a comment I posted earlier this year on David Hayward’s post about “Abuse and the Privileges of Power.” Continue reading

Check Out My “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” Curriculum Website

Do Good Plus Do No Harm Masthead 2

Do Good Plus Do No Harm ~ Cover art, “Pathway of Peace” ~ Original quilt design and production by Sonja Naylor Andrews, image used by permission.

It took a while, but I completed the website that details my forthcoming Futuristguy’s Field Guide training series, and overviews future Opal Design System resources. I had to finish editing samples from the curriculum, and upload the many images that illustrate the material. But, I’m delighted with the results, especially the images and the samples!

“Laundry Day” and Mental Models is one of my favorite sample articles … and I’m liking how the media case study “Master Class” on Dolores Umbridge turned out.

The three books in the training curriculum of Do Good Plus Do No Harm have been in the making since 2009, and if all goes well, at least the first two volumes will be available in 2016.

Check it out and see what you think …


If I Could Only Have 25 Books in My Ministry Library …

A friend of mine was interested in my take on a recent post by Thom Rainer, What If I Could Only Have 25 books in My Minister’s Library? I compiled my list and short descriptions of reasons for each of my selections before I looked at his list, to see how they compared.

Like Mr. Rainer, my list encompasses a range of topics and issues, and reflects my personal preferences. However, his list was what I suspected it would be: 25 books for a scholarly theologian. I guess that is how he interprets being a “minister” – some who emphasizes academic studies, exegetical research, and preaching/teaching. Certainly, there’s a role for a resource list like his. However, there was very little on his list that was directly about praxeology – practical ministry frameworks and methods – just a few titles on evangelism and church. And while his theological studies may “minister” biblical answers to people, it doesn’t seem to me it does much for the apprehension of people’s personal and social questions first, if at all.

I consider myself a ministry practitioner. I’ve been involved primarily with recovery ministries, social enterprise and church start-ups, and advocacy for survivors of spiritual abuse. So, I’m more interested in making sure I listen carefully and “get it” about actual questions, and then search the Bible for concept frameworks and practical applications as answers. My experience is that answers not matched to questions tend not to connect for people, but can pressure them to conform for wrong reasons. Also, I’ve found in my research on toxic systems and spiritual abuse that if you have supposedly sound theology but have a deficient praxeology, you tend not to be a minister who empowers hope, but end up a malignancy waiting to happen. So, I start with questions to explore, not answers to impose. My list intuitively leaned toward cultural systems and their specific underlying worldview paradigms, where Mr. Rainer’s understandably leaned toward systematic theology and books on specialist disciplines.

That said, maybe my strategy for choosing these books is more important than the final selections. In my opinion, robust ministries call for us to be generalists, conversant in multiple domains and disciplines, so we have raw materials from which to synthesize trustworthy ministries. Continue reading