- Start. John Acuff was right in his book, Start. Sometimes you just need to begin. Start doing what you have put off. Start doing what you know you need to do. Start doing before you have it all figured out.
- Beware of toxic, mean people in your life. Some people are mean! These toxic people want to hurt you. This may be your ex-husband, a former neighbor, or a total stranger. This meanness is evidence that you are dealing with a person who will stoop to most any level of behavior in order to get his ego stroked. This calls for wisdom and care in dealing with such people.
- Pray. Listen to children pray. Listen to how they pray without being self-conscious. Prayer is a reminder that all of life is larger than yourself and that each one of us desperately needs live in dependence on God.
- Show up. Think about those people in your life who are important to you. Is there an event in their lives that calls for your presence? Simply showing up and being fully present at funerals, weddings, showers, receptions, is huge! Being present in body while staring at your screen isn’t exactly what it means to be fully present.
- Remember names. You might say, “Oh I’m bad with names.” Ok. Most people I know have to make an effort at remembering names. At least they are making the effort. Remember that we all love to hear our name.
- Get over yourself. Growing in knowledge does not mean that you get to depend on God less while you control others more (Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, p. 113). Too some, competency seems to suggest that simple trusting faith is no longer necessary. Is your perception of your competency so important that you are almost offended when others go to someone else for counsel or advice.
- Don’t quit the first time you hit a wall. Yes, marriage is hard. Raising children is hard. Work can be hard. Ministry can be hard. Yet, hitting a wall does not mean that something is wrong. Some of the most valuable things that we are doing are hard! Anything that is important is bound to be hard at times. Instead, pray for the grace you need to persevere.
- Get focused. I saw a sign in Memphis the other day that warned drivers about getting distracted while on the road. That same day I saw a car racing across the freeway while the driver was texting. Some of us don’t text while driving, but we are nevertheless distracted, while we dart about from one distraction to the next. People who are focused put a value on the discipline it takes to pay attention.
- Learn. “…you were never meant to repent because you don’t know it all. You are made to repent because you’ve tried” (Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, p. 104). Smug and self-assured? Not exactly a learning posture. Yet, when I begin to sound very sure and certain about a situation I am in, my attitude may simply be an effort to mask my fear and shame.
- Laugh. Enjoy the laughter of children. Laugh with them! One little boy said to his mother not long ago when they were playing, “Mom, I just love to hear you laugh!” Laugh at yourself (most of us have plenty of material to work with). However, stay away from the mocking, evil laugh. You’ve met that person. He says something snide, hurtful, and condescending and then mockingly laughs. Such laughter is designed to hurt. Its intent is to demean and destroy the confidence and the strength of another. This is beneath the dignity of a child of God.
A young father goes to the doctor. He has been experiencing some discomfort in his shoulder. His physician recommends that he see a physical therapist. The doctor’s concern is that if the man doesn’t begin to work through the stiffness and pain in his body, his mobility will be even more limited than it is now.
The young father goes to work the next day. Someone at work tells him that the discomfort is no big deal and will work itself out. The colleague went on to tell his friend that he didn’t need to bother with physical therapy. Unfortunately, the young father chose to listen to the friend at work instead of the doctor. Sure enough, his mobility is now even more limited.
A single mother is having car trouble. Her next door neighbor is a mechanic at a local car dealership. He encouraged her to take her car to a mechanic as soon as possible. He was concerned about the condition of her brakes. Meanwhile, a guy at work said that this was probably no big deal and the repair could wait until her payday next week. She listened to her coworker rather than the mechanic. Unfortunately, that weekend her brakes went out totally as she attempted to stop at a traffic light at a busy intersection.
Do we listen to the people who have the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to give the best counsel? Or, do we instead follow someone else’s emotional reaction or their advice based on the anecdotal experience of a second cousin?
2. It doesn’t matter whether you take your children on a far away vacation or whether you go somewhere only a couple of hours away. The memories your children will have about this years vacation is not dependent on how much the trip costs.
This morning I began reading a life of being, having, and doing by Wayne Muller. I never got beyond the opening chapter. The chapter “A Life of Enough” made me think.
…the bar keeps rising, nothing is ever finished, nothing is ever good enough. So we work and add and never stop, never back away, never feel complete, and we despair of ever finding comfort, relief, or sanctuary.
So many good-hearted people I know are exhausted. (p. 3)
Whether they are parents or teachers, business people or community volunteers, doctors, clergy, nurses, or civil servants, they each in their own way feel victim to a relentless assault of increasing expectations, activities, demands, and accomplishments that overwhelm any spaciousness or ease in their daily lives. (p. 4)
What then is our work on the earth? In a world gone mad with speed, potential, and choice, we continually overestimate what we can do, build, fix, care for, or make happen in one day. (p. 5)
With some people, “enough” is never quite satisfactory.
- They boast about how long they worked at the office the night before.
- They imply that unless one works weekends, they really aren’t making a sacrifice.
- They challenge by comparing you to others suggesting that you could be doing more or doing better.
Yet, perhaps there is something to be said for working hard and then stopping at the end of the day knowing that for today, this is enough. Recognizing the place of “enough” may allow you to work many years with joy and energy.
When I was in college, I hated this question: “What are you going to do when you grow up?”
Some of us seem to know even from middle school. Others seem to have no idea. I had no idea.
I went to the University of North Texas. They wanted me to declare a major. I chose sociology. That lasted for about a semester and then it was pre-law. Then finally it was business. I eventually graduated with a degree in business.
I came to a place in my junior year, spring semester, when I decided I would quit school. We had an English test the following day and I didn’t study. You don’t have to study for the test if you are going to quit that day.
I decided to drive to Dallas and look at other possibilities. I thought that maybe that day, I could get this sorted out. I thought I might be a radio announcer and so visited a school that trained announcers. I then visited a trade school and realized that wasn’t for me either. Finally, that same day, I went to the Human Resources office at the Dallas Police Department in downtown Dallas.
That hour, a conversation with a very wise African-American police sergeant convinced me to stay in college. “Son, why don’t you just finish college?” he said.
I actually listened.
When my daughter Jamie was seven years old, she decided that she wanted to go fishing with me. The next day we got up at 5:30 a.m., grabbed our fishing gear, and went to the water. Her favorite part of fishing, besides catching a fish, was casting. When I say cast, I mean rare back and let it fly! That is exactly what she did this time. She came back over her head very near where I was kneeling behind her. I could feel her lure brush the top of my head. Off came my cap. The hook was struck to the top of the cap with the minnow flailing about to get free. I took her rod and reel and began to work with it to get the hook loose from the cap. Meanwhile, I let her use my rod and reel. A few minutes later I looked at her and saw that fishing line was everywhere. Finally, in utter disgust, she said, “This thing is a mess.”
This week our area has been dealing with the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. My office is about a 30-minute drive from West. We have several families in our church who either live or work, or both, in West. On Tuesday afternoon, one of our families drove me through much of the area that suffered badly from the explosion.
Ministers and other church leaders deal with messes quite frequently. Divorce. Cancer. Death. Crime. A member sent to prison. The child of a church leader on drugs. The following are five suggestions for church leaders who must navigate through a mess.
1. Don’t rush to fix the situation. Quite often ministers will become uneasy with the questions or doubt that may be expressed. In our uneasiness, we may attempt to rush in with much advice and very little patience.
2. Don’t pronounce the situation as God showing us this or that or what trying to teach us whatever. The truth is we don’t know why so many things happen.
3. Do be present. There is great power in simply showing up and being fully present. In fact, when words are at a loss and when you don’t know what to do, one’s presence with another or a family can be huge.
4. Do be a safe place where people can ask the questions that are burning within. Loss is tough. Sometimes we are in such a rush to move on, we don’t allow others the opportunity to feel loss and its implications.
5. Don’t be trite. Some years ago my friend’s wife died of cancer leaving behind this young husband and their young children. The following Sunday, the minister began the sermon by talking about how he understood the loss that many people felt. He then proceeded to tell the story of his car being involved in a parking lot fender-bender and how frustrating that was. Some family members of the woman who died were angry that this minister insinuated that he understood how they felt by comparing their loved one’s death to a fender-bender.
What would you add to this list?
We had all just gotten off work at Jack-in-the-Box (a fast food restaurant). It was early Saturday morning, about 2 a.m. I was about eighteen years old and a freshman in college. It was the early 70s.
I was with three co-workers — two guys and one young woman. We were all about the same age. Someone had the idea that we ought to go to White Rock Lake and drive around. About twenty minutes later, we got to the lake and began the drive. We came to the old White Rock Lake Pump Station (built in 1911). During those years, it was apparently not being used. The door was open.