Category Archives: Meditation

Knowledge of the heart is primary

Note 9-20-2016. Paul describes transformational knowledge in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3. “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” v.2-3.

“A humble self-knowledge is a surer way to God than a search after deep learning.” Thomas a Kempis. Knowledge that builds us up is knowledge that is rooted in love. Knowledge is a gift from God to be used for good and godly ends. Some theologians call this transformational knowledge; knowledge of self that leads to loving concern for others. End note.

This meditation on Colossians 2:1-8 describes three types of knowledge that are essential for planning and implementing TE: knowledge of the heart, knowledge of sin, and empirical knowledge of the world.  May you be blessed as you consider them.

Click here  54knowledge of the heart

Confessions of a Workaholic

I had a lot of difficulty writing an evaluation report. Even though I worked long hours, I never felt like I had done enough in the report to justify the long hours spent collecting and analyzing data. In retrospect I realize that from age twelve I have been a studentaholic  or workaholic. Even though I believe that I have become more mature spiritually as I have focused on transformative evaluation, I have been blind to the sin that abounds as a workaholic.

E.M. Houtz has compiled a collection of devotions for the Christian that wants to be whole in the secular workplace (Desktop Devotions, 1989, NavPress). Years ago a Christian friend gave me a copy at Christmas, and it has helped me deal with being a workaholic since then. In the Introduction, titled “Don’t Skip this Introduction,” the author says that the book is about three things: working, being a Christian, and doing both at the same time. The workplace is a mission field. “God’s Word is our road map through the maze of complicated relationships and interactions unique to the workplace. It’s the anchor that keeps us moored to basic values when our priorities start to shift under the pressures of ambition, peer influence, material gain. It’s the prism that refocuses our perspective when issues we thought were black and white suddenly look gray.”

If you are a Christian workaholic, be blessed by Houtz helping you re-examine your road map, anchor and prism. Amazon.com has a list of sellers with new or used copies.

The world will contest discernment

Many Christians defer to the science worldview as they consider the value of a program evaluation. Believing that there is a form of truth outside prayerful discernment, they may ignore or object strongly to evaluation conclusions based on practicing spiritual discernment.

There are at least three possible consequences when this happens. First, information about the activity of God regarding the program’s influence in the community may be omitted from an evaluation report, or not even sought. Rather than witnessing to the activity of God and how program participants can engage in it going forward, the evaluation report becomes another pebble in the stone wall that has been erected against truth coming into the community.

Second, the evaluator who uses spiritual discernment during an evaluation may lose credibility with stakeholders. They may insist that the purpose of evaluation is to identify cause-effect propositions about what in the program works and doesn’t work for achieving stated objectives. They will describe spiritual exercises as personal matters that are not appropriate in a program evaluation.

Third, the evaluator may experience assurance that evaluation can be a form of ministry. When the world objects to evaluation findings that are supported by verifiable evidence and not contested by the Holy Spirit, the powers of darkness have been threatened. They will try to prevent illumination of that aspect of reality described in the findings.

Lord, I know that following you in my evaluation work will be challenged in many ways by those who want to follow you but on their terms rather than yours. Help me see such challenges as blessings; as opportunities to draw closer to you and to intensify my commitment to transformative evaluation. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Jesus Way

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, has written a book, The Jesus Way (Eerdmans, 2007).  He describes the various ways that Jesus lived, and contrasts them with the ways that we in consumption-driven societies live.  It is a provocative book from which we can learn a lot about transformative evaluating.

Following Jesus is a full-time vocation.  [Highlight this statement, underline it, write it on a post-it to put on your mirror, put it in the footer of your evaluation plan, etc.]

I cannot take time out to do an evaluation that is not consistent with the Jesus way, and then go back to following Jesus.  I either do an evaluation while following Jesus, or I don’t follow Jesus.  This means that everything that I do in planning and implementing an evaluation must serve life in the kingdom of God.

What is one example of something you have done in an evaluation that is not consistent with the Jesus way?  Talk with God about it, and listen carefully to what God says to you about repenting.  Receive God’s forgiveness; you will be blessed in the kingdom way.

Walking in darkness as an evaluator

© World Vision International 1999, All Rights Reserved.  No part of this document or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author.

The general purpose of a project evaluation is to facilitate stakeholders in making informed judgments about the merit or worth of a program, using verifiable evidence.  The key objective is to facilitate truth telling about the consequences of implementing the project.

In 1 John 1:5-10 John is passing a message from Jesus along to us.  The message is simple but profound – God is light.  In God there is no darkness, there is only light.

Personal Darkness

For the Christian evaluator there are both personal and professional implications for the way we do our work.  At a personal level, if I claim to be walking with Jesus, but I am walking in darkness, I am lying.  I cannot walk with Jesus and stay in darkness.  If I am in darkness I cannot walk with Jesus.

The realm of darkness includes lying to myself about my condition.  The most important aspect of my condition is the rightness of my relationship with God.  If I have promised God that I will be a faithful and responsible husband and father, but I come home from the office too tired to attend to the needs of my wife and children, then I am walking in darkness.

If I have no time to regularly mediate on God’s word, the word that gives guidance on how to walk with Jesus moment by moment, day by day, regardless of the circumstances, then chances are I am walking in darkness.

If I fail to follow through on my commitments and promises to others, regardless of the good work I may be doing elsewhere, then I am walking in darkness.  If I recognize my failures to follow through, but I do not take the initiative to do what I can to heal the hurts that I have caused, then I am walking in darkness.

Professional darkness

As an evaluator there are times when I point out things that have gone wrong.  Perhaps specific project objectives have not been achieved as promised, or community people have not been treated respectfully by a staff person.  If I point out such things in a way that diminishes people, rather than build them up, then professionally I am walking in darkness.  My conclusion may be supported by verifiable evidence, but my manner of communicating it determines whether I am walking in the light.

If I fail to point out problems because I am afraid of the discomfort that may ensue in the discussions with stakeholders, then I am walking in darkness.

If I state conclusions that are weakly supported by the evidence, and do not describe the quality and strength of the evidence, then I am not telling the truth.

If I state conclusions that require recommendations, but I do not involve appropriate staff or others in developing reasonable recommendations, then I am denying people an opportunity to confront reality in ways that encourage confession and acceptance of forgiveness.  Only those who confess their sins, trusting that God will show them the way forward toward righteousness, can walk in the light.

Lord, instruct me about walking in the light in all my thinking and acting. Amen.

 

Coping with apparent futility

© World Vision International 2000, All Rights Reserved.  No part of this document or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author.

Reflect on Ecclesiastes 1.

As an evaluator I want to see my work make a difference.  I want to see recommendations implemented successfully.  I want to see lessons applied so that other development work avoids mistakes documented in my evaluations.

But this passage states what all experienced evaluators know very well — there is nothing new to discover through evaluation work.  We document similar lessons, time after time.  We enable stakeholders to make similar recommendations, time after time.

Our work is like chasing the wind.  The more we know, the more we suffer as our knowledge goes unheeded.  But wait — there is so much we do not know about how God uses everything for his good.

O Lord, hear my plea.  Let me be assured that my work makes a difference, somehow, somewhere, so that glory may be given to you.  Amen.

Are you called to be an evaluator?

There are times when I feel a deep sense of being called to be a Christian program evaluator. But Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest, November 10 page 315) brought me up short with this thought: If I say, “God has called me for this and that,” I am putting up a barrier to God using me for God’s purposes.

 As long as you have a personal interest in your own character, or any set ambition, you cannot get through to identification with God’s interest.  You can only get there by losing forever any idea of yourself and by letting God take you right out into His purpose for the world, and because your goings are of the Lord, you can never understand your ways.  I have to learn that the aim in life is God’s, not mine.  God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him…”

 Almighty God, thank you for the evaluation knowledge and experience you have given me over many years. By your grace I will do something totally different as prompted by the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When we cannot explain

© World Vision International 2000, All Rights Reserved.  No part of this document or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author.

 Meditate on Job 28: 1-21

Job, the righteous man who suffered greatly as God continued to battle against evil forces in the world, wanted answers to his questions.  His self-evaluation revealed no evidence to support the conclusion that he was being punished for being unfaithful.  But he strongly believed that his evaluation work was not complete until he could provide solid answers to his questions.

 In this passage God’s response to Job was not a set of answers to his questions.  His response itself was a series of questions not to be answered, but to reveal the awesome difference between the Creator and the created.  As Job realized (42:1-6), there are things too wonderful for us to know.  When we encounter mystery in our evaluation work, and we are sure that we have used our tools properly and thoroughly, let us turn away from our need to understand the world and embrace the awesome experience of being in the presence of the world’s Creator.

 Thank you, Lord, for the need to know that leads me to increase my store of knowledge about your Creation.  And thank you, Lord, for showing me the limits on my capacity to know things that lead me to experience awesome wonder.  Amen.