Categories
Christian Living

Slow Your (devo) Roll

“You better slow your roll, homey.”

Before hearing that phrase while waiting in line at Home Depot the other day, the last time I heard that was probably 10 years ago.

Slow your roll.

You’re a bit out of control.

Chill out.

Relax, what’s the rush?

Slow down.

Devotions

The idea of a daily devotional goes back to the Reformation. For centuries many Christians went to daily mass, observed the hours, or similar practices.

The Reformation marked a turn from spiritual practices done largely in community towards practices that were more personal than communal. Private Bible ownership was extremely rare prior to the Reformation. And personal Bible study was largely frowned upon… seen as potentially dangerous even since you didn’t have a community of people or a religious leader to help you.

All of this has shifted, of course. A daily devotional is seen as a measurement tool that you are serious about your faith. You’ll hear people say things like, “My life was spiraling out of control a bit. But then I realized that I had just gotten away from my daily devotions. I fixed that and things have gotten better.” Is that truly a cause and effect? Like, does God punish you for not doing a personal Bible study every day? And does God make your day more smooth if you spend 30 minutes reading the Bible?

Of course not. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive. Jesus’ love for you is not conditional, nor is God’s benevolence.

A daily reading of the Bible or reading a devotional is just fine, I’d even say it’s good. But it’s not a biblical command. Millions of Christians are enjoying heaven right now having never done a single daily devotional. None of the Apostles read a single line of My Utmost for His Highest. None of them even owned a Bible! (And none of them ever said, in their lifetimes, “Open your Bibles to John chapter three…“)

Slow Your (devo) Roll

I’m not anti-devotional or daily Bible reading. I’m for it. It’s something I’ve practiced for decades now. So please don’t misread me in that.

But I do want you to consider slowing down. I really think one of the challenges we are all facing is that we’ve become consumers of the Bible and not recipients of the Word’s revelation.

As Christians, we believe every Word is inspired by God. Of all of the things God could write down for us to have… these 66 books are it. In some ways, it’s so giant. But in light of God’s omniscience it’s the summary on the back of a CliffsNotes, right?

Last night, one of our exercises in our  high school small group was to read Proverbs 21 aloud. As Keith read my 2004 brain kept thinking… “Slow your roll, homey.” Actually, I stopped him over and over to say things like, “Whoa… let’s think about that for a second.” There was so much in there to contemplate… moving so quickly kind of devalued the wisdom in each proverb. It made my head spin!

We can’t just consume the Word of God! A devotional life isn’t just checking off a box to say, “Yup, I’m good to go. Spent some time in God’s Word this morning.” It doesn’t work like that. Instead, sometimes  we need to slow down… S-L-O-W-W-A-Y-D-O-W-N. We need to make room for digestion, contemplation, contextualization, and application. To use a theological term we need to leave room for revelation. The Holy Spirit can’t do His thing if you don’t make room for Him to do His thing.

So maybe instead of a daily devotional you need a weekly devotional? Maybe instead of meditating on a new passage of Scripture every day you need to spend a month on it? Maybe you don’t need a daily Bible reading, maybe you need to download the message from Sunday and listen to it over and over again? (You know, the Holy Spirit works through your pastor, right?)

Or maybe you need to keep going back to the same passage until it sinks in, until it gets past the callouses and into the meat, until it literally becomes part of you? Maybe– though Christian culture tells you that you need to move on– you need to resist that temptation. Maybe you need to stop moving so fast?

Maybe you need to slow your devo roll, homey?

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:23-25

Categories
Christian Living

Other People’s Sin

The past few months have been a reminder that sin splatters like a can of paint falling off of a shelf.

It’s messy. It gets on you. But it also sprays out indiscriminately on things near and far, related and unrelated.

We tend to think of the impact of sin as being mostly personal. Not so.

The Example of Porn

When a person looks at pornography they are committing a personal sin that is sexual. Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:27-28

Yet that sin has a spiraling impact beyond that person’s personal sin of lust…

  • Lust impacts sexual relationships with a spouse, future spouse, other people in your life, etc.
  • Looking at pornography generates revenue which, in turn, generates more pornography.
  • The pornography industry exploits people by degrading and objectifying a person for financial profit… this is also a sin.
  • The people participating in and profiting from pornography are having their sin encouraged. Even if it’s consensual, their acts are sinful.
  • Of course, most would argue that the coercion involved in the creation of pornography is sexual exploitation. That doesn’t even include the rampant amount of sexual exploitation that generates pornography as a direct result of threat or force.
  • The “normalization of pornography” in a society fosters the idea that it’s OK to objectify people sexually since “everyone does it.” When we get used to the idea that it’s OK to commercially sexually exploit someone, we look at things like prostitution as a “victimless crime.” As if, as is the case just 1000 feet from my home, a 16 year old girl who has been trafficked to the United States by a gang and subsequently sold as a slave and is forced on the street as a prostitute isn’t a victim of an entire society who looks at her as doing it by choice.

As you see demonstrated… the “personal sin” of someone looking at pornography isn’t so personal at all. It’s like a paint can falling from a shelf.

Closer to Home

Here in McLandia, the past 2 months the trajectory of our household has been dominated by the impact of sin from a person we don’t even know, we’ve never met, and has no idea the chaos they’ve created.

It’s caused untold amounts of stress, lost sleep, anxiety, inability to concentrate or work at a normal rate, and a whole lot of other things. Chaos.

And you know what? The other person involved likely has no idea.

We’ll be fine. We are fine.

But dang, we got a lot of paint on us on this one.

There’s no such thing as a little sin. Even a little sin has a lot of impact.

Instead, pursue righteousness and let your life be good news in the neighborhood.

Categories
Christian Living

Dancing with the Fantasy

Cynicism takes root when you disengage, when you engage you reside in the fantasy.

Let me first be careful to define what I mean by “fantasy.”

Fantasy isn’t the same as fallacy. I mean fantasy in a more emotional sense. Like when you’re on vacation somewhere amazing you are in a fantasy that everyone is having as good of a time as you are. You are able to relax, you pour into your loved ones in a way you couldn’t with the normal daily pressures of life, you have no care or understanding about the day of the week, and you are under the assumption that everyone around you must be as relaxed and having the same good time you are. That’s the fantasy. But the reality is that for most people it’s just a Monday. There’s nothing special going on, at all. The lady cleaning your hotel room or serving your family dinner or the guy who drives your shuttle or the myriad of people behind the scenes making your trip great– it’s a work day for them.

You are the puppet and they are pulling the strings of your fantasy. You gleefully and willfully shut off your mind to even think about those moving parts. You are living the fantasy and it’s good.

A fallacy isn’t that at all. It’s when you know you can’t separate what you know is going on behind the scenes and you go through the motions anyway. It’s taking your family on a great vacation, watching them live the fantasy, but in the back of your mind you know you are running from your problems… your car is getting repossessed while you’re on vacation or you’ve just lost your job but haven’t told them because you want them to enjoy the trip or you’ve got cancer but haven’t told your family.

And so you fake it. You let those around you believe in the fantasy but for you it’s a tortuous fantasy, a lie.

Ministry is Complicated

Ministry life is complicated. We all know that. We know too much to enjoy the fantasy is quite the same way. We love our co-workers but we know their struggles, their weaknesses, and “what’s really going on” often takes precedence in our mind.

Yet, we guide people to live in the fantasy. We even use language to describe it. We want people to be “in” and many churches have even used gambling language to ask people to “go all in” for our ministry. Having been part of both being in a church where people lived in the fantasy and been at churches where we saw people step into that happy place, it’s a beautiful and good thing. Entering into the fantasy allows God to work in wondrous way… things which shouldn’t be possible are and most importantly lives are changed.

We ask people to embrace the fantasy that our church is “it” and the more they buy into the fantasy the more growth that can happen in their lives. (Just like on vacation, right? If you don’t buy into the fantasy you’ll never relax… and if you don’t relax you’ll never enjoy the experience. So you allow yourself to enter into it. It’s a willful thing, a social exchange.)

This isn’t bad. We all do it. You can read through Acts and see this played out in the first century church. People dove into the fantasy! I mean, families sold everything they had because it was so good!

But when it becomes a fallacy it is bad. Especially when it happens at church. When an inch below the surface lies conflict or staffing issues or hidden problems, the staff puts on a happy face and hopes people buy into the fantasy because they all know that it’s kind-of-a-fallacy. The children’s pastor has kids who hate them. The small groups pastor hasn’t been in a small group in 20 years. The youth pastor is a great manager but doesn’t really love teenagers, at all.

People convince themselves that they love their jobs or that their motives are pure. Yet quietly, behind the scenes, everyone can’t wait for the pastor to retire. Or they’ve experienced the wrath of anger brought down on them by the board when they ask question or dream about things outside of the scope of the fantasy. They mistakenly wondered out loud, “What would happen if our church embraced all kinds of people from all kinds of lifestyles?” And once they stepped out of bounds of the fantasy they’ve experienced something darker… like seeing Mickey Mouse smoking a joint on his break at Disneyland… they’ll never be the same.

In my ministry life I have a hard time embracing the fantasy because I know too many people who’ve have experienced the fallacy. Confessionally, I think half the time I’ve wondered if I was living in the fantasy or the fallacy myself. So when I go to church today I want to buy in but I struggle.

I find it easy to disengage, therefore I find it easy to step back enough where I’m no longer inside the fantasy but am comfortable observing those outside while also observing inside those behind the scenes.

On the one hand this is a valuable vantage point. One for which I’m thankful. I’m able to help those creating the fantasy see what is and isn’t working, what’s believable, what isn’t.

But, confessionally, sometimes it eats at me.

Just like at the end of the Wizard of Oz you’re left to wonder… would it have been better to not know? Or are you better knowing?

For me, engaging in the fantasy is a choice. I chose it. I want it. I have decided that it’s not a fallacy. That my faith is real, that everything I know and have been taught is real.

But it’s a rational choice.

But sometimes? I just wish I could go back to not knowing.

Categories
Christian Living

In Pursuit

Maybe you’ve heard about the drought in California? And maybe you’ve heard that weather experts are forecasting for an El Niño that should end the drought later this fall, perhaps the strongest El Niño in 50 years?

Both trends have to do with ocean water temperature. While I’m sure there’s also impact of climate change most believe that there are natural and ancient cycles of ocean current temperature change in the Pacific where our normally cold coastal water, which creates San Diego’s temperate climate year-round, turns warmer every so often bringing moisture and rain to Baja and California.

The water off the coast of California is significantly warmer than it should be, 5-10 degrees warmer than normal. One result of that is that this year’s inshore and offshore fishing is one for the ages. People are catching within a few miles of shore that are usually caught 100 miles offshore.

For anyone who fishes the Pacific this is a season for the ages. No one knows how long it might last but the thought that fishing off of California’s coast may not be this good again in our lifetime has everyone pushing to get on the water.

Innate Pursuit

Over the past few months I’ve been drawn into this more and more intensely.

  • I’ve continued to fish in local bays for bass and other species.
  • I’ve gone on several shorter, half-day type trips onto the ocean.
  • I’ve acquired all of the gear to take my kayak onto the open ocean, making my first trip last Friday morning.
  • I’ve gotten more heavy gear suitable for offshore fishing.

I have no idea what’s driving this.

It’s coming from somewhere deep inside of me that I can’t quite explain.

It’s innate. I can give you a lot of descriptions and justifications of why I’m into fishing right now, I could get Freudian and say it’s some connection to family, I could get mid-century pop psychology and say it’s about some midlife search for significance, I could get all Christianese and say it’s this or that.

I don’t really understand the drive. But that’s what it is, it’s powerful, and–frankly– I don’t feel bad about it one bit. I love it!

This past weekend, Paul and I took that pursuit to the next logical step by going on our first ever overnight fishing trip. We left San Diego at 10:00 PM on Saturday night, slept on board the Tribute for a few hours, and then spent all day Sunday fishing for bluefin tuna… a species that’s not normally seen in SoCal waters in the numbers and size that are being seen.

We woke up before dawn yesterday, did one last gear check, and then fished from first light until the boat was full at about 1:00 PM.

Paul was the first between us to catch a fish, landing his fish at about 8:30. You haven’t lived until you see you son reel in a 35 pound fish. (Half his body weight!) It’s a mano y mano battle. You are reeling hundreds of yards of line like mad and shuffling to stay in front of it while it’s trying to swim away. You tire the thing out to get it to finally come to the surface and submit to it’s fate. It was especially awesome that the entire crew and fellow fishermen cheered for him as his boat came on deck. “Yeah PAUL!” followed by fist bumps, chest pumping, pats on the back, and congratulations from every corner of the boat. I got to witness a moment of manhood in my boy’s that is one small step towards what’s to come in his life, and that was priceless.

Throughout the day Paul and I lost a combined three other big tuna while the rest of the boat continued catching. I started to think I might not catch one myself and go home with stories of the ones that got away.

But just as we were reaching the boats limit of 2 fish each, my reel started screaming, I clicked it into gear and it peeled away some line on the drag right away. Initially I thought I had a little guy as it allowed me to pull it near the boat quickly. But just as it was about 50 feet from the boat it went on a giant run, showing it’s strength. 30 minutes of fighting later the captain gaffed it and pulled it on board.

No Pursuit, No Health

As I laid in my bunk on the long ride back to San Diego I started to reflect on this fishing pursuit.

Why am I paddling my kayak out 3 miles from the shore in La Jolla? Why did Paul ask for this trip for his birthday? Why did landing those fish feel so good? Why is this boat full of men and women doing the same thing?

But that’s when it started to sink in. 

We live in a society where things are upside down. Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic teaches us that virtue comes by unlimited hard work and frugality. So our culture tells us to feel guilty when we rest or do anything recreationally or maybe spend money unnecessarily.

But laying in that bunk thinking about the day, seeing the pride from my son– a little swagger, and the pure joy on display on this boat leads me to conclude this: I have no guilt in this pursuit. In fact, I’m not worried about people who have pursuits. I’m worried about people without pursuits.

People who convince themselves that their work is their sole passion scare me. I love what I do and am fortunate to have a career that reflects so much of who God has made me to be. But it’d be sad if that defined me wholly.

I am more than my work. (Which I love)

I am more than what people know me for. (Which is great)

I am more than a dad and husband. (Roles I cherish)

I am more than any label.

I am more.

I am made in the image of God, a God in pursuit of His children.

I am made to pursue. And when I do? It reflects His image in me.

To not pursue is to not reflect His image.

Categories
Christian Living

Called to Plumbing

Ministry people [usually accidentally] make it seem like theirs is the only vocation with a calling, not so.

One of the things I love about where we go to church is that it’s full of men and women who might get featured on Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs.

  • Builders
  • Military, ex-military
  • Metal shop peeps
  • HVAC experts
  • Dry wallers
  • Plumbers
  • Landscapers
  • Car mechanics
  • People who work on ships and boats
  • On and on…

These folks get their hands dirty, work alongside ordinary folks, and many of them are absolutely called to ministry right where they are.

They are doing what God made them to do. Our community needs folks like them, skilled laborers, hard working people with integrity, who serve their clientele with pride.

I Corinthians 10:31-33 says,

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Yup, you can sling grease or fix pick-ups or lay tile or roof houses to the glory of God. When you hang out with these folks and ask them about what they do… it’s so much more than a job: It’s a vocational calling!

It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine when people pick up the idea that if they are serious about ministry they’ll work in a church. (I should say that our church does a pretty good job of avoiding this trap.) It happens accidentally… of course, the preacher doesn’t really believe that his is a vocational calling to ministry and the plumber isn’t a vocational calling to ministry. But when the preacher talks a lot about his own life and not the life of the plumber… the congregation seems to pick up a narrative that the pastor is called to ministry and the plumber is not.

Yes, working in a church is one way to minister to people… absolutely. But let’s acknowledge that 9 out of 10 people aren’t going to walk into a church in order to connect to Jesus… so instead of hyper-inflating the calling of the role of the pastor, who might have access to 10% of the population, we should instead intentionally hyper-inflate, lift up, equip, and send out the ordinary folks in our congregations doing ordinary (yet, important) jobs in our community who have access to the other 90% of the population day in and day out.

Photo credit: The Plumber by by Rick via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Categories
Christian Living

Speak Up

A few weeks ago I snuck in a quick midweek kayak fishing session.

As I was coming in and taking gear off my yak near the Bahia Hotel there was a family setting up a little sailboat. The boat belonged to their teenage daughter, maybe 16-17, she had clearly never sailed before… or if she had, she wasn’t the skipper. Though equally green her dad was totally confident. The mom and the rest of their kids were all there, taking pictures. It was probably a birthday gift. It was probably her birthday.

They were very excited about this boat.

I slowly packed up my gear while they spent 10 minutes rigging the lines and all of that. They borrowed my Gerber and I offered them some paracord. While they were excited and the boat was indeed awesome, they clearly weren’t sea-ready. And I hoped they’d realize that and pack up to reboot at home. It was so obvious. They needed a class or at least a friend who could show them what to do.

It was windy so I joked with them, “Should I call 911 now or wait?” They were unashamed about not knowing what they were doing but totally determined to give it a try. They shrugged it off. What could go wrong?

I got all of my gear put away and my kayak mounted up on the roof of our van… but something just told me to hang around for a bit. I couldn’t stop them from going but maybe I could help them somehow?

I sat in the drivers seat of the van, warming up, and they finally got the sail rigged. The daughter sat on the side of the boat, texting and taking selfies.

And the dad pushed them off the beach… the family cheered, dad hopped over the side onto the boat… then boat swung wildly, the sail went the wrong way– literally into their faces, they nearly capsized, and less than 5 seconds later the sailboat slammed back on shore.

They failed hard. 

I laughed hard. 

Everyone laughed hard.

It was so obvious. Don’t sail today. 

I was 100% confident that even if they got out on the water they were going to capsize or hit another boat, etc. These weren’t newbie conditions. It was windy and cold and the tidal current was fierce.

They weren’t dissuaded. They were going to keep trying. And, frankly, I didn’t want to be the one to shatter their dreams. While they were likely to capsize or cause other boaters to evade their chaotic movements, who am I to tell someone not to do something? And hey, with the Coast Guard nearby as well as fellow boaters chances were pretty good everything would be fine.

But the bigger and more immediate thing was that their lifejackets were on shore.

The law requires that each boater have a lifejacket. And frankly, these two were going to end up in the water and they needed to be wearing them.

So there I was, in my toasty car, enjoying the sideshow of Gilligan and his mates trying to sail… and left with a choice.

Culture says, “Mind your own business. Leave people alone. There’s no need to say anything to someone you don’t know.

Culture says, “Just drive away.

Culture says, “If you say something they’ll probably get pissed.”

But I know culture lies. 

Culture costs lives everyday. 

You aren’t on this planet to be silent.

You don’t possess knowledge for yourself.

That feeling, that little twinge that says you ought to do something, it’s not just for you.

Your silence is kills.

That voice?

Listen to it. 

Act on it. 

Photo credit: Andrea Bowman via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Categories
Christian Living

Fishing

If we’re connected on social media you already know that I’ve got a bit of a fishing thing going on. It’s not quite an obsession, but I’m trying to figure out how to salt water fish.

  • Last year I bought kayaks, equipping them for both recreation and fishing.
  • I’ve acquired all sorts of fishing gear.
  • I’ve spent hours and hours watching “how to” videos on YouTube.
  • I’ve spent hours and hours working on casting techniques and finding spots to find fish.
  • I’ve learned about a wide variety of species found in local waters.
  • I’ve learned way more about the impact of tides and the lunar phase than I ever cared to know.
  • I’ve jumped in on a couple local fishing forum communities.
  • I’ve gone out on open party charter boats, including this week when several of us from church went on a boat to the Coronado Islands in Mexico.
  • I’ve spent hours and hours fishing with varying levels of success.

Fishing is Hard

What’s the pay off? To be honest… I haven’t seen it yet. I really want to be near the water. I really need any sort of physical activity. But I also really want to learn how to catch fish!

When I was a kid I used to fish with a bobber, a couple sinkers, and a minnow at our family cottage. And we caught tons of blue gill, perch, crappy, and the rare small mouth bass. And in my mind that was pretty easy.

But fishing on the San Diego Bay or Mission Bay just isn’t easy. There’s a learning curve to it… and that learning curve comes with the double-cost of acquiring all the right stuff and putting in all the time practicing.

Sometimes I don’t even really know why I’m fishing. I definitely enjoy it and I love being outdoors. But there’s something beyond what I can grasp right now going on. (I almost never keep the fish I catch to eat.)

Pursuit

Fishing is, to some extent, about catching. Certainly there are people who do it for work where they are fishing to make money, so they have to be experts and haul in fish.

But fishing is also about pursuit. 

If you just went to Wal-Mart, bought a basic kit, and slung a line in the water to haul in fish… that wouldn’t really be a pursuit. And I can’t lie to pretend that it’d be all that interesting to me. If it were easy, I’d probably only go out to fish if I wanted to eat fish. It’d be more of a chore (work) than a hobby. (recreation)

They Thought Jesus was an Idiot

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:1-11

Having been on some fishing boats and having NOT caught fish a whole lot, I can’t under-emphasize how crazy this story is. The guys fished out on the water all night, they’d cleaned their boat, the nets were hanging up to dry… and Jesus tells them to push off just a little bit and drop their nets?

Not even an idiot would do that.

Only someone completely insane would even ask that.

But Jesus had something to teach… you might pursue fish for a living.

But even the fish know to pursue Jesus.

It’s about pursuit.

Categories
Christian Living

The Most Difficult Place for The Gospel in America

The Bible Belt.

The None Zone.

Those liberal tree huggers in California.

It’s hard to reach people in the Northeast.

Or was it the Pacific Northwest?

Over the past couple of years I’ve grown increasingly weary of hearing about how one area is especially hard or easy to be a minister of the Gospel.

One group will point to a set of statistics and say how it’s nearly impossible to do ministry– it’s so much harder than ____.

Another group will lay claim that they, of course, live in the hardest to reach region of the country.

It kind of makes my head spin. On the one hand I don’t want to discourage anyone. If pointing to a statistic is somehow motivation for someone to keep going or be more creative or adapt the Gospel to their local context better than that’s great. But on the other hand I think a lot of people miss the bigger, more important point.

The Most Difficult Place for The Gospel in America is…

Dinner is The Most Difficult Place for The Gospel in America

But really? What’s the most difficult place for the Gospel in America? 

None of those statistics mean anything to the two groups of people you’re actually responsible for reaching with the Good News… and the most difficult.

  1. Your family, the people living in your house…
  2. Your neighbors, the people’s whose house touches your house…

You can’t make the Gospel big in your community until you make the Gospel small in your life.

For most, you live on the most difficult block in America to reach. It’s the challenge of a lifetime and one we too often ignore for the sake of trying to reach people we aren’t commanded to reach at all.

Reach your own family. Then reach out to your neighbors.

Categories
Christian Living Throwback Thursday

Sacrificing Today for Tomorrow

There’s this really funny scene in Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods.

Early in their trip up the Appalachian Trail, about two days in to a six month journey, the main character gets separated from his hiking partner. He goes back to a meadow to see his friend, furious, chucking things from his backpack into the distance. He runs up to him… “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

His enraged friend shouts back… “I’m getting rid of stuff. Heavy stuff!

I think there’s a really important lesson there, something I’ve been working through in my life the last couple of months.

The greatest danger to leading any organization is settling for less than you’re capable. I think many most organizations settle into being the size/style they are, not because that’s the ultimate they can achieve, but because they get comfortable, they settle into what feels manageable for them.

Here’s what I know: A fat and happy team never innovates.

My best ideas, my times of biggest innovation, my defining moments– they all come from a place of desperation and hunger.

And so I’m going through a period of time where I’m frustrated with myself. I’m frustrated that, while 2014 saw HUGE growth in so many areas, we’re not growing at an aggressive enough pace for what I know we are capable of.

I’m owning that. I got fat and happy on a couple things.

And so, like the frustrated hiker chucking cans of beans and D cell batteries into the woods on the Appalachian Trail, I’m chucking some stuff that’s holding me back from what I feel is our potential. We know we are capable of real, long-term, measurable change in the youth ministry world. But to get there I need to make some sacrifices on stuff I like doing. It’s stuff I like, stuff I’m great at, that’s important to me, and has been core to me.

But it’s heavy. And heavy stuff has to go.

Why?

Because I refuse to settle.

I refuse to get comfortable.

I’m making sacrifices today for to get where I want to go tomorrow.

What needs to go in your life so you can reach your full potential? 

Photo credit: Matt Matches via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Categories
Christian Living

Patience

First Presbyterian Church

I didn’t start attending church until about 5th grade. I don’t know exactly what triggered it, but my dad got married to a woman who went to the local Presbyterian church, so when I was there on weekends we started going.

I liked the idea of going to church. But I loathed the clip-on ties that I had to wear.

I liked that my dad took me to J.C. Penny and bought me a couple pairs of dress pants, a couple button up shirts, and nice dress shoes. There was something special about dressing up for church. Putting church clothes on reminded me of going to a wedding reception or a fancy person’s house for dinner. But the tie? I’ve always hated ties.

First came the Sunday school hour. Aptly named since it was an hour long. The adult teacher was one of our parents, at one point it was my dad. Everything about my Sunday school class felt old. The chairs, the tables, the chalk board, the little hooks we hung our jackets on in the winter, it all felt (and smelled) old. Yet Sunday school was harmless enough. Pleasant even. We took attendance, inquired about kids who weren’t there, there was a printed lesson given to everyone, we read the lesson out loud, no one ever had prayer requests (ever), someone prayed… and that was that.

Next came the coffee hour in Fellowship Hall. This was a rip off of a name because it wasn’t really an hour long, more like a coffee half-hour. But there were snacks and freedom which made it awesome. Donuts, coffee cakes, and orange juice for the kids. Donuts, coffee cakes, and coffee for the adults.

The coffee hour was dominated by mischief. The kids would tear through a pile of donut holes and gallons of orange juice. Then, with our parents making small talk in Fellowship Hall, we’d roam the old church like it was a treasure hunt. The old Presbyterian Church on the corner of Mishawaka Avenue and Church Street was full of nooks and crannies to explore. There was the real library (which was off limits) and an old library (which was off limits but no one seemed to notice if we went in there). And there was a parlor area with lots of little rooms with ancient feeling stuff to touch when we weren’t supposed to.

Then the bell rang telling everyone that church would start soon. Play time ended and people started to move towards the sanctuary for the service. Things quickly turned from sweaty jubilation, running around with your friends, to somber… a time to be serious and sit with your family. Time to put the tie on again… God was best worshipped in a clip-on tie. (Sidenote: The pastor didn’t wear a tie, she wore robe over her dress.)

I loathed the worship services more than my tie. It was 100 times worse than my tie. Services made my blood boil in a way I still can’t explain. These feelings also brought out shame. I was mad about sitting through the service but I felt intensely guilty for being mad about sitting through the service. My jaw clinched tight until it caused a headache. I’d sweat even if it was freezing in there. And I’d stare at the altar with hopes that my stare would light it on fire.

Silently, I’d sit there, an unwilling participant in a procession of boredom, each moment bringing about more and more rage with each verse.

Each week a weird thing happened. As the pastor blabbed on and on through the sermon I’d slowly calm down. Shame would win out over rage. The blood boiling within would calm. And usually by the end of the sermon I’d relax, almost glad I was there.

The Doxology won me over.

Unexplainably.

Incredibly.

Predictably.

It didn’t matter how grumpy or enraged I was at the beginning of the service. When we stood to sing that song all of that was gone. A wave of gladness washed over me, I’d get goosebumps, sometimes a tear would well up and I’d have to hide it.

Soon enough the acolytes would come down and put out the candles at the front of the sanctuary, we’d process out.. choir first, we’d shake the pastors hand, the tie would come off, and we’d go home.

Lovely

We have a cat named Lovely Gorgeous. She’s about 8 years old and belongs to Megan. Lovely is a hunter and social with all the other cats in the neighborhood. So sometimes she’s inside, usually during the day for a long nap, and sometimes she is outside.

She drives us nuts because she wants let inside or outside 100 times a day.

Let’s be clear– Lovely is the neighborhood serial killer. Lizards, mice, rats, and birds are her normal prey, she kills several each week. She’s even developed a knack for hunting hummingbirds. (Made slightly more cruel by the fact that we have a hummingbird feeder.)

Watching an adult female cat hunt is incredible. Sometimes she stumbles on prey somewhat by accident, just walking through tall grass something will move and she pounces by instinct. A hop, a shake of the head, and it’s over in seconds.

But other times she has spends a long time laying in wait. She sits under a citrus tree lounging in the shade, napping. While it might look like she is just staying cool or grabbing a cat nap, she is also staying in position. A lizard scurries from it’s hole and hops over a little wall to feast on bugs in our strawberry patch and she there watching the whole thing.

She is silent.

She gets into position.

She crouches low.

Her tail puffs up, swinging back and forth, twitching with excitement.

And the moment her target comes within range, without even a sound, she’s on top of it.

It’s over before the lizard saw it coming or had a chance to escape. Pinned to the wall she kills it in an instant, a few seconds later she stands up proudly. The hunt is over and she’s carrying it’s corpse off for dissection.

A Patient God

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

In some ways, God’s work in your life is like the common house cat.

He is patient in His pursuit of you.

He steps in to kill what He wants to kill, your rage or pride or desire for revenge or whatever He wants.

He overcomes you by His will and not yours.

He waits for His right time and not yours.

When He acts it is swift.

He knows when to pounce.

He works silently.

He overpowers you with His strength.

He has the power and skill to hold dominion but power and dominion to let you be.

Our God is a patient God, not wanting you to perish.

He saw things in me I didn’t see. He saw a life for me I couldn’t have. He has pursued, stalked, pounced, broken, held dominion, and hunted me my whole life. 

His patience for me is better than my impatience with myself.