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Arlen Vernava

Recent Posts

Vocation: Imperfectly Lived but Perfectly Sought

Posted by Arlen Vernava on August 29, 2012

Where are you?  This is one of the great questions of all time....  Where am I?  Where am I in relation to God, to myself, and to others?  These are the basic questions of human life.”  

Thomas Keating, Cistercian monk and seminal practitioner of Centering Prayer, opened his 1997 The Harold M. Wit Lectures at Harvard Divinity School with the question, “Where are you?” and rhetorically, “Where am I?”  Although his lecture focussed on the individual in relationship, organization and community are well served also, for these two questions invite vocational exploration:  where are you called?  Where am I summoned?

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Topics: deep dive

Nothing New: Adaptive Organizational Change!

Posted by Arlen Vernava on July 29, 2012

"By the 1840's, the structure of the American Jewish community ... had produced a religious revolution that overthrew the synagogue-communities and replaced a monolithic Judaism with one that was much more democratic, free, diverse, and competitive."  (American Judaism, Jonathan D. Sarna, pg 61)

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Topics: faith-based community

Songgaar & Burungaar: Tuvan wisdom for interim time

Posted by Arlen Vernava on July 9, 2012

The Tuvan language of Russia, writes Russ Rymer in the July 2012 National Geographic, “believe the past is ahead of them while the future lies behind...children look to the future, but it’s behind them, not yet seen.”   The word “songgaar” means both “go back / the future;”  the word “burungaar” means “go forward / the past.”

Songgaar and burungaar freshly express the push and pull of interim time while inviting an emotional/adaptive template for living through transition.  Consider:  Leaders and institution commit to “the future.”  They say they value “go(ing) forward.” They say "we will hold onto the best from the past, we will go back to reclaim best practices."  Yet the usual transition arc often gets stuck at change, stifling transition's emotional and adaptive process. Songgaar and burundaar become sets of “polarities” and “opposites.”  So what do you do when every stakeholder's words boldly profess "change" while their action announces otherwise?  How do you "hold" some who reside in the future with others living in the past while a few go back and a handful go forward?

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Topics: deep dive

All life lives off-balance - I've got you … hooray!

Posted by Arlen Vernava on March 26, 2012
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Topics: reflections

Sounds Like Transition Work?

Posted by Arlen Vernava on February 28, 2012

“One of the things that I’m constantly obsessed with is trying to get just the feeling of the balance between the right hand and the left hand and make it feel good.”

(Aaron Diehl, stride pianist and the 2011 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz) 

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Topics: faith-based community

Feeling provoked (in a good way)? Hope so!

Posted by Arlen Vernava on February 7, 2012


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Topics: deep dive

Your Good News: Buggy whips or Steering wheels?

Posted by Arlen Vernava on January 17, 2012

I drive a car with 225,000 miles under the hood and Mazda’s bones are feeling achy.  Here’s my conundrum.  Mazda:  faithful, dependable, (hasn’t missed a day since we met in 1997 except for regular maintenance), economical, safe and in it’s younger days, energetically fun.  Sadly, Mazda has less and less “get up and go,” blah curb appeal, noisy, and likes to drive in it’s own ruts (so to speak).  New tires, windshield wipers and a tune up?  Necessary, but they do not make for a 21st century Mazda.  My biggest fear?  One morning Mazda will start, then stop for the last time and I’ll have no sensible transportation plan.  What to do?  What to do?!  

If you are a leader in a congregation or organization with 225,000 miles on her, you have exclaimed:  What to do?  What to do?!  Memories, experiences, relationships.  Success, defeat, ecstatic joy, knee buckling sorrow.  You have been around the block with people and a “product” that matters to you.  New copy machine, steam-cleaned carpets and a revamped training program?  Necessary, but regular maintenance may not make for a vitally relevant “now.” And though “decline” often measures in decades, not years (for long established congregations and organizations), that day will arrive.  What to do?!  Consider...

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Topics: business, faith-based community

Just My Type: The Vision Thing

Posted by Arlen Vernava on January 10, 2012

Just My Type, a wonderfully inventive jaunt through the history and current use of fonts, really understands the vision thing, and I mean that both literally and figuratively.  Fonts are everywhere.  Write a vision statement:  font.  Express a vision statement in such a way that passer-byes look twice, stop and say, "I want some of that": a font that works really well. A vision statement that goes viral?  A font by only one name:  the vision statement!

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Topics: faith-based community

"On the first day of Christmas, my Intentional Interim gave to me..."

Posted by Arlen Vernava on December 20, 2011


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Topics: faith-based community

Give and you shall receive? Yes to generosity & sacrifice!

Posted by Arlen Vernava on December 13, 2011

Give and You Shall Receive? Generosity, Sacrifice, and Marital Quality  

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Topics: nonprofit, faith-based community