…that’s the question any avid reader of my blog would ask –if such a person exists.
Last week I had a really good week off. Really good. It was a time of deep reflection and self-discovery, and now I don’t have the will power to write in my blog.
I’m not sure why.
In fact, the only words that spewed out into written form over the last two weeks have been poetry. POETRY! I’ve never written poetry in my life, but for some reason it made more sense to write my thoughts in abstracts and obscurities.
What I think is going on here is that I’ve realized the time and space it requires to do this kind of thinking. So as I dive in more I’ll undoubtedly find a way to invite you all on the journey, but for now I’m not going to force it.
Thanks, as always, for reading…and for asking.
Are you the type to get bored often? I am. It’s in my blood. The good of it is that if you’re like me, you start itching for a change at about the pace some things change naturally. Keeping up with the times is probably a value of yours, along with innovation and relevancy.
The bad thing is that while things change more at your speed, many things do not. And when I say ‘many things,’ I specifically mean people. People generally have a hard time with change, inevitable as it may be.
The real quandary is when people are bored and hate change; and I think that describes more people than we give credit. Many people are bored and desire change, but fear that same change that they desire.
So what do you do?
What are your fears? What will it take to be bold?
I suppose this dilemma boils down to one question: what would you rather live with, change or boredom?
We’re some nature, and a whole lotta nurture. Circumstances, interactions, events all play a role in shaping us. The problem is that these things are temporal and ever-changing. Is it wrong that I have found an identity in many of these things? Is there a difference between being shaped by circumstances and having an identity in something?
Rummaging through my notes from seminary, I stumbled upon this quote:
“Never place your identity in anything you can lose.”
I currently find myself in an identity shift; and I wonder if I placed more stock the temporal than I should have. Shift to what? Identity in what…or whom?
“…for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” -Galatians 3:26-27
Last night my wife and I went to a Jimmy Eat World concert at the House of Blues in Cleveland. It was a really good show! It was quite telling by the average age of the crowd, however, that the band had been around a little while. This was actually a good thing. I didn’t feel too old…and I didn’t feel too young. All of these people generally my age…boy were they really into this music!
People older than me really didn’t know the songs when I told them I was going to the concert. People younger than me probably don’t know who the band is. Actually, I wish I could have brought these people along to share the experience with them. I think they would have recognized some of the songs and have a new appreciation for the band itself.
As a Christian it is our job to make God known…to tell the story…to spread God’s fame. How do we do that? How do we remind people of the God of their past? Or how do we introduce God to people for the very first time? Those are questions that probably cannot be answered in one blog post, but I can’t help but to think about the crowd in the concert. The crowd was just infectious, and they contributed to the overall great experience at the concert last night.
Perhaps we, God’s followers, have more to do with making God known than we realize. What does that look like for you?
Lord, I have heard of Your fame, and I stand in awe of Your deeds.
O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
In our time make them known;
In wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)
Coming to the place of a decision is a good thing. Second-guessers are always spending 20 minutes at the toothpaste aisle. What a glorious day when a decision is made.
But then there are the impulsive bunch that have no trouble saying “yes” or “no,” even despite all odds. These are a well-intended people, but their commitments are largely made with an emotional motivation. You get a “yes” from them in a heartbeat, but mostly because they like the sound of the word and the smiles it creates. A “no” comes harshly when you make a request of this person right at the time when they realize they have said “yes” too many times to too many people.
Making a decision is a big deal, but so if following through.
Here’s where I’m going with this: in the summer before my senior year of high school I finally realized that God had been chasing me, and I made a decision to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of my life. It was an amazing moment in my life…life-altering really. And since that day I wrestle with following through on that commitment.
Sometimes it’s a lack of will. And sometimes I blind my awareness to what it truly means to follow, to model my life after the example of Jesus. I realize this is no easy thing, and I suppose that many of you would chime back to point out how much I’ve done in response to my faith.
When Jesus famously called his disciples, “Come and follow me,” they made the decision to follow him. But this wasn’t an introspective, invite-Jesus-into-your-heart decision. They left everything, altering not their hearts but their circumstances. In fact, believing in their hearts came much later.
Making a decision is a big deal, but so is following through.
What does it look like to follow Jesus? Not just deciding to follow, but really following?
I used to think that in order to connect with certain people you had to be relevant to them in some way. Find something that you have in common and play off of it in conversation. Look like them. Talk like them. Be like them.
In speaking with someone about the topic of relevancy, a man once said that while he doesn’t have all the appearances of being relevant, he is relevant in the fact that he is completely comfortable with who he is. A brilliant response I think.
Relevancy is about connection, it is about affinity. What this man realized is that people are most comfortable being around a non anxious presence. Worrying about having all the right clothes and simply having the right look would just bring anxiety and second-guessing…and people generally do not want to be around that kind of presence. People don’t have to be just like you in order for you to connect with them. No, the greater attraction is to be around someone who is confident. Not someone who is cocky, but one who is completely comfortable in their own skin.
Go ahead, be who you are. People don’t want to be around a different version of themselves.
I have always hated rules for writing such as margin size. Okay Grammar Nazis, you’re going to hate me on this one, but it’s true. I have even heard of professors breaking out their rulers to measure how wide the margins really are. You may argue how lazy students really are and how important the margins can be. I just hate dogmatic rules that distract people from the actual content of one’s writing.
I have learned recently, however, that margin is a very good thing in life.
It started when I actually had a great deal of margin. I said yes to so many things because at the time I thought I had the time to do them. But all of those things that I said yes to were for a later date. I had no concept of how all of these “yes’s” would pile up on top of one another. These are all good things, mind you. It’s just that too many good things is not a good thing.
Make margin. Keep margin. You actually need margin.
One of my favorite TV shows is called Master Chef. Last season a blind woman won the competition. It was amazing to see how she could use all of her other senses other than her sight. This season the former champion came back to give a tutorial about her cooking. Then she challenged the contestants to wear a blindfold and begin cooking their meal. They fumbled around so much that it was literally impossible for them to continue cooking, and it brought a whole new appreciation for what this champion did.
I wish I had the same kind of heightened awareness from my other senses, especially when confronted with the typical “fork in the road” predicaments. There have been those times when I simply trusted my gut feeling, but it’s so easy to forget what that feels like, and it’s so hard to discern the Spirit’s call.
What do I do?
When do I do it?
One thing seems to be clear. We all are more blind than we think we are.
Yesterday morning the power went out, leaving us without our basic appliances for most of the day. It was a minor annoyance, but it reminded me how dependent we have become on power.
Think this is a post on simplicity? Think again.
From the spiritual perspective, I would love to think that my life has become accustomed to relying on the power of God. Then, when that power is withdrawn or ignored, a huge deficit is experienced.
So this describes me sooooomewhat.
There is a good, healthy, holy discontentedness that I experience from time to time. It is my spirit telling my life, “Where is the power?!” In these moments I crave the real, tangible, experience of Jesus Christ. It’s the sneaky, numb, inoculated, dead spirit that lacks any of awareness of deficit that I’m afraid of. In that state everything is comfortable and okay. Just livin’ the dream.
Be convicted. Be bothered. Stir. And follow the restlessness of your spirit. Power awaits.
So on Friday I talked about how an itinerant system of ministry is weird. But is it really?
I really don’t know much about the environment in corporate America, but I talk to people all the time about job insecurity and the effects of a declining economy and globalization. Longevity in one company is rare anymore, and finding a job becomes far more difficult if you chose to only live in one place. This is the tension that so many Americans live with.
And if I were to compare the itinerant system in the United Methodist Church with other churches, I would guess that there is just as much uncertainty…if not more. The Christian Church in America is declining on the whole. Churches are declining, closing, and merging, creating less jobs. When the Church was thriving, vocational ministry was a pretty wide net; less was demanded of its leaders. What demand is there on a pastor when the Church is the major social outlet of society? Swing open the doors and keep people happy. Nowadays the pressure is on. Outreach and growth are the heralded ministries. You’re either effective or ineffective. People less gifted in the past still had plenty of work…now they are choosing other careers. My point is, the uncertainty of having a job in a church or staying in one place is not as weird anymore.
I want to be clear…I’m not arguing which is the best system, or that itinerancy is the best, or that we have it all down pat in the UMC. I’m simply wondering if having one place that I can call home for the rest of my career or life is unrealistic in both an itinerant system and non-itinerant system.
So what does this mean?
First, it challenges me to remember that vocational ministry is a call more than it is a job. Second, it begs me to consider that the model of “resident pastor” in a particular place is no longer viable, and I must draw upon the “missionary” perspective. Third, it forces me to consider my faith and trust in Christ, who has called me and appointed me to this work. And fourth, it reminds me that I must take one day at a time.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Those were the words that rang in my heart as I was once considering what God wanted me to do with my life. Weeks later it was evident that I was called to be in vocational ministry. I didn’t realize those were the words I will need to draw upon for the rest of my career.