Catch of the Day

 In Conference, Culture, Faith, Family, Fred's Blog, People, Philanthropy, Politics, Social Entrepreneurs


There are times I understand how pastors feel when people ask them what they do the rest of the week because the only time they see them is on Sunday. The Gathering conference could at least qualify as a revival because it lasts four days, but people sometimes ask me how we spend our time after we pack up our tent and go home.

We go fishing. Every morning we get up, put on our waders, sling the creel over our shoulder and get out in the stream. Now you know.

We cast for ideas, people, topics, different perspectives and practical applications to bring to The Gathering. We look for what is new but not what is simply novel.

And like every fisherman I know, I want to share a picture or two of our catch and what’s new for us as we head to Orlando.

If you come early on Thursday, you can join other Gathering participants in an event hosted by Praxis – an accelerator for faith-based nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Praxis accepts Fellows from 12 organizations into the two programs every year and helps by giving them access to other successful social entrepreneurs, advanced level mentoring, connections and peer networks – as well as the opportunity to compete for a total of $100,000 for the top three Fellows. The winners of the nonprofit program competition will be selected at The Gathering and will give their perspectives on a special panel.

Because we have many with us now who are relatively new to philanthropy, this year for the first time we are offering an extended session on what we casually call “Philanthropy 101.” We want to give our participants (of all ages) an open forum to learn and ask questions of four wise people with broad and varied experiences: Dr. John Townsend, counselor, coach and author of Boundaries; Jacquie Cardone, the founder of the Cardone Family Foundation; Todd Harper, the president of Generous Giving; and Terry Parker, an attorney and one of the founders of the National Christian Foundation. I am looking forward to being the moderator with such a group.

We have more children and grandchildren with us than ever before, and we have felt a growing responsibility and desire to find new, more substantive ways of drawing them deeper into what Scripture has to say about giving – and giving thanks. This year for the first time, in partnership with Fuller Theological Seminary and Compassion International, our GenNext kids program will have a terrific new Bible curriculum, “Step Into My Shoes.” If your kids are coming to GenNext this year, they are going to have a feast. The will also leave Sunday with an entire kit of ideas and activities for continued family Bible study.

Earlier this year we heard about a letter to the White House composed by Michael Wear, a former staff member in the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives. It was written to ask the President to allow an exemption from mandated hiring practices that would go counter to their religious beliefs and practices. That letter, signed by faith leaders like Rick Warren, Gabe Lyons, Andy Crouch and others, created a firestorm – especially for Gordon College President Michael Lindsay. Both Michael Wear and Michael Lindsay will be with us next week to share firsthand what the fight for religious liberty looks and feels like in the world today.

While on a trip to Los Angeles in May, several of us had the privilege of meeting young filmmaker Brian Ivie and hearing his story. And thanks to the generosity of David Segel and MPower Pictures, we are all going to have a special screening of The Drop Box at The Gathering. The film is about South Korean Pastor Lee’s efforts to use a drop box – built like a depository – to accept unwanted babies who are physically or mentally handicapped, or are just unwanted by their unwed mothers. This is one of the most powerful documentaries I have seen in a long time.

Many of us have followed The New York Times opinion writer David Brooks for years, and we are delighted David will be with us as our luncheon speaker on Saturday. David is funny, articulate and insightful. He is the author of several books like Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There and a regular on the PBS NewsHour. He has just completed teaching a popular course at Yale University on “Humility.”

Just a few days ago we added a special Saturday afternoon session on the Ebola crisis with Bruce Johnson, the CEO of SIM. Michael Gerson and David Brooks both have recently written thoughtful columns about this situation, with Brooks mentioning Senator Bill Frist’s work as well. We look forward to having Gerson, Brooks and Frist with us next week and hearing their perspectives.

Part of the practice of fishing is being still – and paying attention to the smallest tugs on the line. Of course it helps we have been learning and enjoying what we do for 29 years. Norman McLean wrote about the fisherman in A River Runs Through It, “To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation- come by grace, and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy.”

Even after 29 years it does not come easy, but the art of working with others to create each conference is grace in our lives.

And we still have a week left to wade in the stream.

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  • Avatar
    sam Griffith

    Thanks for the quote from “A River Runs Through It.” A good reminder of the interplay of Grace, and of art, and of patience, in our hearing, and following that still Voice of GOD.

    And your selection of N. McLean’s quote is personally timely, as, if I remember correctly, he wrote “A River Runs Through It” after retiring from a long career as a book editor for a major publisher. A focused “second half,” in his seventies.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith

      Dear Sam – It was good to see you a couple of nights ago. You know I like Wendell Berry and I thought about you when I read this.

      We travelers, walking to the sun, can’t see

      Ahead, but looking back the very light

      That blinded us shows us the way we came,

      Along which blessings now appear, risen

      As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,

      By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

      The blessed light that yet to us is dark.

      Wendell Berry

      As he says, we cannot always see where we are headed but we keep “going toward the blessed light that yet to us is dark.”

  • Avatar
    Elizabeth Taylor

    Our family is so excited to attend the Gathering again!!! Thank you for teaching us to fish while you go fishing!!!!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith

      Elizabeth – I am so pleased to hear this! By the way, we are doing the conference in Dallas next year.

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