Lil’ Abner and Corrie ten Boom

In the olden days before my time there was a cartoon called Lil’ Abner.  One of the supporting characters was Joe Btfsplk – a poor sop who was so unlucky that a dark cloud hung over his head wherever he went.  There have been days, I must admit, that I felt I was holding hands with this fellow.  The last two years have been kind of an exercise in using the  Holmes Rahe Stress Scale as a personal checklist.  This is not a recommendation, mind you, but rather a disturbing trend.  It’s interesting to have a pastor shake his head in wonderment at the calamity pile-up.

I have to say that in this same time period I have undergone a distinct change.  A curious product of this equation of destruction has been a very real and permanent resolve.  I have driven a stake in my faith and will not be moved.  Yes, I’m weary.  Yes, there are dark days (often Mondays!).  Yes, there are times when I want to get in the car and just drive until there’s no more gas or money.  And sometimes I wonder if the next thing will do me in.  Still, my heart is with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him,” (Job 13:15).

Not that I invite more attack, but I’m at the place where I give a wry chuckle at the transparent nature of the plans of the enemy.  By the sheer constancy of mess, it’s clear that this is no coincidence or accident.  I don’t hold myself up as any great spiritual warrior or paragon of virtue worthy of all the attention of satan.  On the contrary, I wonder at his bothering with me at all.  Surely the pitiful efforts of this very faulty and broken person can’t be of any great impact against our great foe.  Please don’t see that as a false humility.  Like David, “my sin is ever before me,” (Psalm 51:3).  The triumphs I have seen in my calling are not even blips on the radar.

Can it be that there is far more going on in the heavenlies than I am privy to?  The thought of this gives me a thrill of excitement and anxiety.  Don’t we all hope that the faltering steps we take have some sort of greater effect?  That there really is a Narnia and we have a significant role there? Perhaps my shaky obedience has a greater significance than I can imagine.

At the same time the anxiety creeps around the edges of that hope with the threat of “what’s next?”  Yet having survived these recent events, I’m refusing to borrow tomorrow’s troubles.  “God doesn’t give dying grace on non-dying days,” so I have to trust that should greater attacks come, they will be met with greater grace.  I never would have thought I’d have this kind of peace at this end of trials.  It must be because He truly “hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock.”

This is why I identify so much with Corrie ten Boom, who compared her faith and patience with her sister Betsy’s gentle spirit – and found herself wanting.  While Betsy indeed praised the Lord in all situations, Corrie complained and even railed against God in their captivity.  But had Corrie not survived, grown, and obeyed, the story of  “The Hiding Place” may never have been told.  Thousands of lives would not have been touched by her strength and testimony.  Her words wouldn’t have been quoted all over the world, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

My prayer is that through this fire, after all the garbage is consumed, there will be some gold left behind.  Gold that God placed there and was faithful to purify.  That I won’t have a cloud over my head, but a glow on my face, a song in my heart, and a word of encouragement on my lips.

Way back in December, I read an article by Jon Acuff http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/what-are-you-going-to-finish-in-2012/ .  I don’t generally make resolutions, but this article grabbed my attention.  I sat down and came up with a list of 10 items for my own Finish Year list.

1. Raise $1,500 & file 501(c)(3) papers

2. write for at least one grant

3. visit PRN Cedarly for research http://pastorsretreatnetwork.org

4. send first pastor couple on getaway

5. send out first marketing project

6. visit Factor eFarm http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Factor _e_Farm

7. finish MaPT

8. make a new friend

9. become more thankful by writing thank you notes

10. make a promotional video

I didn’t have any real sense that I would be able to complete all of these – particularly #1,3,10.  Up to that point we  had only raised about $50 total, so in all it seemed highly unlikely.  Still, each of them represented a real advance in my life.  I proceded to tackle the more attainable goals – making a friend, writing thank-you notes, working on my classes, etc.  When life intervened in April with the passage of my mom, it seemed a great deal of my list wasn’t going to be completed this year.  I felt like I had been slogging away faithfully, but was just going to have to lower my sights a bit. I continued my classes and we were able to send out our first pastor couple – a real triumph.  We had a solid deadline for the 501(c)(3), so I knew we had to do that.  Giving had increased and it looked like we were actually going to make that one.

And yet, the video project stymied me.  I had approached a friend who agreed, but was unable to come back to Tulsa.  I had called the media department at the university where I worked, but two semesters in a row I received no response.  I resigned myself to the idea that this would just have to be moved to next year’s list.

At about this time a Facebook group of Quitters formed and asked me to join.  The common denominator in this random band was the desire to pursue their dreams even if they had to maintain their day jobs.  What has built up is a community of encouragement.  People sharing their dreams, supporting each other, guest posting on each other’s blogs.  It has been a joy to join.  Somehow through this group I came across http://www.ticoandtina.com – a couple planning to travel around the country  making videos about people pursuing their dreams.  Beyond hope, I asked my dear friend Lynette to nominate us.  Then we just had to wait for a decision.

Last week I heard from them that they were actually coming to Oklahoma!  The only problem with this was the day job.  I frantically composed a shopping list to cover 4 additional adults and 2 young children.  My husband and son joined in with a vigor to get us ready.  There was painting and cabinet work done – because that’s just how we roll.  The team arrived late Wednesday night.  We stayed up even later to try to talk out what we would do the next day.  Thursday I dragged my body out of bed and went back to that day job, leaving my heart behind.  I popped in at lunch and rushed home at 5 to start the shoot.  We all headed out to Woodward Park to shoot the dream for Blank Canvas Tour.  It was a beautiful evening and we joyfully shared the vision God has given us for Barnabas House of Oklahoma.  Dinner wasn’t done until 9 o’clock and we stumbled into bed with hopes for the next day.

Friday came all too early.  The effort to get up for work was even more difficult, but the sooner undertaken the sooner accomplished.  Once again I rushed home at lunch and we  plotted some more.  Friday’s project was a promotional video – just what number 10 said!  At the last minute I rounded up an actor to portray a burned out pastor – Dr. James Barber.  We spent the next two hours shooting, walking, forgetting our lines, and then we headed home.  Dinner was ready by 8:30 this time and we all dropped off by 11.

Saturday morning we got to sleep late (Praise Him!) and then sent our new friends on their way to the next dreamer.  Our lives have been changed by David, Tina, Maeve, Maverick, Krista, and Randall.  We’ve received new names from Maverick – Lela and Bib.  Randall drew a picture of Barnabas House that made me cry.  We shared meals and stupid YouTube videos and side hugs.  Most of all we joined in pursuit of the passion in our hearts.  And we were all a part of and witness to a miracle.

It’s a Christmas Miracle!

My boss is taking a month off work?? Pt 2

Today is part two of a fantastic post from Larry Boatright on affirming your pastor’s need for Sabbath.

Yesterday, I talked about how our Lead Pastor is taking a few weeks off next month for his summer study break. I talked about reasons and benefits to his doing this, and today I thought I’d share a number of ways I think you as a staff member can help make this a great, productive, beneficial time for him.

Some ways to help:

– Pray! Pray that he really rests and takes his minds off the day-to-day of the church. It’s important that he really recharges his batteries. Pray that he really connects with God- this is SO important. I can tell you that Scott is leading the way he thinks God is leading- so I and the rest of the staff NEED him to connect with God during this time. I’m praying and trusting that he will.

– Think of ways to pick up the slack… over the next few weeks, I’m going to look for ways I can pick up the slack around the office and in our teams so he doesn’t have to worry about it. Are there little things you can do that will save your leader from worrying about them? Look for them and take care of it! This obviously depends on your role and job description, but everyone can pitch in even in little ways that make a big difference in the leader’s ability to disconnect from the day-to-day, trusting that things are being executed well in his absence.

– Leave him alone! It’s all too tempting to make little issues seem like big issues that need to be solved by the senior leader, but in reality, most things he doesn’t need to be bothered with. Before you pick up the phone or type an email, ask yourself this question: “Is this issue something serious enough that it’s worth interrupting the potential rhythm of rest and refreshment my senior leader is having?” If it’s not, don’t do it! (let me give you a little tip based on experience: there’s very little worth this interruption). Wait until he’s back or see if someone else on staff can help you. Most things that in the moment feel like a crisis end up being minimal.

– Be a buffer. When people in the church come up to you and say, “Can you get in touch with so and so, it’s really important?” run interference and keep unimportant stuff from causing an interruption to your senior leader’s important time away. See the above, leave him alone.

– Get ahead. It’s natural when the “boss” is around to have a million little things you are doing. While he’s away, take the slightly lighter pace and get caught up but take it a step farther and get ahead. What upcoming events can you work on now? What things in the church (painting a room, cleaning carpets, etc) can you ensure get completed? Get ahead so there is room in your schedule to respond to the things your leader feels God wants the team to respond to in the upcoming year.

– LEAD! He needs you to lead. It’s your church and your responsibility too, so step up and when you see things that need to be done, do them and lead out!

– As a staff, think of creative ways to welcome your leader back when he returns from break! This might include getting a gift card to a nice restaurant and offering to babysit, hanging a banner, getting a card or Starbucks gift card, etc. Be creative!

What things can you think of that would help your senior leader have a great, productive time off? If you’re a senior leader, I’d love it if you’d chime in here with some things that help you during your time away.

You can follow Larry’s blog at http://www.larryboatright.com or twitter.com/larryboatright

Today’s guest post is from Larry Boatright – a writer, pastor, husband, daddy, and follower of Jesus.  Larry serves on the leadership team at The Orchard in Aurora, Il.  You can read more of his great writing at http://www.larryboatright.com or follow him at twitter.com/larryboatright

My friend, pastor, and boss is about to start his weekly summer study break.  This is a season where he takes off the whole month of July (from teaching and much of the day-to-day) to refresh his spirit, recalibrate his priorities for the upcoming year, and prepare to lead us the next year of ministry.  I think this is one of the most important things he does every year for a number of reasons.  If you’re on a church staff, you need to read this post to help you understand the why behind the what.  Today I want to discuss some reasons why this season is so important.

  • It gives him a chance to recharge his batteries. Leading a church is HARD work.  Make no mistake- the pressures of leading a ministry, staff, other ministry leaders, and balancing that with being a great husband and father are HUGE.  He needs this time to get out of the rhythm of leading day-to-day and simply fill his tanks that have been depleted from leading all year.  He needs to build some margin back into his life.  His emotional, physical, and spiritual tanks are empty, and this gives him time and the resources to refill them.
  • It gives him an opportunity to connect deeply with God. Without the day-to-day pressures of “running” the ministry and teaching 40+ weeks a year, he can make sure his study and praying time has no agenda other than meeting God and hearing His voice.  Staff, this is SO critical for your leader, I cannot stress this enough!  You are depending on your senior leader to take this time and connect with God so he can be sensitive to the leading of God.  I don’t want us moving forward based simply on our creative ideas.  I want Scott to connect with God and find His heart for Aurora, The Orchard, the surrounding areas, and other areas of the world, so he can lead us to serve in ways that bless the heart of God.  If you were in the military, you’d want your leader making well-informed decisions prior to launching an offensive in battle.  It’s the same with ministry.  I want my leader taking us into battle with the best intelligence there is- the Voice and Heartbeat of God.
  • It gives him a chance to give his family some quality time. His kids need him to just be dad for a bit.  The church takes much of his time (and many church leaders are guilty of not setting good boundaries and let the church do this) so the kids need to see dad focused on them.  I’m guilty of this.  My wife has often said, “You’re here but you’re not here.”  My body is there, but my mind is on church junk.  My senior leader needs to be able to get away and invest in his family in some quality, uninterrupted time.  This is a win for the team.  We’ve all seen people in ministry bite the dust because they neglected their family and have gotten their priorities mixed up.  I don’t want that- so this time is very important!
  • It gives him a chance to step back and see things from a fresh perspective. Too often when we are in the leading daily routine, we don’t zoom out to 30,000ft and see things from a renewed perspective.  I once read a quote from Mark Batterson that has stuck in my mind: “A change of pace + a change of place = a change of perspective.” I’ve found this to be true.  Your senior leader will benefit from some time away to think big-picture and to see things he might miss when he’s in the grind of it.  He might visit some other churches and get fresh ideas.  Some staff hate it when their senior leader takes this time because he comes back with a laundry list of things to tweak/change, but that is an immature, non-team attitude.  Don’t fear the “notebook filled with things he wants to change;” trust that God is speaking to him in this time and it’s for a good purpose.  Remember, you’re co-laboring together, and he’s the leader, so follow well!
  • Finally, it gives him a chance to learn and be a better leader. How often has your bookshelf lined up with more and more books that you “intend” to read but just get busy and put it off?  The other day in a meeting, Scott talked about how it has been awhile since he’s been really able to dive into some good leadership books. This time off will be spent reading some great leadership material and I have no doubt it will give him some added umph going into the fall.  Every professional career has continuing education, so this is a great time for your leader to learn some new skill, to engage in an ongoing global dialogue about leadership, and to ultimately learn some tools that will help him lead even better.

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start.  Tomorrow I’ll be back with a look at some ways you can ensure this is a healthy, productive season for your senior leader.  I’d love it if you’d comment with your thoughts and perspective and share some other reasons this is a good thing.  Invite your friends to stop by and give their .02 cents as well!

MY BOSS IS TAKING A MONTH OFF??

WHEEE!!!

Roller Coaster of Emotions

In the movie Parenthood, Steve Martin’s character is coming apart at the seams from all the unplanned family crises. His wife (Mary Steenburgen) says to him, “Life is messy.” Through gritted teeth he replies, “I HATE MESSY!” In his mind’s eye he is on a roller coaster hanging on for dear life. The lack of control is terrifying to him, yet he sees others on the same ride squealing with delight, their hands in the air.

So often I feel like him, clinging to the safety bar as the car I’m riding in plunges toward the earth. Wondering why so many others around me seem to be having the time of their lives. However, most of the time my fear manifests itself as anger. Maybe anger feels more powerful than fear, more in control. Angry that God can’t seem to accept my plan as good. Angry that others are having more fun than I am.

I don’t want to be angry. There is a generational heritage of anger on one side of my family that I want to break. I want the legacy of my life to be different. I think that can only be changed by acknowledging the fear that drives it. And surrendering that fear to God.

I’m growing, learning, beginning to trust that the car is on a track, I’m wearing a safety bar, and Someone is in control of the ride. When my car takes a turn I didn’t see coming, I have to tell myself that my God knows all the turns on this ride and I can choose to fret or to enjoy the ride.

By the end of the movie Steve Martin’s character can see himself on that same ride, but with a completely different experience. I’m not there yet, but I’m a lot closer than I used to be. Where are you on this roller coaster?