Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Giveaway

Pastor, popular blogger, and introvert Ron Edmondson is giving away three copies of Introverts in the Church on his blog today.  He's also written some helpful posts about thriving in ministry as an introvert, which he links to on the giveaway post.  Check it out!

Introverts in the Church Giveaway

Monday, August 23, 2010

Top 10 Rejected Titles

Continuing my re-posting of my favorite blogs from the last couple of years...

Top 10 Rejected Titles for Introverts in the Church:

10. The Purpose Driven Introvert
9. Introverts in the Shack
8. Girl Meets Introvert, and Keeps Looking
7. Eat Pray Introvert
6. I Kissed Introverts Goodbye
5. Good to Introvert
4. Blue Like Introverts
3. Three Cups of Tea...By Myself
2. The Life You've Never Wanted
1. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow You Will be Killed with the Rest of the Introverts

Some Alternates:
The Secret of Introverts
If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Step on an Introvert
One commentor's suggestion: Left Behind...And Happy About It

Monday, August 16, 2010

Phases of Writing Redux

This month I'm re-posting some of my favorite blogs from the last couple of years.  Here's one that gives a glimpse into the mind of a writer (it's a scary place), posted originally in July 2008:

Phases of Writing

Writing a book is like giving birth to a snarling 8 headed monster. It's so much more than sitting down in front of your laptop and typing. It's more like a war, as your own words and ideas battle you and each other. In writing your hopes, dreams, fears and inadequacies are exposed. You learn what it is you most want in life and how incompetent you are to actually achieve it.
I've written seven and a half chapters in Introverts in the Church now, and I've identified some patterns in the process, some phases that I invariably go through:
1. The "Aha" phase. This is the phase of researching, thinking, and interviewing. This is the phase of discovery, as I begin to see things I had not seen before. I have great synergistic moments as I talk with others and we find that we share thoughts, experiences, and hopes. I'll be reading a book and a sentence or a concept will practically shout out to me. I'll begin to believe that I have valuable things to say and that others will be interested.
2. The "Pulitzer Prize" phase. This is the phase of conceptualizing, organizing, and outlining. Inevitably I get here and my ego tries to leap out of my body and make itself known. Here I become convinced that my ideas are brilliant and my writing is profound. No one has ever written a book this sublime. Stephen Hawking will read my book and say "Why didn't I think of that?!"
3. The "Total Incompetence" phase. This one follows about ten minutes on the heels of the Pulitzer Prize phase. I'll encounter the first obstacle in writing my chapter and my ego will not only find its way back into my body but shrink to 1/8th its normal size. This is where I will question everything I've ever known about the world and myself, including why in the world I thought I could write a book. This is where the dark scenarios creep in and I'll imagine my manuscript sitting in my editor's trash can, the smoke still floating off the singed pages. Or someone going to review my book and being unable to do so because the astonished tears of laughter keep him from being able to see straight.
4. The "Complete Disorientation" phase. Once I power through stage 3 and finish a draft of my chapter, I go to read it over and immediately move into this phase. My first draft tends to be very rough and practically stream of consciousness writing. If I don't know where something should go, I'll just write it anyway. So it feels like a bunch of random paragraphs that have no organic relationship to anything that comes before them or after. My head will be spinning as I try to read it over. This is the phase where I find myself cleaning my apartment a lot - my manuscript may be a mess, but dammit, my writing space will be clean!
5. The "It doesn't totally suck" phase. After rewriting several times, I get to a point where I think that maybe there are a few nuggets of insight in here and maybe a few people will actually want to read it. There is a small measure of contentment and sense of accomplishment here. Then, it's back to step one.

On that note, I'm entertaining this book title:

It Doesn't Totally Suck

by Adam S. McHugh

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Matter of Motivation Redux

I'm working on a few projects right now - an article for Relevant Magazine, a book proposal, a retreat I'm leading - and so for the rest of August I'm going to be re-posting some of my favorite blogs from the past.

I'm going to start with the post that has received more hits than any other.

A Matter of Motivation

The defining feature of introversion is where you find your energy; introverts, even though we may enjoy social interaction, even though we may really like people and be socially confident and skilled, lose energy in the outside world. We retreat into solitude in order to be restored.

But as I have continued to learn more about introversion, I have also come to see that there is a motivation factor for many of us. Introverts have rich inner lives and we can spend hours in our worlds of impressions, thoughts, reflections, and in the other dimensions of our inner life. From a neurological point of view, introverts have more brain activity and brain blood flow than extroverts, and we have less tolerance for the dopamine that is released from social interactions and activity. So in many cases it actually may be more pleasurable - in terms of the good feelings released in the brain - for us to be alone or at home than it is for us to be at a party or a church activity. In other words, we are more motivated to be alone than to be in a crowd. It's not that we don't like people or are anti-social or standoffish, it's that it actually feels better for us to be alone sometimes.  Reading a book on a Friday night may feel better than a night out with friends, especially when we have spent the week in a socially charged atmosphere at work. In that case, it's not that we are choosing out of something, it's that we are choosing, joyfully and purposely, another activity. 

Often, in Christian circles, we idealize those people that have a "passion" for community.  Those people who constantly want to be around other people and who love organizing and mobilizing social events are often considered those people who have the most "love" for people, and by derivation, God.  And, let's be clear, those people are absolutely indispensable for the formation of relationships in a community.  Those churches that don't have those people suffer because of it.  At the same time, let's also acknowledge that there is more than "love for people" that is happening here. For those social galvanizers, it feels good to be around people and to see people connect with one another. They are thriving on the dopamine that is released in their brain from those experiences.  And that's how God intended it for them.

Love for God's people does not have to look for everyone like an overt, uncontainable passion for being with others. Love, as we know from the scriptures, is self-sacrificial, in which we lay down our rights and place the good of others ahead of our own. Thus, it can be a great display of love for those of us who relish our inner worlds, to lay those things down sometimes and be present with others, when we might otherwise prefer to be alone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Conversations with the Saints

I thought I would re-print my article for Patheos.com's "Future of Evangelicalism" series.  The title is "Conversations with the Saints."

I've threatened to quit evangelicalism a lot. Over the years I have stood in the evangelical unemployment line on many occasions, but somehow I have never made it to the front to pick up my heretic's severance pay.

Every time I have resolved to leave, I have encountered other evangelicals who are asking the same questions that I am. Well, to be more honest, my disenchantment and my questions haven't always been thoroughly formed. I have experienced a groaning in my soul that something isn't quite right, that some significant piece is missing, and others have helped me put words and questions to those rumblings.

In the past, teachers have helped me express my frustration over the often overly-narrow and party-specific political agenda of evangelicalism. At other times, people have helped me understand that to follow Jesus is not just to save souls but to participate in God's ongoing redemption of all creation and all relationships.

Most recently, I have been disillusioned with the hyperactive and overtly extroverted climate of many pockets of American evangelicalism. This time I have tried to be a voice from within the movement, publishing Introverts in the Church and dialoguing with many others who have similar questions.
In my research for my book, I had the opportunity to spend time with some remarkable figures of the past -- the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Saint Benedict, and Saint Patrick in the early centuries all the way to John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards and Mother Teresa in more recent history. I was reminded that, in contrast to our present age, for much of church history many who have had an introverted bent have been numbered among the greatest heroes of the faith.

It's been these conversations, both with colleagues and with brilliant figures of past centuries, that have kept me in the evangelical fold. These dialogues have not drawn me out of evangelicalism but have pushed me toward a deeper and richer form of evangelical thought and practice. Thus, when I ponder the future of evangelicalism, I consider it essential that we continue to expand the breadth of our conversation partners.

It's not a secret that the tides of evangelical influence in our culture are waning. I see two possible responses to such a trend: first, we back into a corner, throw rocks, and shout louder and louder as we lapse into obscurity. This is a victim mentality, in which we close ourselves off and blame others for our fate. Or, second, we use our loss of power as an opportunity to begin listening to others and to draw together as a family of faith.

In recent decades, many churches have noticed that their cultural power is diminished, and they often have gone in one of these two directions. Some have tried to regain their power by lobbying harder, shouting louder, and trying to buy more political currency. They have become dogmatic and polemical, attempting to speak over their detractors. Other churches, however, have tried to pay attention to the vast changes that have occurred in the culture. They have listened to the people in their local communities, and to broader cultural trends, and have embraced the adventure of ministry in a post-Christian culture.

A key question for the future of evangelicalism is this: Will our loss of power pull us apart or draw us together? Will churches and denominations insulate themselves, or will we open ourselves to other believers from different traditions and ages? Will we use this as an opportunity to humble ourselves, listen to others, and repent of our thinking that our tradition is the true and perfect expression of the gospel of Jesus? Will we dare to learn from Catholics and Anglicans, from Christians in Africa and South America and Asia, from believers of past centuries and cultures, from Calvinists or Arminians or even, dare-I-say-it, from mainline Protestants?

My hope is that our loss of cultural power will provide an occasion for us to lay down our arms. The world is tired of Christian in-fighting, and so are a lot of us. I am encouraged that some evangelical scholars and writers have begun to emphasize what unites us with other Christian traditions over what divides us. They are doing so by listening to the voices of the past and unearthing the historic creeds that comprise the "Great Tradition" of the church, shared by Christians across all times and places. 

To listen to others in our Great Tradition does not mean that we will agree with everything we hear, nor that we will lose our distinctive tradition. But it does mean that evangelicalism will change. I think in many cases we refuse to listen to others because we fear we will be persuaded by their position and will have to surrender our own. In other words, we are human and we fear change. But vast changes have already taken place in our culture, and in order to continue to have a voice, we simply cannot let our fear prevent us from the transformation we so desperately need.

An example of the good that can come from interaction with other traditions is the increasing depth of evangelical spirituality. In the last two decades evangelicals have embraced the spiritual disciplines, means for cultivating our personal lives of faith that have traditionally been practiced by non-evangelicals. We have taken the mystical and sacramental elements of other Christian traditions and incorporated them into our Word-centered spirituality to create a richness that did not exist before. Individual lives and churches are being transformed because a few people with a vague sense of dissatisfaction decided to read the thoughts of forgotten saints.

No one can fully know what will result from a renewed evangelical commitment to listen to and learn from other Christian traditions. What I do know is that as evangelical influence continues to be pushed to the margins of our culture, we can't afford not to listen.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Interview with an Introverted Therapist

One of the things I say in Introverts in the Church is that introverts often make good therapists and counselors. I wanted to explore that in more detail and to do so, I sought out an introverted therapist. Kristi Cash White is a licensed therapist in the Portland area, where she has a private practice and also teaches Human Development at Warner Pacific College. I have never met Kristi, but we have interacted in the introvert way - through social media. When I saw that she included "introvert" as part of her Twitter profile, I knew that she was the right person to interview. And she even has a question for all of of you at the bottom.

Adam: I think a lot of people might assume that therapist is an ideal vocation for an introvert. Lots of one-on-one interaction, lots of listening and deep conversation. Why are those people who assume that right? Why are those people wrong?

Kristi: I have more often had the opposite assumption stated to me -- how can an introvert be in a job that requires talking to people all day? This kind of statement comes from misunderstanding, both of the role of a counselor and, more importantly to this blog, the traits of an introvert.

A counselor does spend the day with people, but it is so much more than just talking --or just listening either, even if that aspect is a more comfortable role for the introvert. It is a relationship -- a relationship built on trust. If I were to look at my day in view of the number of words I would have to speak or the number of minutes I would have to be listening, it would be daunting, no doubt about it! But I am spending time with people for whom I have genuine concern and empathy. I desire to see each more healthy and am honored to be a part of the process.

As an introvert, counseling is not just "spending all day with people" either. That statement is based in the faulty, but all too prevalent, thought that introverts do not like people! On the contrary, introverts love to really know people, to get past the surface and build true, genuine relationship.

Adam: What strengths do introverts bring into a therapeutic setting? How does your introversion help you with your clients?

Kristi:There are so many aspects that go into the choice to become a counselor that whether one draws energy from crowds or prefers solitude may play a small role in the overall picture. There are some great advantages that an introvert brings to the table, though. Introverts are generally good listeners. We talk less and listen more. It is quite natural for us to be the ones who ask questions and deeply and intently listen to the answers. Although I know many great extroverted counselors, there has been times that I have wondered how they keep their talkative natures in check!

Introverts are processors. We often are able to take what is said and thoughtfully summarize or clarify. We take time with the topics at hand and feel no compulsion to rush ahead. This can be very helpful when working with a hesitant client.

The pace of counseling is generally a good fit for introverts. It is a quiet, relaxed atmosphere, free from sensory assaults which can overload an introvert. There is space to think, even in the way that there are days inbetween sessions in which the introverted counselor can continue to process client discussions. Unlike my job as a professor,which, although I greatly enjoy, thoroughly drains me, I am energized after I have spent time with clients.

Introverts often exude a calm steadiness, which is extremely beneficial to clients who are feeling anything but calm and steady. There is a consistency in tone and manner.

Adam: What is the hardest part about being an introverted therapist? Are there times you have been misinterpreted because of your introverted tendencies?

Kristi: Marketing seems to lend itself more to the extroverted personality. It is very challenging is an introverted counselor to "sell myself", to make the calls, face-to-face contacts, and all that is necessary to keep a practice running strong. Frankly, I loathe this part of my career!

I am not aware of how my introvertedness has impacted clients in any negative way. The times that my introverted nature has been misinterpreted has generally involved group settings, such as graduate school and, a big surprise for you, Adam, church!

Adam: What are the secrets you've learned in order to thrive as an introverted therapist?

Kristi:I think of people as having batteries. Some people have naturally full batteries; they are able to jump into a party or go for a hike or dance the night away at the slightestinvitation. I have always considered myself, as I think might be the case with many introverts, to have a battery that generally hovers around half full. I can charge that battery, but it will not ever make me a bundle of bubbling energy -- that's just not how I'm wired. On the other hand, it is easy for my energy to be sapped. More often than not I feel tired. As an introverted therapist, I have to be very aware of my energy level so that I am able to give my clients the full attention they deserve.

As an introverted therapist, it is vital that I closely monitor my schedule. Where and when am I going to need breaks? How many clients can I see in a day and still fully give my attention and energy? Is there a time of day when I have more mental and physical strength? Do I have something scheduled outside of my practice that is going to potentially drain me the evening before or something for which I need to reserve my energy - meetings, parties, teaching, or other group events?

Adam: Totally unrelated question: My blog readers and I have kicked around the idea that the farther north you go, the more introverts you get by percentage of the population. I grew up in Seattle and I'm convinced there are many more introverts there than there are in Southern California, where I live now. You live in Portland - what do you think of my geotemperamental theory?

Kristi: Geography definitely plays into personality type, as different cultures value particular traits over others. The Scottish culture (my familial heritage) honors strength,independence, and the honor of the clan. The Japanese culture embraces peace, quiet,respect. America values youth, beauty, energy. I had not previously considered how it may break down further within the subcultures or geographical boundaries within our country, but it seems entirely plausible that it would.

I wonder if it is not so much that there are actually more introverts in the North, but rather the cultures of the North may tend to accept introverted tendencies more than Southern cultures (although I definitely feel that I live in an extroverted world, even here.

One of the reasons I LOVE the Northwest is the cloudy, rainy weather. The grey coverage feels like a giant comforter nestling over our great city. This weather works for an introvert.

I do have a solid number of introverted friends and acquaintances; we embrace our personality type! After last year's Super Bowls parties, when many of the overloaded introverts left before the end of the game, I suggested that this next year we have an introvert-only party! What do your readers suggest would be the perfect introvert party?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Trailer

I'm thinking about filming a "book trailer" for Introverts in the Church. Think movie preview but for a book. If any of you have creative and/or funny ideas, I would love to hear them!