Lazy Boy

I have really gotten bad at writing lately.  I always intend to make time to write things down but somehow I allow myself to get sidetracked. 

Off to Dallas early in the week then back home and then off to Chicago.  Travel is getting to be a regular part of my life now, the sheen has already worn off.  I have the airport security warning memorized.  

Today my friend Matt and I rescued our neighbor’s home from the overgrowth that became his yard.  He moved to Ohio several weeks back leaving his home for sale and unattended.  It’s amazing how tall grass can get in a short amount of time.  It took almost all morning just make the yard look somewhat presentable.  The sad part of the job is that it will all need to be done again in a matter of days I am sure.

As Matt and I were working together on the yard, we had a chance to talk about what living in community looks like in the nitty gritty of everyday life.  Many people live out community around pot-luck dinners and that is pretty much where things stop.  The reality of community is that it is hot and dirty and inconvenient and often times very unpleasant . . . but at the end of the day it is true community.  

In my  journey of trying to follow Jesus, I have found that the reality of my faith – the reality of true community is being lived out most often, in the dirty, inconvenient and sometimes exasperating work of being available for others who have no one else.

I have noticed that the response to person’s need, regardless of how inconsequential that need might be, is often in direct proportion to how easy it is to be around that person.  In other words, the more lovely, more beautiful, the more enjoyable that person happens to be, the larger the response. Must have something to do with our fallen nature.  

Well that is enough for tonight. Time to go pack so that I am ready to leave for the airport in the morning.  Sleep will be a welcome friend tonight.

Mr. Inconsistent

Man, I sure have been slacking when it comes to making time to journal through this electronic medium we call a blog.  I have been so inconsistent.  Although when I think about it I would rather be inconsistent than incontinent.  At my age you start to think about crazy things like that.  

These days my head is slowly trying to wrap itself around the needs of the local church.  The local church, whether large, small, house, coffee shop or whatever is all that we’ve got to make a collective difference in this great big world that we call home (for now).  I am concerned that we, the church, have at our disposal all these amazing resources that could impact our local communities in crazy ways, and yet we seem to tend toward squandering many of these resources on ourselves.

In what I do for a living, I have the opportunity to meet pastors from all over the country.  It’s a wonderful thing to meet so many people with such diverse backgrounds.  One thing I have learned from listening to these men and women is that the most difficult aspect of ministry is dealing with not nice people in their churches. 

So here we are big churches, little churches, amazing churches, etc, and we are dragging ourselves down by our infighting and and squabbles.  I found what seems to be the common denominator in all of these internal quagmires – the common element seems to be people’s need to be “right.”  

Small seemingly insignificant problems escalate to large scale conflicts all because someone decides that they are right, and that is that.   Sadly, this demand to be right not only ruins relationship but it can halt the effectiveness of the church where the conflict is occurring.  

If we can learn to give up our need to be in control and our seemingly insatiable appetite to be right, I think we can make some pretty great progress as a Christian community.  

I actually didn’t intend to journal about this today, but it’s what came out.  I hope that you and I can learn to let go of demanding to be right, and of having to be in control.  That whole thing that Jesus talked about . . . the two great commandments – love God and love one another, seem to come into play in all of this don’t you think?  

Finally Back . . . More or Less

Wow . . . what a summer; I can’t remember a summer when the time has sped by as quickly as it has this year. Thankfully Char and I were able to break away for a weekend in Door County last weekend. At the end of this month and a good deal of September I hit the road again for a series of stops throughout the Midwest and Texas.  Oh well, its warm and the sun is out, its all good.  

I happened across a great blog today that has an excellent post about safe and unsafe people.  I think this will resonate with everyone who reads this blog.  I certainly have become far more keenly aware of people that I consider safe as opposed to unsafe. I am much more careful these days about who I “let in” compared to those that I am willing to hang-out with.  The same is probably true for you.  Here is the abbreviated post, if you would like to read the entire piece please go to Kathy Escobar’s blog.

unsafe people (and communities):

  • think they ”have it all together” instead of admitting their weaknesses
  • are defensive instead of open to feedback
  • are self-righteous instead of humble
  • only apologize instead of changing their behavior
  • avoid working on their problems instead of dealing with them
  • demand trust instead of earning it
  • blame others instead of take responsibility
  • lie instead of tell the truth
  • remain stagnant instead of growing
  • resist freedom instead of encouraging it (can’t take no for an answer)
  • flatter us instead of confronting us
  • condemn us instead of forgiving us
  • stay in parent/child roles instead of relating to us as equals
  • unstable over time instead of being consistent
  • gossip instead of keeping secrets

ouch. some of these are pretty brutal & even though i consider myself a fairly safe person i cringed at a few, knowing that i do & think these things more than i wished.

safe people (and communities):

  • accept us just like we are
  • love us no matter how we are being or what we do
  • influence us to develop our ability to love and be responsible
  • create love and good works within us
  • give us an opportunity to grow & stretch & practice
  • help us feel comfortable being “ourselves”, to be on the outside what we are on the inside
  • allow us to become the us that God intended
  • use their lives to touch ours and leave us better for it
  • help us be more like Christ
  • help us to like & love others more
  • make the relationship more important than opinions
  • receive instead of just give
  • are humble & willing to say what they need
  • are honest, kind & don’t pretend
  • work through resistances instead of giving up

Time Away

Weekend away to Door County. Looking for a time of solitude and rejuvination with my gorgeous wife. Very nice!

Crazy Busy as June!

I am coming to learn that when you live your life at the disposal of others – you are pretty much out of control about 90% of the time.  I write, in part, for my living, and I have hardly had time over the past 60 days to sit in front of a blank blog screen to capture my thoughts so that I will remember what I have been doing with my life.  

Right now I am sitting in the office at our retreat house in Delafield, WI getting ready to host six pastor couples for dinner.  There are few things in life that I enjoy more than sharing a meal with spiritually minded people who enjoy talking about their lives and how they see God showing up in wonderfully miraculous and life changing ways.  

So . . . sad to say, I am out of time right now – but I have promised myself that I will get back and write a few thoughts on what has been keeping me insanely busy over the past two months.  Time for dinner!

Crazy Busy

The month of June was a blur. No really, it was a blur.  Everyone I talk to says that they are busy, and I don’t doubt that for one minute.  Sometimes we are our own worst enemy when it comes to taking on way more stuff that we have the capacity to handle.  That was the month of June.  I can’t even believe that it is July 2.  It was just May 30th a minute ago and now its July 2nd.   

I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle must have felt when he woke up from his extended sleep. Sadly, July looks like it could be a complete repeat of June.  Between travel for the ministry, our ministry at the Cottage and our work with neighbors and friends who need a little lift now and then, we are pretty much out of calendar already.  Tomorrow after work I pack up the Element and head to Madison and then to Chicago to pick up one of my three sons, my daughter and her boyfriend.  Once everyone is assembled in said Element we are off on a four hour jaunt to Bushnell, Il to join in the three day Cornerstone Festival.  

In years gone by this was an annual event for the family.  We even rented a portable crib when our oldest son was a baby so that we could all make the trip and be able to camp in reasonable comfort. That was 29 years ago – now we are off again and this time I am hoping that I will be able to keep up with my 20 somethings as they dart around the massive festival grounds in search of an epiphany.  

I am pretty excited to see Shane Claiborne.  Shane will be there as part of his Jesus for President tour.  Shane and I haven’t met yet, but we both had the privilege of endorsing Doug Pagitt’s new book A Christianity Worth Believing.  

I wimped out this year – instead of loading the Element with various pieces of camping equipment, I secured a nice cool motel room about 30 miles from the festival grounds.  The older I get the more of an affinity I have for simple things like showers that work well, for toilets that flush and for a roof that doesn’t leak when the inevitable thunderstorm rolls through the festival at 3:00AM.  

If you are going to the festival let me know where you will be and perhaps we can sit in the shade and enjoy a coffee together.   

Words

I spoke a few weeks ago about the importance of how we communicate with one another.  Since that time I have been doing an unintentional study of what the scriptures say about how we communicate with other people.  I say unintentional simply because that is the way the whole thing has been coming together.  As I read the scriptures, when I come to a verse that has something to say about the power, value or impact of words, I make a note of it and it then becomes, quite unintentionally, part of my study on how God expects us to communicate with other people.  

Have ever noticed how often the scriptures deal with the notion how we are supposed to communicate? It is amazing to me the number of references I’ve found, without even trying.  I think it is interesting to note however, that the real issue isn’t the words that come out of our mouth; the real issue is what drives us; it’s about the stuff that is deep inside us, the stuff that causes us to speak to one another in the manner that we do.   

I spent an enormous amount of time being trained to become a trainer so that I train people how to talk with other people in a manner that was effective, respectful and clear.  If you think about that sentence for a minute, it is really kind of said – it’s sad because there is actually a market for a company, a number of companies for that matter, that specializes in training its employees how to communicate in a manner that is effective, respectful and clear.  

What I found in the training that I did (I trained in both profit and non-profit settings) is that most people had difficulty communicating because they were always focused on what they needed – the person doing the talking had an agenda, and they put it out there, often with little to no regard for what the person to whom they were talking needed, desired or hoped to achieve.  

It’s one thing to learn neat little tricks that help you communicate more effectively. It’s another thing to work on changing the internal dynamics that cause the missteps in the first place.  

I hope that I will have time to come back to this idea again this week – there is so much to say about the importance of communicating well – we build bridges, we build up or we tear down and destroy, all with the power of a few well chosen or poorly chosen words.  Too much hangs in the balance to not care about how well we do this.