Friday, November 30, 2007
On another note . . .
I know now why they say that if you need something done, ask a busy person. As you know, I haven't been all that busy lately. That's not to say that I don't have things to do or that I'm not actually doing those things. But I have about half the schedule that I'm used to . . . and half the energy, half the focus, half the efficiency, half the productivity.
I'm learning some things about how I'm wired. For one thing, I'm definitely not a Type A personality. C used to say that I am a Type A personality trapped in a Type B body. That's probably as true as it is funny.
I've always thought that I was a self-starter (and, truthfully, I probably am.) But I've learned that, without the structure of a schedule and deadlines and expectations, I'm pretty useless! I lose the focus of my day pretty quickly, get distracted, waste time piddling around, and then wonder where the day went, especially since I've been pseudo-busy all that time. It's amazing how the day's tasks expand to fit the time available. How is it possible that now that I have more time, I actually have LESS time?
So, I've decided to cut myself some slack for not being uber-productive during my little hiatus these last few months. I've enjoyed the slower pace immensely and, even though I don't have much to show for it, I feel rested and healthy. But I'll be ready when the pace picks up. In the meantime, focus, focus, focus . . .
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Anyway, I told him about how a teenaged clerk was very helpful to me yesterday when I was trying to find a certain kind of mashed potatoes (they were out) and Mowgli said, "You should have gotten his name and told the manager." I told him I'd never done that but that I had emailed kudos to a store or restaurant when an employee has been very helpful. I said that I never really knew if it was helpful. Mowgli assured me that it was, saying that he had gotten bonuses based on customer comments.
So, this year, as we're doing our uber-stressful holiday shopping, let's be sure to thank the people who help us out and even go the extra mile and brag on them to their bosses. According to Mowgli, it really does make a difference.
Friday, November 23, 2007
One thing I love about C is that he invests himself in this work of marrying and burying and everything in between. He sits with patients in hospital rooms and worried families in ICU waiting rooms and with the grieving in their living rooms. He goes with them to the funeral home to make arrangements and he goes to their 50th anniversary parties and helps them renew their vows. He drives long hours to visit with college students at their universities, to offer them encouragement in their own setting and then he does their premarital counseling when the time comes. He listens to couples as they repair their marriages and as they end them. He talks patiently with little children when they think (or their overanxious parents think) it's time for them to give their hearts to Jesus. And he welcomes them all--truly welcomes them--at the end of the aisle when they come forward during the invitation, ready to hear what God is doing in their lives right now, even as they are speaking.
I'm aware that none of this is fashionable these days. I've heard more than one pastor express to me with disdain, "I don't do hospitals." Pastors are supposed to cast vision, to act efficiently, to exchange the mundane for high leverage opportunities, to lead strategically. All this is true (and all things which C pays attention to on a daily basis)--and yet . . . I can't help wondering if maybe C has it right. I've seen the lives changed--the generations changed--because of his patient, quiet work at deathbeds and at children's baseball games. He seems to understand that the kingdom is often not where we think it is, that the last will be first, and that people are more important that anything else. He not only understands it, he lives it and, he tells me, he loves it.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
I've been reading this book, Choose The Life, by Bill Hull for quite a few weeks now. I've been reading slowly, for better absorption, in the mornings during my quiet time. It's both a simple book and a challenging one: simple in the sense that it's easy to read and to understand and challenging in terms of living it out.
Here is the summary sentence: "Ours is a gospel that calls every person to believe what Jesus believed, live as he lived, love as he loved, serve as he served, and lead as he led." It emphasizes the spiritual disciplines and radical community in the context of (mostly) the existing church.
One of Hull's premises is a familiar one: that the church has lost its understanding of discipleship and has lost its way. So this made me wonder whether there has ever been a time in which the church as a whole--or even the majority of Christians--has really lived the disciple life, at least since Constantine baptized the entire Roman Empire (whether they wanted it or not).
Of course, there have always been movements of God in every era and they continue into our own. But we start with about 1000 years of darkness, superstition, ignorance, paganism and violence. We emerge from that, after wasting quite a bit of time on the Crusades, into the highly structured, segmented church that gives birth to the Reformation, which gets off to a wonderful start until the Reformers, having escaped being killed for their beliefs, start killing each other. Then all God's children--on both sides of the religious schism--take turns killing each other based on whichever monarch happens to have manipulated his/her way to power with the blessing of whichever Church he/she happens to belong to. Meanwhile, the average Christian continues to be ignorant and superstitious.
Blessedly, the Enlightenment comes along to give us another option and things settle down for awhile but certainly no one would say that we were leaning toward following Jesus. Instead, we become very impressed with ourselves and our intellectual and creative abilities and modernity gains a foothold, leading us to the very recent past, in which the church emphasizes doctrine over transformation, "living right" over love, church membership over discipleship. Now, some say, we are at the end of the modern age and postmodernism--if we can ever figure out what that is--is the way of the future.
All this to say, I'm not sure the "good old days" have ever truly existed in the kingdom of God. A woman was once lamenting the state of our culture to me (I think she was upset about not being able to pray at football games) and said that we can just look at what is happening in the world and see that God's judgment is obviously on us since it has never been as bad as it is now. I wondered (silently, since I'm not THAT big of a dork) what she would have done with the 14th century, when almost half the human population of Europe died in a plague and the rest descended into darkness and ignorance and endless war.
I'll acknowledge that in our own culture, a couple of generations ago, we at least had a common spiritual language, a common ethic, a common cultural religious experience. I agree that the loss of that commonality is something to mourn but maybe we have glazed the past with a Norman Rockwell-esque patina. I don't believe that--at the time--it necessarily transformed us into followers of Jesus who lived his life with passion and love.
Actually, realizing that there isn't anything to go back to is good news. It reminds me of Jesus' message, which rejected efforts to reestablish the days of Moses or David in favor of a new kingdom of radical love that the world had never seen before. Maybe it's time for us to give up on the idea that followers of Jesus must be a majority (in our culture or in our churches) and instead embrace the challenge to follow Jesus on the fringes, where God has always seemed to be most powerfully at work. Rather than trying to reclaim an ideal past, we are called forward to change the future. To me, that feels like good news.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
It was my very first call from a potential client, referred to me by a woman who heard me speak last Friday. I was very excited. She said, "I want to make an appointment with you." She asked, "What is your fee?" She said, "But there's a complication . . . I actually live in Houston."
Friday, November 9, 2007
by Ruth Haley Barton
For everything there is a season...
Sometimes on the Sabbath
all you can do is
settle into the soft body of yourself
and listen to what it says.
the exhaustion that is deeper than tired-ness
the hunger that is for more than food
the thirst that is for more than drink
the longing for comfort that is more than physical.
On the Sabbath
body and soul reach out for time of a different sort
Letting go is hard,
letting go of that which no longer works
that which no longer brings joy and meaning
that which is no longer full of life.
It seems cruel
That something that used to be so beautiful
should fall to the ground
sinking into the earthy mud along with everything else that is dying,
no longer recognizable for what it used to be.
It seems cruel but it is the way of things.
One generation gives its life for the next.
One season slips away so another can come.
One crop of fruit falls from the tree so that more can be borne.
One wave recedes while another gathers strength
to crash upon the shore.
It seems cruel
but it is the rhythm of things
And rhythm has its own beauty.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
"Where there is no vision, the people perish; where there are no people, the vision perishes." --Joel Gregory, commenting on the church growth movement
"When you pray for the peace of Israel, also pray for the peace of Palestine and for the peace of the Arab Christians." --David Coffey, president, Baptist World Alliance
"If you want God's blessing on your life, if you want God's blessing on your ministry, you have to care about what he cares about." --Rick Warren, in Monday night sermon
"But I loved the Japanese, so I ate them." --Rick Warren, proving that even the most gifted communicators don't always say exactly what they meant to say
Sunday, November 4, 2007
I called her today to visit and reassure and she was almost unable to speak on the phone, able only to make unintelligible noises. It turns out she had a stroke last night. After some effort, I was able to understand some of her speech and her nurse told me that she understands everything that is said to her. I can only imagine how much more frightened and frustrated she is now. The surgery will still happen tomorrow.
I promise not to misuse this blog for prayer requests but since I introduced you to her, I'd like to follow up. Please pray especially for the supernatural comforting presence of God and for him to call out compassion in the nurses and health care workers she encounters. I am less concerned about her health problems and more concerned about her profound aloneness and her fear. Thanks so much--