Words are wonderful.  Language is a huge part of the human experience in biology, sociology, anthropology, history, and culture.  Not to mention theology: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  (John 1:1 and 1:14)

I love words (no shocker there!) and often use too many, especially when talking.  So it’s good for me to write things down.  For 27 years, I’ve been writing a lot of things down.  Observations. Precepts.  Rules of Thumb.  Axioms.  Some I’ve borrowed; some I’ve coined. With the help of Pedro Taveras, one of our fantastic summer interns, I have drafted a collection of SLF sayings or “Sam-isms,” if you like.  They provide a foundation for how SLF sees the world (especially Salem-Keizer) and for how we practice our methodologies of bridge-building, neighborhood development, and church-community partnerships.

This month I’d like to share a sampling.  By no means the entire collection; and not necessarily the greatest hits.  Just some nuggets and snippets that might be useful, or at least bring a smile.(Of course, if they aren’t helpful just toss!)

Show up and stick with it.  This is one of the key ingredients in SLF’s ability to generate results.  In a world of short attention spans and a creed of ‘I only do what I like’… the old-fashioned practice of making a commitment and following through is what yields fruit.  Relationships and consistency benefit ourselves and others.

Look out your front door, look out your back door.  The answer to the question people, businesses and churches often ask: “Where should I serve to make an impact?”  Similarly …If it’s in Sight, it’s in Mind.  The opposite of the usual phrase.  This is about proximity and our ability to show up and stick with it.  Volunteering for example:  if it’s in the neighborhood, folks tend to engage for years.  When it’s across town, the good intentions fade with distance and time. 

Candor without malice or sarcasm is good.  People are speaking freely these days, especially with social media, but they use tons of malice and sarcasm.  Or, also unhealthy, they suppress or candy-coat their feelings for fear of being politically incorrect.  The companion axiom is this:  Speak with care; don’t be easily offended.  (Titus 3:2 and James 1:19) 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  But always hone.  If it’s truly broke, fix it.  If we’re making changes because we’re bored, trying to impress others, or following fads – forget it.  Apply continuous quality improvement (hone) until it’s actually broken, ineffective or obsolete.

Embrace a perspective of abundance vs. scarcity.  Human nature is geared toward competition and ‘not enough’ when it comes to ‘the pie’ (resources).  With God there’s always enough if we seek and collaborate.  Which leads to …Frugal good, cheap bad.  As a ministry we need to be good stewards and resourceful, but we shouldn’t sacrifice quality or cut corners to pinch a penny.  Moreover …Buy Local.  Most of SLF’s support comes from individuals and families who own small, local businesses.  Why would we make our purchases anywhere else (even if it costs a tad more)?

Bridge-building over activism.  Calling urgent attention to key issues is good, but the solutions come only when people dialogue and work together over time.  Politics and social media have created a surplus of activists; the world needs more bridge-builders.  In turn …We can retain our distinctive beliefs even as we work together.  Too many people aremaking the demand, ‘believe as I do or I can’t be around you.’  Or they expect everyone tochange (or water down) their beliefs to get along.  

Fix problems and manage issues, not the other way around:  To do the opposite – manage problems and try to fix issues (can’t) – is not only frustrating for those who lead, but to everyone on the team, as well.

Delight in telling the stories of others.   A good organization is good at telling its own story, but that’s commonplace.  To what degree can we all master the art of embracing great partner stories and sharing them with abandon.

Storehouse and Manna.  This is our fundraising philosophy that recognizes all resources are from the Lord.  There should be a strong balance of ‘storehouse’ (where we use our God-given talents and efforts to see partnerships) and ‘manna’ (gifts and resources that came only from God).

The “F” in SLF stands for flexible.  Both inside the organization and as we engage with our partners, we have an open-handed policy.  Goals, deadlines and accountability are essential.  At the same time, how can we balance ‘the important’ from ‘the urgent’ and seek results that have macro outcomes, not micro restrictions.  Related axiom:  Family First.  We all work hard but we’re generous with time off and flexible schedules to balance great work with family time.

Always leave the place cleaner than you found it:  My Dad taught me this one.  Basically, ‘go the extra yard for excellence in all things’ especially if the ‘place’ was shared with you by someone else.