Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Three Good Times for Vocational Decision Making

St. Ignatius Loyola suggested the best times to consider making vocational change:

1)  When our will is moved to a point where no hesitation is possible.
2)  When we find light and information through reflection on our experiences of desolation (darkness, turmoil, sloth, tepidness, etc.) and consolation (movements tending towards faith, hope, love, peace, etc.)
3)  In a period of calm, when the soul is not agitated by diverse spirits and exercises its natural faculties freely and tranquilly.

He recommended imagining yourself at your point of death, then asking what path would you wish you had taken.  Also, how would you advise another honest seeker in the same situation if they were seeking your counsel?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hometown Prophet

This past weekend, I had the privilege of reading Hometown Prophet, a fascinating novel by Nashville author, Jeff Fulmer.

It's the story Peter Quill, an unemployed, aimless, young man who moves back home with his overbearing mother -- and begins to have vivid dreams that come true.  Quite a buzz follows, as Peter's dreams increase in number and scope, and events unfold just as he predicted.

When Peter's prophecies go a different direction than expected, challenging the bias of people in the community, he finds himself in a firestorm of controversy.

In some ways, one could say this book is a critique of the evangelical subculture, written from the balcony.  It gave me a fresh perspective and good food for thought.

Within the first few pages, the book drew me in, and I couldn't put it down -- a sign of good authorship.  .I stayed up late Sunday night, and ignored the Olympics, just to see how our hero, Peter, was going to land. 

How to Respond to Negative Emotions

Every human being experiences negative emotions. That’s a part of what it means to be a person. We can’t help it. Bad feelings come to all of us.  We DO have a choice, however, in what we do with them when they come.

Some suppose that every negative emotion requires a negative reaction – but that is not the case. Through prayer, attitude adjustment, and self discipline, we can respond positively to negative feelings.

If you don’t decide, you’ll merely react – and the decision needs to come before you’re in a funk. One helpful practice I’ve used for many years is spiritual breathing. I imagine exhaling the negative stuff, and then inhale deeply with a positive replacement. It helps.

Today, I challenge you to choose responding rather than reacting:
When you’re frustrated with someone – choose kindness.
When you’re in a hurry – choose patience.
When you’re stressed out – choose peace.
When you’re angry – choose calmness.
When you’re frightened – choose courage.
When you’re anxious – choose faith.
When you’re discouraged – choose hope.
When you’re upset – choose serenity.
When you’re conflicted – choose harmony.
When you’re pressured – choose tranquility.
When you’re offended – choose forgiveness.
When you’re deprived -- choose gratitude.
When you’re confused – choose prayer.
When you’re overwhelmed – choose simplicity.
When you’re sad – choose joy.
When you’re in despair – choose life.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How Christian Denominations See Each Other

I borrowed this from one of my favorite bloggers, Paul Wilkinson who borrowed it from St. Thomas the Doubter Church

It Shall Be Done!

Faith mighty faith the promise sees and looks to God alone,
Laughs at impossibilities and cries it shall be done.
And cries it shall, it shall be done,
And cries it shall, it shall be done,
Laughs at impossibilities and cries it shall be done.

-- C. T. Studd

Thursday, July 26, 2012

When the Day of Evil Comes

Last Sunday's sermon, in light of recent events in the nation (Aurora shooting) and our community (LCO arson fires) I departed from the scheduled sermon topic and preached from Ephesians 6:13, When the Day of Evil Comes.

The Day of Evil (trouble, adversity, injustice, sin, accusation) will come to everybody sooner or later, but it is only temporary -- and is a test.  Character is not made in times of crisis.  It is displayed.  Who we really are comes out when the pressure is on.  How can we be prepared to face this dark day when it comes?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Road to Success is Uphill all the Way

How do you know you are on the path to success? It’s uphill all the way!

Nobody coasts to their desired destination. Anything worthwhile requires overcoming significant difficulties and obstacles. It’s simply a part of the territory.

When you’ve given your best and failed, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and give up. Sadly, many people would have achieved the goal if they would have hung on just a little longer. Don’t quit too soon. You may be inches away from the breakthrough!

Refuse to cave into discouragement. Looking back, I’ve regretted almost every decision I’ve made from discouragement. Humans were made to hope, and that means believing in a better tomorrow.

I have always been inspired by this poem by an unknown author. May it bring encouragement to your heart:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is strange with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Win a Free Copy of Filled Up, Poured Out

Margaret Feinberg is giving away three free copies of my book,  Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.  Details on how to enter the drawing are here at her facebook page.  Drawing will be Friday, July 27.

The Secret to Joyful, Purposeful Work

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

--  Robert Frost, "Two Tramps in Mud Time"

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Develop Robust Faith in Young People

Here's a fascinating interview by Chris Yaw on Churchnext with Kenda Creasy Dean, professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dean says we often not need look further than parents.

An abundance of research points to an astonishing link between religiously active adults and religiously active children – so the best place to start – is with parents.

Spiritual development is not like soccer -- where the parents' job is to drop the kids off and stand on the sideline.  Rather, the parents need to get in the game, and play along with them!

In this interview, Professor Dean tells us why young people look for less play time and more passion in church, and how we might begin to provide it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thoughts on Online Education

I teach one online Spiritual Formation course per semester for Wesley Seminary. It's been a great experience, and I think I've learned at least as much as my cohort of students. The conversation is invigorating and enlightening. We challenge, inspire and encourage each other. It's a fascinating forum for active learning, with instant application.

My friend, Ken Schenck, dean of Wesley Seminary, has written a great blog post reviewing Mark Edmonson's NY Times Op-Ed regarding online education. I agree with Schenck.

A Typewriter in the Orchestra

Whatever your ability -- use it to make beautiful music in God's symphony. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Free E-Book Church Leadership 101

A fantastic ministry resource -- a little book packed with lots of practical wisdom by Greg Atkinson:  Church Leadership 101

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hayward Wesleyan Church Pastoral Sabbatical Policy

Several pastors and leaders of local congregations have asked if I could post our Sabbatical Policy at Hayward Wesleyan Church.  We explored many different sabbatical policies, and landed on the best one we could find as outlined in "Ministerial Sabbaticals" by Richard Shockey.  We drew largely from this document, tweaking it to fit our context, and adding bits and pieces from a hodgepodge of other resources: 

 Pastoral Sabbatical Policy

When a minister serves a congregation for seven years or longer, it is time for a sabbatical. An extended time away for the purpose of study, enrichment, vision casting, travel, rest, prayer and/or visiting different cultures provides the needed respite that is pivotal in helping assure continued healthy leadership. Congregations  may be strengthened by offering a pastor or an associate a sabbatical—time to briefly step away from the cyclical, unending demands of daily parish life.

A sabbatical is not a vacation. Rather it is a time for intentional exploration and reflection, for drinking anew from God's life-giving waters, and for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.

Genesis and Leviticus speak of "Sabbath time" in terms of days, years, and land usage. Since the Sabbath is recognized as a distinctive time in creation—as a gift of rest for both renewal and hope—Scripture infers that regular, periodic rejuvenation is vital in all areas of life. The Old Testament writers directed a time period for the soil to remain untilled so that it could replenish itself. Just like the soil, humans need a season to lie fallow for revitalization of the body, mind, and soul. 

Pastors, associates, and ministry leaders are called to the work of ministry as servants of the church. Because of the spiritual dimension of leadership and the emotional energy required by the task, ministers often get into a "give and give and give, but never receive" treadmill. When there is little relief from the constant pressure of Sunday morning deadlines, committee meetings, counseling sessions, visitation schedules, community commitments, and a host of other day-to-day encounters, a leader might scream, "Stop the world.  I want to get off." Greg Asimakoupoulos discovered in his weariness, "Much of my depression was actually my body's muffled cry for rest. "

A sabbatical allows the minister to get off the treadmill in exchange for a battery recharge of vision and hope. It creates an opportunity for the minister to:
  • recapture a sense of vision,
  • be nurtured in faith and skills,
  • become introspective,
  • rekindle spiritual passion,
  • refocus priorities,
  • review the ministerial journey, and
  • reflect on the call of God for life and ministry.
A sabbatical feeds the body, mind, and soul resulting in renewed, refreshed, and revitalized energy to function as a shepherd and servant leader. Several clergy persons have expressed "ah-ha" moments as a result of the sabbatical journey. Often, the sabbatical extends the pastor's tenure with a congregation. When the minister returns with a renewed vision, the congregation often opens a new, exciting chapter in congregational ministry.

Members of the pastoral staff serve in a unique position in their full-time ministry. The demands of pastoral ministry are great and often draining physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Despite the use of accumulated vacation time, pastors often find themselves stressed and spiritually depleted over the years.

Recognizing the importance of maintaining strong, effective, and long-term pastoral leadership, it is the desire of Hayward Wesleyan Church to provide a time of personal and spiritual refreshment and professional growth for the pastors.

Sabbatical Policy

  1. The term "sabbatical" means the pastor is relieved of all routine and emergency duties during the time granted.  Prior to the sabbatical the pastoral and church leadership will develop a plan for covering the pastor's duties during the absence. Sabbatical is separate and distinct from accrued vacation. No vacation time should be used within 4 weeks before or after sabbatical.
  2. All pastoral staff shall be eligible for sabbatical upon completion of seven years of service at Hayward Wesleyan Church. Eligibility will be reached following the staff member's anniversary date.
  3. A sabbatical is not an entitlement, but a gift from the congregation.  A request for sabbatical leave may be denied by the board for any reason.
  4. Eight weeks of sabbatical leave shall be allowed after each seven-year period of full time pastoral employment at Hayward Wesleyan Church.
  5. Scheduling shall be based on seniority at Hayward Wesleyan Church. No two pastors may be on sabbatical at the same time. Leave should be taken within one year of eligibility, unless other arrangements are approved by the board.
  6. The entire sabbatical must be taken at one time, Sabbatical leave for less than eight weeks may be approved, but the unused portion may not be taken at another time or used in any other way.
  7. The senior pastor shall submit a sabbatical proposal in writing to the Church Board outlining how the time will be used. Other pastoral staff shall first present a written request to the senior pastor following the same guidelines. The request shall then be presented to the Church Board for final approval.
  8. The proposal should include the following: 
    • type of ministry-related activity planned for sabbatical;
    • other plans for physical rest, personal recreation, family responsibilities, intellectual stimulation, and spiritual renewal;
    • strategy for coverage during the sabbatical
  9. A written report shall be presented to the Church Board at the conclusion of the sabbatical. It should include how the time was invested and what benefits were realized. 
  10. The pastor's full wages and benefits shall continue during the sabbatical. No compensation shall be given for unused sabbatical time. 
  11. The Church Board shall address exceptions to the above policy on a case-by-case basis.

Filled Up Poured Out Now Available as E-Book

Just received word today that my book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose, in now available at The Wesleyan Publishing House E-Book Store.

This version will also be available shortly at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

At Last a (Post) Modern Man

I mail, I text, I tweet, I blog,
I built a Facebook for my dog, 
I speak no words, I shake no hands, 
I am at last a modern man.”
~ Allan Fallow

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Good Morning Show Interview

Several weeks ago, I was interviewed on the Good Morning Show with David and Rachel -- a Christian radio talk program in Nashville.  The interview was captured on Ustream, and can be heard here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Refreshment When the Well Runs Dry

Paul Wilkinson, a highly regarded faith blogger, shared the following review of Filled Up, Poured Out:  Refreshment When the Well Runs Dry

Wilson has put everything in this book except the kitchen sink. It’s an encouragement collection of stories, quips, analogies, adages, and many scripture references. I hesitate to introduce comparisons, but I would think of this as a large glass of water for someone engaged in Christian service who finds themselves running dry; or an energy bar for the person whose strength feels depleted.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Quiet Leadership

An insightful post by Brian Harris at Jesus Creed on the value of quiet leadership.  Good food for thought.

He writes:
If you have ever ruled yourself out as a leader because you aren’t a dynamic, upfront person, you might find (Joseph) Badaracco’s Leading Quietly liberating. Badaracco has made a study of quiet leadership where he argues that the leadership qualities that result in long term success don’t revolve around charisma, but are more directly related to perseverance, tenacity and other centeredness, as well as a willingness to nudge rather than gallop ahead, and to arrive at appropriate compromises.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oswald Smith on Missions and Prayer

Four Keys to Speaking at Youth Camp

My friend, Heath Mullikin, an outstanding pastor in South Carolina, is in high demand as a youth camp speaker.  I think his post, Four Keys to Speaking at Youth Camp hits the nail on the head.  Good thoughts here for Sunday morning preachers as well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Are You a Thermostat or a Thermometer?

Up in the north county, some folks consider air conditioning an unnecessary luxury. Many homes go without it.  Only last summer, after twenty years of Hayward living, did we finally install it in our home. 

In our BC days (before conditioning) we relied on open windows, fans, ice tea and dips in the lake to stay cool.

This summer's spate of heat waves confirmed that we made a good decision.   A week ago, early in the morning, with  the mercury already soaring, I snuggled comfortably in a blanket, sipped hot coffee and smiled.

One recent afternoon, I entered the house, and was met with a blast of Arctic air.   It was like stepping from a sauna into Antarctica --  downright cold -- reminding me of my father's moniker for an air conditioner:  "the deep freeze."

The deep freeze was certainly working overtime that day.   I shivered and wondered, "How long till hypothermia sets in?"

The thermostat was set at 62 degrees.  "Good grief!  Who turned the air conditioning down to 62?"

My son grinned and said, "I did!  Feels good, eh?  Almost like November!"

"Nobody sets an air conditioner for 62 degrees!  Absolutely nobody!"

"Well, actually, that's not true, because I'm somebody and I did it."

"Congratulations, and you'll never do that again unless you want to pay the electric bill."

When you're a preacher, there's a lesson in everything.  After resetting us back to a more tropical climate, I recalled a lesson from years ago. 

Some people are like thermometers.  They react emotionally to the situation.  When tension is in the air, they get stressed out.  When they experience a frustration, they fly off the handle.  When someone offends with hurtful words, they hurl back insults.  Their mood swings up and down according to their environment.

Others are like thermostats.  When the situation gets tense, they see the humor.  When frustrations arise, they take a deep breath, and seek understanding.  When conflict arises, they bring resolution.  When the climate gets hot, they attempt to cool it down.

By nature, we're all thermometers.  We become thermostats only by purposeful intention, a willingness to change our thought patterns, and the gumption to overcome negative feelings with positive action.  In other words, that's called maturity.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Start Your Day in a Good Frame of Mind

"Four hundred devils cannot stand before the man who makes it the rule of his life to get up early to praise the Lord and plead for God's blessing on his own soul and on the world.  The devils will flee away."
--  Samuel Brengle

Monday, July 09, 2012

Church vs Beer Tweets via U.S. County

Fascinating map from Floating Sheep, comparing Tweets containing the word "Beer" vs those containing the word "Church."  Blue = Beer, Red = Church.

HT Todd Rhoades

Avoiding Burnout in Church Leadership

A great interview on healthy church leadership at Churchnext with Lance Witt, author of the wonderful book which every church leader should read -- Replenish.  "The fire burns better when there's space between the logs."  "Live well to lead well."

Saturday, July 07, 2012

So Let the Sonshine In. . .

My son, Wes, is now famous after being featured in the Sonshine Promotional Poster. 

Rest In Peace

A few days ago, Light From the Word used the following excerpt from my book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose, as a devotional:

I have learned the secret of being content. . . . I can do all this through [Christ]. (Phil. 4:12-13)

A frazzled mother continually complained about her stress level. "I just need some peace and quiet!" she groaned. So, for Mother's Day, her daughter Jessica went to the florist shop and returned proudly carrying the perfect gift for her mother. The arrangement included a pink bow inscribed, "Rest in Peace."

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, in their groundbreaking book Jesus Manifesto, said, "Knowing Christ as your rest' and allowing Him to live His life through you is one of the most freeing things you can know as a Christian" They continue, "Resting in Christ doesn't mean being passive. It means allowing the Lord to do the heaving lifting."

My favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, sums up what Paul called the "secret of being content": "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." The secret to contentment is indeed about dying—but to truly rest in peace, we must die to self and rest in Him.

Prayerfully seek the contentment that only God can give, by helping you die to yourself.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Calico Joe

John Grisham is my favorite fiction author.  I've read every book he's written, and usually the read takes less than two days.

Grisham's latest book, Calico Joe, departs from his normal lawyer-suspense genre, and explores the world of professional baseball, combined with a complex, abusive father-son relationship (or non-relationship might be a better description.)

Calico Joe Castle is a rookie with the Chicago Cubs who dazzles fans, teammates, and opponents alike with a hitting streak for the record books -- until a tragic incident ends his stellar career. 

The story is told through the eyes of Paul Tracey, son of hard-throwing, hard-living New York Mets pitcher, Warren Tracey.  The elder Tracey proves less than heroic by all accounts, especially at home -- while his son longs desperately for his father's affection and positive attention.  Calico Joe becomes the hero Paul Tracey could never find in his dad.

Warren's violence against his son ultimately leads to divorce and alienation.

After years of estrangement, Paul receives word of his father's facing his father's mortality, forces his father to face the painful truth.

The story is riveting and profound, drawing the reader into significant introspection regarding family relationships and truth avoidance.

A powerful read, especially for dads -- and a trip down memory lane for those who remember 1970's baseball.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

When You Drop the Ball, Just Remember. . .

A few weeks ago, a friend passed away before I had the opportunity to visit her.  I felt terrible about missing this important ministry moment, especially as, in hindsight, the things that kept me from it, though urgent, were not nearly as important.  To top it off, I was leaving town to attend General Conference at the time of her funeral and unable to officiate.  I felt so bad about letting this precious family down.

Experiences like this strengthen my resolve to be more aware and present for others, as much as possible, in their time of need.  Excuses don't cut it.  We need to admit our shortcomings, and work on improving them.

However, when we drop the ball, we need to give ourselves some grace.  After all, isn't grace and mercy at the heart of the Gospel? 

Sometimes we ministers of the Gospel are good at extending grace to others, while, simultaneously beating ourselves up. 

After expressing my regret to a mutual friend, he sent me an encouraging note:  "I believe you were bothered by not being available, as I was, at a certain time, but as you well know, God had a bigger plan and things were taken care of."

He then shared the following poem, which ministered to my spirit.  Note, especially the last stanza:

When you feel tested and tried
And all worn out inside,
Just remember. . .
God is by your side.

When you have lost your best friend
And it seems like the end,
Just remember. . .
Another He will send.

When you feel like a good cry
But you just don't lknow why,
Just remember. . .
God is standing by.

When the day seems to grow cold
Because you're getting old,
Just remember. . .
Your hand He will hold.

When there's a heart you can't mend
That needs someone to tend,
Just remember. . .
Jesus, too, is their friend.

The Hidden Secret of Effective Mission Work

"Away in foreign lands they wondered how
Their simple word had power!
At home the Christians, two or three, had met
To pray an hour!"

(From The Undefeatable Praying Minority, a pamphlet published by the Praying Band Department of World Gospel Mission)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

She Got One!

Terrell Boettcher, of the Sawyer County Record, snapped this shot of my daughter, Hannah, pulling a bluegill from Shue's Pond during Musky Fest.

Here's a Sawyer County Record video, which includes Hannah in the watermelon eating contest:  she won!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Mondays with my Old Pastor

As a part of my early morning quiet times the past couple of weeks, I read (a chapter per day) a delightful book, Mondays with My Old Pastor, by Jose' Luis Navajo.

This book is a narrative guide to pastoral replenishment and recalibration.  It relates the story of a 46 year old pastor in the throes of frustration and ministry burnout, who seeks advice from his elderly former pastor.

The old shepherd invites the younger pastor into a weekly mentoring relationship (every Monday), where he shares principles for healthy, vibrant long-haul ministry, spicing each principle with pithy quotes, and fascinating little stories that pack a punch.  The stories remind me of those told by my country preacher father, Andy Wilson.

The stories, alone, are worth the purchase of the book, and make good grist for sermon illustrations.

The principles are outstanding -- simple, yet profound:

Principle One:  Everything begins with loving God.

Principle Two:  Watch over and preserve the health of your family.

Principle Three:  Spend quality time with your Bible.

Principle Four:  You will either love those you serve, or you will stop serving them.

Principle Five:  You are valuable.

Principle Six:  Be willing to forgive.

Principle Seven:  Always stay grounded and level headed.

Principle Eight:  Make prayer a habit.

Principle Nine:  Laugh as much as you can and do it daily.

Principle Ten:  Greatness is knowing how to be humble.

Principle Eleven:  Respond faithfully to the One who has chosen you.

Principle Twelve:  Learn the tremendous value of trials and difficulties,.

Principle Thirteen:  Changes in the night?  Never!  Wait for morning to come.

Principle Fourteen:  Honesty is a highly prized value in heaven and earth.

Principle Fifteen:  Learn to form a team.

Mondays with My Old Pastor is a fabulous book in so many respects.  I highly recommend it to all who serve in vocational ministry.

Purchase Here

(a complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review on this blog.)

Two Pet Peaves About Ministry People

Todd Rhoades shares his Two Pet Peaves About Ministry People:
1) Taking everything WAY too seriously.
2) Not taking the most important things seriously enough.