Tuesday, June 24, 2008
We're headed out to dinner in a few minutes to celebrate (we have a babysitter and everything!), and tomorrow, while Rachel plays with her grandparents, we're taking the day to relax and enjoy each other. We don't know what we're doing yet, but it doesn't even matter, because we'll be together.
I am blessed to have a wonderful wife, life partner, and partner in ministry.
Friday, June 20, 2008
If management is about reducing risks, leadership is about pursuing opportunities. If management is about managing tasks, leadership is about leading people. If management is about seeing the present clearly, leadership is about articulating a vision for an improved future. If management is about tracking progress, leadership is about initiating change. If management is about reacting to perceived needs, leadership is about taking a proactive stance. I'm convinced it takes both effective management and visionary leadership to enable the healthy, growing church God calls us to be.
My prayer: God, help me to grow in my leadership abilities, and kindle in me a passion to pursue opportunities, to lead people, to articulate a vision for the future, to initiate change, to take a proactive stance, to lead with my head and my heart, for the sake of your church and your Kingdom!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I'm still processing all that took place... There certainly were frustrating moments, but also many joyful moments. A few highlights:
- great energy around the Nothing But Nets campaign, with something like $50,000 raised during Annal Conference to purchase bed nets, which will help to alleviate the spread of malaria in Africa, which causes such suffering
- the report that $6.3 million has already come in through our "Together for Tomorrow" capital campaign, supporting congregational development, camps and retreat centers, pastoral retirement support, local church ministries, and our covenants with the churches of Nicaragua and West Angola
- Eric Dupee winning the Ziegler Preaching Award and sharing a fantastic sermon challenging us to simply love God and love our neighbors
- Saturday night's ordination & commissioning service - congratulations, Rick!
- many opportunities to connect with old friends
- having Rachel's four grandparents there all at once!
Check out some of the news from Annual Conference, courtesy of our Conference communications staff:
Monday, June 09, 2008
... and from Mark Batterson, lead pastor at National Community Church, some really helpful thoughts in a post called Random Firings of the Synapses.
Monday, June 02, 2008
"Oh, this is my pastor," Lucy said to her visitor. "And this is the hospital chaplain," she said to me. "Isn't it nice that she came to visit?"
We shook hands, and I thanked her for coming to see Lucy.
I was glad for the chance to visit with Lucy and her husband. Both have been dealing with some serious health issues, as well as a number of complicated life situations -- really a lot on their plate all at once.
"I was just telling her," Lucy said, "how my minister is always saying, 'God never gives you more than you can handle.'"
Ick. How to respond?
I promise, I have never said those words to Lucy or to anyone else. I detest those words.
I couldn't tell if those were words of comfort in that moment.
I wanted to scream, "Who are you talking about? I have NEVER said those words to you!"
What is the implication? That God gives us challenges, and then challenges on top of challenges, because God knows we can handle them? That somehow God pushes us to the breaking point, because God knows it'll make us stronger? That God is somehow orchestrating all the details of our lives -- orchestrating the tragedies, sending us pain and sadness and then piling on more, for some greater good?
I don't believe that. In fact, I'll be the first to say that sometimes I think the situations of life force people to face more than they can handle, and it's downright unfair.
Oh, I do believe that God works in powerful ways in the midst of challenge and tragedy, giving people the strength they need to weather the storms of life. I've seen some truth in Romans 8:28, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God..." I celebrate moments when I've seen God transform despair into hope, hatred into love, misery into joy, and conflict into peace. That's the miracle of Easter, isn't it? But that's not the same thing as saying that God causes our pain, orchestrates the challenges we face, or trips us up to make us stronger. I don't believe in that God.
I'm tired of platitudes. God never gives us more than we can handle -- but sometimes it seems like life does. I've walked with too many people through life's pain. I look around and see too much suffering. Frankly, I think there's a lot that happens in life that's completely beyond God's will, and in those situations, I think God wants to be a source of love, hope, joy, peace, and strength.
I have a long list of questions for God, and I suspect there are no easy answers, but I hope God gives me the strength to be present with people in the midst of their suffering and without offering shallow explanations that ring empty, allow them the space to wrestle with the biggest questions of life, which always seem to start with "Why?"