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hmm... thoughts

Putting Failure in Perspective

When I meet someone who is stuck in life I often discern that they are really stuck because they are afraid to fail.

Some ways that exhibits:

  • They hate their current lot in life (job, relationship status, living situation) but are afraid that if they make a move that may regret it and long for their current comfort.
  • They feel called to trust God in an area of their life but they want to wait for x, y, or z conditions to be right before they do anything.
  • They want to try something (new career, new relationship, new life) but think they aren’t qualified.

Here’s a secret. I’ve got all of the same insecurities. I’ve got all the same worries. I don’t want to look stupid or act any more foolish than anyone else.

But I’ve also learned this:

  • I’m not getting any closer to my dreams by sitting on my hands.
  • I’m not getting any more qualified by sitting on my hands.
  • I’ll never have a relationship with _____ if I don’t say hello.
  • If I don’t go for a chance to live somewhere else than it’ll never happen.
  • If I know God called me to do something, I don’t want to be like Jonah.
  • If I have friends who try to hold me back, I know they aren’t the type of friends I want to have.
  • I don’t want to sit on my porch swing in my 60s and tell my grandkids “coulda, woulda, shoulda” stories. I’d much rather tell them, “I tried it and sucked at it.

Here are some things I’ve learned about failure.

  • Failure is part of the process.
  • Failure can actually be fun.
  • Failure doesn’t make you a bad person.
  • Being a failure doesn’t make you a fool.
  • Failure is key to discovery.
  • Failure is a learning device.
  • Failure doesn’t limit your opportunities, it explodes them.

Fear is none of those things. Fear inhibits the process. It prevents fun. It makes you no fun to be around. It makes you feel foolish. It prevents discovery. It prevents learning. It limits your opportunities.

“The only thing worth fearing is fear itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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hmm... thoughts

Life is Good

I am happiest when I have a lot of plates spinning. Not sure why but I’m just wired that way. These days I am very happy. There are lots of plates spinning in my personal life, ministry life, and work life. There is some convergence in those things… but there is also considerable separation as well.

Why is it that things that make us happiest also tend to drive us insane?

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Church Leadership hmm... thoughts

The Peak of the Christian Life

pinnacle-of-christian-life

Question One: What is the chief end of man?
Answer One: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Westminster Shorter Catechism

If you were to ask most preachers the question, “Practically speaking, what does the peak of the Christian life look like?” most of them would give an answer related to the answer given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. (Even if you don’t come from that tradition.)

The theologically correct answer to that question sounds like this, “You are in God’s sweet spot when you follow God’s call wherever that is. So it’s different for each person. For me, being in God’s sweet spot has meant being a pastor at this church. But for you, the pinnacle of the Christian life could be ____. Anything less than following God’s call to that is not the pinnacle.

But if you listened to their preaching you’d hear a much different message.

A lot of preachers accidentally lift themselves and their calling to an unhealthy place. Preachers, in their messages, often imply that their calling to become a pastor is a higher calling than anyone else in the church. (Read 1 Peter 5:1-10) They use their obedience and their life as an example of getting into God’s sweet spot. Sitting there, listening to them preach and use themselves as the pinnacle of the Christian life week after week… you might start to believe that working for a church is the pinnacle of the Christian life. While I don’t think that most preachers really believe this to be true, it is easy to use themselves as an example to illustrate their sermon. And more often than not they use themselves as a heroic protagonist in the story… thus the implied status that they are the example of the peak Christian.

The truth is there are a lot of people attending and even working at churches that believe that lie. (Heresy) Even if the preacher never directly says that that working at a church is close to the peak of the Christian life and being the lead preacher is the peak, most people believe that a pastor must be somehow superior unless they are taught otherwise.

Next, you see this pattern emerge all the time! A person feels stuck in their spiritual journey. They desire something “greater” and decide that they need to take a leap of faith. Out of an earnest desire to experience the peak of the Christian life, they start pursuing something else. They follow the leadership example they hear year-after-year and walk away from where God has them in order to chase “the pinnacle of the Christian life” by serving at a church. And those people further perpetrate the lie by testifying, “I used to be an accountant, but God called me to become the Pastor of Finance at this church. Even though I am making much less money I am happy to be in the Lord’s service.

Financial sacrifice does not equal a ministry calling. But listening to the testimony of a lot of preachers, you’d think it was. As if God was going to cosmically bless a ministry simply because you gave up earning potential?

The irony continues once you make that leap. Once you get on staff at a church you learn a dirty little secret. The priesthood of all believers is true.

You want to reach a majority of the community you live in for Jesus Christ? (I believe most churches do.) It simply will not happen through the church staff or its programs. [Even the biggest megachurches only have a tiny reach into their community.] It will only happen when the people in the congregation take hold of what the Bible teaches and takes the Gospel to the places they have access and influence. (Places 99% of pastors have no access or influence.) This mega-change in a community is just as likely to come from a house church of 12 as a megachurch of 20,000. Just like in Acts, God is not interested in the size of the Temple. He is interested in bringing the message of the Jesus to the people where they are. Did Peter, Paul, John, or Timothy grow endearing church organizations? I think not. It was never the goal of the early church to create a massive, efficient organization. The early church built no cathedrals, had no mega-meetings, and lifted nothing but spreading the message as far, deep, and wide as they could in their lifetime. This is a far cry from the little-church-kingdom building we see among clergy today.

I belive most Christians aspire the peak of the Christian life. It’s a good thing to aspire to! Let me encourage you with this. To reach the peak of the Christian life probably won’t mean an Abrahamic move. You likely won’t be called by God to sell your land and move your sheep, goats, and wife to a foreign place. Nor is it likely that God wants you to stop being an accountant, teacher, nurse, or business person to work in a church. The church needs more Christ-followers in the workplace and fewer business people dressed up as pastors.

More than likely you can reach the peak of the Christian life right where you are, in the career you are in, with the friendships you have.

“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:25

If you are seeking something more significant in 2010 I want to challenge you to first do your very best right where you are. Don’t forget to consider that God may have you in the right spot– it may just be you that needs to change.

Look at your life through the eyes of Jonah and ask yourself… what am I running from? That’s most likely what God is calling you to.

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hmm... thoughts

Pushing Back to Find Sanity in Christ

this-way-to-sanityClosing in on a year as “just a family in the pews” I have learned a ton about myself, my walk with Jesus, and what it’s like to be on the other end of church life. Having spent my entire adult life on the church leadership end of things I would often say, “I don’t remember what its like to just go to church.” This last year has been an amazing vantage point.

When we first came to Harbor we knew right away that we wanted to be a part of it. We went to a service on Sunday and shared coffee with the pastor and his wife later that week. They told us their story and their vision for Harbor… Kristen and I were sold and let them know right away we were committed to staying on board.

As the months went by we felt like we were getting sucked in and were powerless against it. What I mean by that is that churches have a tendency to get their tentacles on you and slowly wrap their eight arms around you so that you find yourself fully enveloped by its grasp until you wake up drowning in holy activity. One moment you are helping in the nursery and then you wake up to realize that you are serving at the church 7 days per week and 3 times on Sunday.

Since I was new in my job and had just come out of serving at a church, I was determined that Kristen and I would stay out of the vortex. It may sound weird but people in our lives were firmly encouraging us… in order to reconnect with Jesus you need to do less church work and work more on your relationships outside of church. While I felt like it was a counter-intuitive approach to spiritual growth, I trust the people God has put in my life to tell me the truth… to tell me the truth!

And yet we started getting sucked in. A weakness I am working on is that I have no ability to say no to something I have the ability/skills/talent to do. Someone from the church would pitch me an idea and my “no thank you” must have come out like a “yes, no problem.” Next thing I knew I was sucked in. It turned out the people in my life were right… and the breath of fresh air I was enjoying so much was quickly snuffed out and replaced with bitterness, anger, and temporary depression. We were right back where we started. In fact, we were probably worse off then ever.

lead-weightFlash-forward to January and early February. I was fully freaking out about our involvement with the church on Sunday mornings. In fact, for some reason I was literally freaking out at church. I would be fine right up until we left. Then we’d pile in the car and I could feel my blood pressure getting higher. I’d get to church and be ready to explode. A little dizzy, on edge, and feeling the strong desire to flee. All my mind would be saying is, “Leave me alone. I just want to be left alone.” And the more people were nice to me the more intense the feeling. It was really one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. Mr. “I’ve got it all under control” was completely not in control. I’d tell Kristen, “I think I’m losing my mind.” I was being completely honest. I was really scared that I was actually losing my mind.

Each time someone at church asked Kristen or I to do something it got worse. I kept saying to myself, “The kids hate coming to church, I hate coming to church, and I can tell Kristen is upset that we’re all upset.” While the calm rational side of me knew that we needed to worship on Sunday mornings the irrational, emotionally-charged side of me started to think that the best way to make these symptoms go away was simply to stop going to church altogether.

[Enter wise council from stage left] Perhaps the solution wasn’t either of those choices? “Stay and be miserable or leave and do nothing are both crappy solutions.” That is when it hit me. What I really needed to do was meet with the leadership and push back.

Gracious. That’s all I can say about my meeting with the staff. My experience with church leadership and AS church leadership has always been to tie someone’s involvement with church stuff to their spiritual growth. When people met with me to bail on things I always took it personally. I would always be polite and thank them for their service… but they’d leave and I would be annoyed. To look across a table and say… “I can’t explain the why, but I know that I need to say no-to-all for a while to find freedom and connect with Jesus” was so freeing. And to have those words embraced was incredible. While I’m certain the two men I met with were discouraged by the outcome of that meeting as they drove away… I was amazed at their maturity. They gained 10,000 points with our family simply by agreeing that our family needed to do nothing. (Not less, nothing.)

fresh-airSo here we are three months later. Other than our uber-active community group my family is a regular family who fills the pew on Sunday morning, hosts a few friends on Monday nights… and that is it. I don’t know how long we will practice this new displine of “no-to-all” but I have to tell you that it is working. The more we push back from being super-involved the better things get for our family. More family time, more family growth, less busyness, less tension… these are all good things.

I don’t know how long this needs to last. My feeling is that I need to guard our family like this until the desire to serve comes back. It hasn’t happened yet. And for once in our lives we aren’t in a rush to make something happen. But for now, we are embracing this new period of our lives. We are embracing a lifestyle of a new normality. It’s a renessaince of the soul that I am enjoying. Maybe a little too much?

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hmm... thoughts

Stress vs. Joy

I think I’m just exhausted. It’s a feeling of over-stimulation that comes on fast and is wearing me out. The solution is really that I need to get destimulated soon. Fairly soon I will need to schedule some “off the grid” time. Either that or I may post something extra snarky for no reason and I’ll regret it.

I have so many excellent things going on. Or is that just the exhaustion? There’s these competing things in my head. Things that bring me joy are stressing me out. And things that should be stress-filled are bringing me great joy.But very little “meh” in my life right now.

– Our community group getting involved with a refugee family. Stress-free joy.

– Other projects I agreed to help out with at church. Expecting joy but stressed.

– Going to The Price is Right today. [airs February 10th] Stress-free joy.

– Friday’s staff Christmas party. Expecting joy but stressed. 9 miles out of my comfort zone.

– Getting our money situation under control. Stress-free joy.

– Thinking about planned vacation time. Expecting joy but stressed.

– Getting ready for Christmas. Stress-free joy. I’m feeling advent-astic.

– Coming up with an age-appropriate discipline system for the kids. Just freaking stressful.

– Working with Kristen on a new website about San Diego living, our first collaborative project. Stress-free joy.

– Nurturing some relationships from Michigan. Expecting joy but stressed.

I don’t really have a point to this post that’s a take-away. Life lessons, nah. Looking for sympathy. Not so much. It’s just kind of capturing some places in my life that are confusing to me. I think in all arenas of both sides of this stress/joy coin I just need to build some time to rest and wait on God. At least, that’s my plan.

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hmm... thoughts Web/Tech

Fair Warning

Starting tomorrow, I have about a week off. Since my move to San Diego I have not taken a break and in many ways I am just ready to chill and do nothing.

At the same time, Kristen knows well, that when I have significant time off I get bored and create things. And since I am a dork my inventions are typically internet related. And that last statement reveals why my post is titled, fair warning.

What am I creating? I have 3 new websites planned in my head that will get birthed during this time off. And for the first time in a long time, these new websites won’t have anything to do with youth ministry or even Christianity. Here’s what will hatch out my soul and be shoved down the throats against your will because of their unbelievable awesomeness:

_ something on San Diego living

_ something about life

_ something about death

Does this need to be said? None of them have anything to do with my job.