Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good Morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

Garage sales

God woke me up this morning and we talked about the importance of garage sales.

My wife is a consummate garage saler, actually she is a consummate buyer of other peoples stuff. She is quite good at it and finds many treasures. She finds things that one would never guess would have ever been bought at a garage sale. My wife is unique in the fact that when she finds a piece that is an actual antique or she knows is worth much more than the asking price she will talk with the seller and ask them if they know what they are selling. Many times they will decide not to sell and keep the item and thank her for pointing out the importance of the piece, sometimes they will sell it anyway.

When we first moved to our town my wife and I went house hunting and while there where many houses that where very nice there wasn’t one house that we found that really fit us, so we decided to build. During the building process I talked with my wife and we decided that she could design the house and I would be happy as long as I could design the garage, she was good with that.

Time went by and as she acquired more stuff things from the house migrated to the garage, this was a cause of anxiety for me. By the end of this summer the only thing that I could fit in my garage was my motorcycle, I had a little spot of floor left between rolls of carpet, Christmas lawn decorations, a fake fireplace…

I was going up north to work with the camp, and to preach at the church. Before I left, Laurie my wife, said, “I am thinking of having a garage sale.” something she had never done. She was a buyer of stuff not a seller of stuff.

I said, “Great!”

When I got home the garage door was open, Laurie was standing in the garage smiling, and it was empty. Everything that was left had a place and everything was in its place. The first thought that crossed my mind was how glad I was that I had ridden my motorcycle because she could have sold that too!

I have my garage back.

Yesterday I was talking with a friend. He is someone that started out as one of my spiritual directees and over the years we have become good friends. He is in Colorado now and he was telling me how he and his team went to a Jesuit monastery for a retreat, it was a silent retreat. This type of retreat was the first for my friend and it was quite stretching. One of the things that a monk had told him was the importance of saying goodbye to yesterday.

I am not sure how this monk told him that if it was a silent retreat, I will have to ask him.

This morning God woke me up asking me the question, “What things are you holding onto that you should let go? Maybe you need to have a garage sale of the heart.”

I thought about what He said.

What things are we holding onto that keep us stuck in the past?

What thoughts are we holding onto that keep us stuck in the past?

If we focus our thoughts on all the what-ifs, coulda, shoulda, woulda’s in life we are never really present to the amazing things that God is doing in our lives today.

The importance of saying goodbye to yesterday, not forgetting about yesterday but merely saying goodbye to yesterday so we can give a proper hello to today.

Having a garage sale of the heart, to forgive others, to forgive yourself, to let yesterday go is the only way to being truly present to Christ today.

Something to think about.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

I have been thinking about Medusa lately, actually I have been thinking about her hair.

We all know Medusa, she was a guardian in Greek mythology that had snakes for hair that were tangled and went in every direction. The story goes that if you looked at her and she looked into your eyes you would turn to stone.

I haven’t been thinking about her eyes. I have been thinking about her hair.

I was asked to facilitate a visioning session for a camp up in Washington, so Friday I rode my motorcycle up to Kent Washington were I dropped my bike off and car pooled with one of the board members to the camp.

It is a camp up in the tip of Washington near the San Juan’s, very beautiful.

The camp is in trouble, people have stopped using it, and the buildings are in need of repair.

After we arrived and had the compunctional greetings and introductions had been made. The board started telling me about all the things that they historically had done at the camp; this went on for quite awhile. As I listened to them tell me about all these great ministries “that they used to do” it became very clear that they had no direction, no real understanding of what “Donald Duck Ministries” (Not their real name but stories always go better with a name) was.

They are your typical 501-c-3, which has articles of incorporation, bylaws…

I asked them to tell me their mission statement; they didn’t have one.

I asked them to tell me their vision statement; they read me their purpose statement.

There was other discussion that lasted to 11pm and I finally said that I was going to bed.

Saturday morning;

We came together around 8am and I told them that the focus of today was to create a vision statement; “What is Donald Duck Ministries going to be when it grows up.”

There was much discussion around, the need, or rather not having a need for a vision statement, but they had brought me up there so they agreed to go through the process.

We started by writing the words, “To become.”

We went back and forth most of the morning but by 1pm we had a vision statement.

Why am I telling you this?

Because by 1pm the board had realized that Donald Duck Ministries is much bigger than just a camp, a place.

They realized that whether or not they utilized the camp was really secondary to their Vision for their ministry.

They realized that this “place” was only one of the tools that they could use to minister to the weary, those with broken spirits, to kids, to adults, to families, to those inside the church, to those outside the church.

They realized that ministry is not a building; ministry is people.

They also realized that while they had all these great ministries going on it was like Medusa’s hair, a tangled mess that was going in every direction and without a defined sense of direction people that got to close might just get bit.

Their new vision statement had incorporated into it a sense of mission. It met their purpose statement and their values statement.

In essence they had successfully combed their Medusa hair.

I left them with this thought, “Visioning without action is nothing more than looking.”

As I rode home on my motorcycle, something that I love to do it gives me space to think.

I began thinking how we tend to have Medusa hair.

While what we are doing is an attempt to do good things, without a sense of direction, a vision, a mission, a purpose. We actually don’t get much accomplished.

While what we are doing is an attempt to help people, without a sense of direction, a vision, a mission, a purpose. We actually hurt people.

Christ has a vision for us.

Christ has a mission for us.

Christ has a purpose for us.

If we take our focus off Christ and lean on our own understanding we have Medusa hair.

Only Christ can comb our hair.

My prayer is that we let Him.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good Morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

The wind was blowing the other day.

I noticed a leaf being blown in the wind.

First it blew one way, then another.

I watched as it went back and forth tumbling along. Tumbling over its stem then over the tips of the leaf.

I sat there for quite a while watching this leaf.

At first I was amused by the back and forth action, thinking about how the wind changed direction causing the leaf to change its direction.

I thought about how the leaf really didn’t have any say, or influence, on where it wanted to go. The wind was in control.

I began to think about how most of us live and work at the whim of others. If someone decides to go another direction, or the economy takes another dip, our job might go away, and we will have just about as much say in it as the leaf does with the wind.

Then God said, “Relax and watch the leaf.”

I sat silently watching the leaf.

After a while my heart began to change.

I began to see the leaf differently.

I began to see it dance.

It no longer was this out of control leaf being pushed here and there. The leaf was dancing.

A still small voice said, “This leaf makes me smile. It is dancing for me.”

I sat there and watched the leaf for quite a while.

In the end I was no longer thinking in a negative fashion. My thoughts went to thinking about all the blessings, and small miracles that happen everyday. I just need to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to accept.

My prayer is that we all choose to see the beauty in God’s creation, to see a leaf dance; to ask the question, are we dancing for God or merely allowing ourselves to be blown out of control?

It is a matter of perspective.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

We listen for guidance everywhere except from within.
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, (San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2000), 5.

What is God saying?
Can you hear Him?

Are we listening to Him? Or are going everywhere else for counsel instead?


Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it is that I think about.

It seems that our culture is in such a hurry, and we have become so task minded that we are always thinking ahead. We are never truly present to any one given task, when we are doing a previous task we are thinking about the task that we are now doing. Now the task that we are currently doing we no longer give it our full attention but are already looking forward at what our next task shall be and how to accomplish it!

So I have been thinking a lot lately about just what it is that I am thinking about.

I find that unless I am intentional in my thought life, I will go through life asleep. Asleep to the very thing that I endeavor to pay attention to.

I happened on this during my time this morning in, The Celtic Daily Prayer:
What is it that I spend most of my time thinking about? Am I careless in my relationship with God? Do I neglect to spend time cultivating this relationship? Do I treasure it? Do I set as much value on it as He has on me?
Northumbria Community, Celtic Daily Prayer, (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishing Company, 2002), 604.

What is it that I spend most of my time thinking about?

Am I being careless in my relationship with God?

Am I neglecting Him?

How much value do I place on my relationship with Him?

Something to think about.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Good Morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

Yesterday was a rather tough day for me. In one day I had:
A call from a Pastor who has been put on medical leave and does not know the future for him and his family.
A call from a Pastor who flew to another state to help his aunt, his mother, and his father. He arrived after his aunt had already died. His mother not doing well, and his father in a very angry state.
A call from a young man who had gotten in an accident and thought that he had done everything that the authorities had mandated that he do, only to find out that he had not and now may face prosecution.

There are times when there isn’t much you can say. It is called the ministry of presence.

Brotherly pastoral care is essentially distinguished from preaching by the fact that, added to the task of speaking the Word, there is the obligation of listening.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1954), 98.

Everyday we have an opportunity; it may be a hard opportunity but an opportunity nonetheless, to help people, to positively impact their day. In most cases this opportunity has a lot more to do with listening and a lot less to do with speaking.

My prayer is that I realize the difference.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Good Morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

I am being led to walk through another work.
There has been a lot of discussion around seats and buses lately. Mostly regarding finding the right seat on the right bus so that both the individual and the organization can become greater than the sum of its parts. I also know people that are in transition. Both conversations create a level of fear, fear of the unknown. I prefer to look at both as opportunities. I am reminded of the movie “City Slickers.” The movie, a mid 1980’s flick about a group of men all going through a mid-life crisis that go to a dude ranch to “find themselves.” During one of the scenes one of the men is talking about how he is going through a divorce and the fear of everything. Billy Crystal tells him, “Remember when we were kids and were playing basketball, if you missed a shot you would call ‘do over.’ This is a do over.”

While we may not be going through a divorce or other traumatic event, the essence is the same. We all have an opportunity to “check-in.” So many times what we say we are is not want we do. So many people are making their life’s work that is not their own but in fact someone else’s wishes. Palmer states:

Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let you life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, (San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2000), 3.

Is your life’s truths and values matching what you want it to? Or is it time for a “do-over?”

My prayer for today is that we all take time to settle down and center in and sit quietly listening for God’s instruction for our lives. He has a purpose for us all. In living His purpose, fulfillment and contentment comes naturally. It may not be easy; in fact it may be downright hard. But God’s peace will prevail.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

I was one of those people.

I remember when I started my seminary experience I thought I would concentrate on Biblical Studies. I quickly realized that gaining a master of why a word was used, or why we translated a word or phrase in a certain way, while important, was really a secondary issue to why God gave us the Bible. For me the Bible is less about information and more about transformation.

I have begun reading Life With God and I must admit Foster didn’t wait long before he started in! He states:

In point of fact we often use the Bible in ways that stifle spiritual life or even destroy the soul…The source of the problem is rooted in the two most common objectives people have for studying the Bible. The first is the practice of studying the Bible for information or knowledge alone. This may include information about particular facts or historical events, or knowledge of general truths or doctrines, or even knowledge of how others are mistaken in their religious views, beliefs, and practices…The second common objective people often have for studying the Bible is to find some formula that will solve the pressing need of the moment. Thus we seek out lists of specific passages that speak to particular needs rather than seeking whole-life discipleship to Jesus…If we want to receive from the Bible the life “with God” that is portrayed in the Bible, we must be prepared to have our dearest and most fundamental assumptions about ourselves and our associations called into question. We must humbly and in a constant attitude of repentance. [1]
Richard Foster, Life With God. (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishing Company, 2008), 4-5.

My prayer is that we truly start reading the Bible as God intended. That we do less proof texting (looking for scripture to support what we currently think) of scripture, and truly begin to exegete (reading the scripture and letting it reveal God’s meaning) scripture. Remembering always that attitude is the direction that our feet will follow.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good morning,
I pray that the day is finding you well.

Forks in the road:
I was LOD (Leadership on Duty) last night.
An elderly lady came to the welcome center and wanted to drop her membership, at that point I had a choice. I could just point her to the membership person where she could finish the business of dropping her membership, or I could ask “why.” I asked why. She went on to say that her husband had died a few months ago and that she hadn’t used the “Y” since his death and that she was in the process of cutting all the expenses she could out of her budget, the “Y” was an expense. I had another set of choices, I could both express my condolences and give her to membership to finish her business or I could ask her, “How are you doing?” I asked the question. She said, “Not good.” She had been married for over forty years and missed him a lot. She was thankful that her neighbors were helping with the yard work but she still liked to mow the lawn, “I’m Irish and proud.” she said. At this I could have said, “It is good to have such nice neighbors” and moved her along. This however was not the choice I made at this juncture. I held her hand and asked her, “Are you sure you want to give up the YMCA? I am sure we can work something out. We are here for you. What do you need?” We talked about silver sneakers. We talked about volunteering. We even talked about what it would be like to work here. In the end I gave her my card. I invited her to call if she needed help. There are choices everyday. My prayer is that I submit to the leanings of God and not to my own understanding to make these choices.

As I watched her leave I could not help but think:

Why are we here?
What is our mission?
What is our purpose?

If we are merely a health club, an expense, I believe we have missed the point.