Sunday, November 23, 2014

Alphabet Soup for the Soul

A lthough things are not perfect 
B ecause of trial or pain 
C ontinue in thanksgiving 
D o not begin to blame 
E ven when the times are hard 
F ierce winds are bound to blow 
G od is forever able 
H old on to what you know 
I magine life without His love 
oy would cease to be 
K eep thanking Him for all the things 
L ove imparts to thee 
M ove out of "Camp Complaining" 
N o weapon that is known 
O n earth can yield the power 
P raise can do alone 
Q uit looking at the future 
R edeem the time at hand 
S tart every day with worship 
T o "thank" is a command 
U ntil we see Him coming 
V ictorious in the sky 
W e'll run the race with gratitude 
X alting God most high 
Y es, there'll be good times and yes some will be bad, but... 
Z ion waits in glory...where none are ever sad!

(author unkown -- sent to me by my sister-in-law, Sandy Wilson)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Discipleship is a Slow Cooking Process

A profound post from Dan White Jr.'s blog, The Holy Mess:  Missional-Marinating.

Sometimes, in our hurry to build a great, effective ministry, driven pastors end up making a bad stew.  We can't rush discipleship -- it requires patience.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It Takes a Re-Visioning Pastor to Turn a Church Around

Just finished Re:Vision: The Key to Transforming Your Church, by Aubrey Malphurs and Gordon E. Penfield.   Re:Vision is a helpful resource for pastors and supervisors of congregations who desire to turn plateaued or declining congregations around.

Their primary point is that turnaround (growth) of a declining congregation is based primarily on two things:
1.  The capacity of the pastor to lead change
2.  The willingness of the congregation to embrace it.

Through extensive research, Penfield and Malphurs discovered significant differences between re-envisioning and non-re-envisioning pastors.    Using such instruments as Myers-Briggs and the DISC profile, they found a direct correlation between the personality of the pastor and potential for congregational transformation.

Re:Vision is primarily a tool for assessing whether or not the pastor has the capacity to lead such change.

This, of course, raises an important question:  the elephant in the room.  What if pastors do not have this capacity?  What should they do?  I had hoped the authors would provide a silver bullet answer. Alas, they do not.

Basically, they recommend non-reinvisioning pastors to either find another type of ministry (such as chaplain work, missions, teaching, or a staff situation) or do the very hard work of stretching their capacity.

The second option (growing capacity) is painful and difficult.  It will require significant personal and leadership growth and will feel somewhat unnatural.  It will also require a coach to guide them through this process.

All in all, a helpful book for those who are serious about congregational change -- and especially for denominational officials who assist congregations in the processs of seeking pastors.

Four Leadership Capabilities

Researchers from MIT broke down leadership into four capabilities:

1. Sensemaking (understanding the context in which an organization and its people operate)
2. Relating (building relationships within and across organizations)
3. Visioning (creating a compelling picture of the future)
4. Inventing (developing new ways to achieve the vision)

Few people excel in all four areas -- but effective leaders bring other members onto the team, who bring their complementing strengths to the bigger picture.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Now That is a Long Winded Preacher

Pastor Zach Zehnder just broke the world record for the longest sermon:  53 hours and 18 minutes.  I've preached a few sermons that felt that long.

Feed the Goose!

A while back, I awoke in the middle of the night with an  inspiring thought racing through my mind.

"Honey, wake up!" I said, "I just had a marvelous thought!

""Hmmnn? Whuzzat? Marvelous thought?", Cathy mumbled.

"Do you want to hear it?" I asked eagerly.

"Sure, might as well, now that I'm awake." said Cathy.

"Feed the Goose! We've gotta Feed the Goose!"

"What?? You woke me up from good sleep for that? What do you mean -- feed the goose?"

"I don't know, but it's a wonderful thought!" I beamed.

"Go back to sleep," said Cathy.

But my mind kept racing. . .

Feed the goose. Feed the goose. What in the world does that mean?

Then the light clicked on in my little brain -- aha! If you have a goose that lays golden eggs, your most important job is to feed the goose.

Don't get so busy gathering the eggs that you forget to take care of the one laying them!

What is your mission in life? What are you wired to do? That's your goose!

Consider the condition of your soul. That's your goose!

Think of a relationship you need to nurture more tenderly. That's your goose.

What brings out your very best and helps you become the person you were created to be? That's your goose!

What is your sweet spot -- the source of greatest delight? That's your goose.

In a business, family, church, or community, what is your main priority? What activity brings the greatest desired result? That's your goose.

Too often, we're so busy running the farm that we forget to feed the goose.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Not I, But Christ

"Not I, but Christ" be honored, loved, exalted;
"Not I, but Christ" be seen, be known, be heard;
"Not I, but Christ" in every look and action;
"Not I, but Christ" in every thought and word.

"Not I, but Christ" to gently soothe in sorrow;
"Not I, but Christ" to wipe the falling tear;
"Not I, but Christ" to lift the weary burden;
"Not I, but Christ" to hush away all fear.

 -- Herald of His Coming

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Unspoken Meaning of "Stupid Idiot" Notes

"Stupid idiot! Who taught you how to park?"

It was a pencil-scrawled, unsigned love letter, tucked beneath my windshield wiper.

Sheepishly, I looked around the parking lot for Mr. Anonymous, to no avail, feeling like a fool.

Yes my vehicle had crossed slightly into the next parking space, but that was because the guy beside me was double parked too.  He was long gone, leaving my awkwardly parked minivan as the target of nasty notes from poisened pencils.

"Stupid Idiot?" Me? It wasn't my fault! How dare he?" I fumed, "What kind of stupid idiot would write an anonymous letter calling me a stupid idiot?"

Then, something I heard long ago dawned on me.  Hurting people hurt people.  It must be a seething, boiling, cauldron of pain erupting into this nasty note.

A certain melancholy shadowed my heart, as I pondered what sort of difficulties and struggles my "stupid idiot" friend must be enduring. "He's just lashing out," I told myself, "He doesn't really mean this."  What he wanted to say just got lost in the translation.

Then, I pictured what I supposed the fellow really intended when he wrote that nasty letter to me.

Instead of "stupid idiot", he meant to write --

"Help! Help! I'm hurting so much on the inside.  My life is full of stress and emotional pain.   I can't deal with it. Please pray for me!  I don't know what to do."

I'm sure that's what he meant -- but it just came out in different words!

So -- I prayed for the guy, and drove away whistling a hymn.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Fear That Everything Has Already Been Done

Obligation or Opportunity?

"Aw, nuts!" I grumbled to no one in particular as I looked out the picture window upon fourteen inches of newfallen snow.   "Fourteen inches of obligation!"

My kids looked out the same window.

"Yippee!" they shouted, and rushed to put on their snow clothes.

For them it was fourteen inches of opportunity!

Same snow -- two completely different perspectives. I wish I could think more like my kids.

I wish, my first response to winter would be snow angels rather than shovels.

When severe adulthood squeezes out childish play, the snow becomes an unpleasant burden.  As the old Christmas carol, "In the Bleak Midwinter" laments, "Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow. . ."

I muttered something about "bleak midwinter" to my wife Cathy. She rebuked me gently. "It's not so bleak, honey. In fact, it's like a beautiful post card out there! Just look, the snow sparkles like diamonds!"

I suppose beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Bishop Desmond Tutu observed that each day is a gift, and that is why it is called the present. Whatever the day brings is part of the gift, and that includes snow.

As winter approaches, it would do us well to to focus on the opportunity, rather than the obligation. Otherwise, it will be a long winter of discontent.

Whether you look for the positive or the negative -- either way -- you'll find it.

Joy comes with gratitude. Misery accompanies grumbling and complaint. "In everything", the Bible says, "give thanks." That includes the bleak midwinter!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  I think I'll make a snow angel!