Did Becoming Older Bring Me Closer to Jesus?

Nouwen-In-the-Name-of-JesusDid becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?

Henri Nouwen in his book In the Name of Jesus, reflects upon a time when he asked himself this question. The book is not new.Perhaps you read the book some years ago. I did — and now have read the book five or six times.

That question from Nouwen will not go away.

Did becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?

  • As I reflect upon my behavior,
  • As I think about my attitude,
  • As I consider my words,
  • As I get honest about the thoughts in my heart,
  • As I ponder my life before Jesus,

That question from Nowen will not go away.

Did becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?

I am blessed to know many older believers who seem to grow in their love for Jesus and their trust in him.

I have witnessed some of these people become more tenderhearted, more singularly focused, and more of a blessing to be with as they grow older. I have known people whose very presence reminded me of Jesus.

I have also known older believers who allowed their fear and anxiety to completely engulf them. Some become bitter and cynical, ready to lash out at whoever appears to be a threat. Others pull back, withdraw, and talk about having “put in their time.”

Maybe you will join with me in reflecting on this important question.

Did becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?

Once you and I have considered this question, perhaps we now need to think about what we might address in our lives in order to have a better outcome in the future.

Questions:

1. Envision the kind of person you want to be five years from now. What kind of husband/wife or father/mother do you wish to be? What kind of friend do you wish to be? How do you need to grow up or mature in order to become closer to Jesus?

2. What is one area of your life that you are willing to address so that you will be closer to Jesus?

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start_button_gif (1)What kind of coach are you?

Start the week by reading this very good post. Michael Hyatt recently wrote an excellent post entitled: “A Tale of Two Coaches: What Kind Are You?”

The new religion

Insightful piece about culture and faith today: “Relationships are the new religion for many.” (Thanks to Scott Meyer for this.)

Loneliness

See these articles by Charles Stone: “Pastors Who Lack Close Friends: 4 reasons why” and “Pastors who Suffer from Relational Anorexia.”

Fathers

Take a look at this post regarding the book Fatherless Generation by John Sowers.  (I need to read this!)

Skill

I am in so many situations where I take notes.  You may find this recent article in The Atlantic online helpful.

Don’t miss these!

Don’t miss these two excellent posts on preaching.  Pat Bills has written a fine post in which he reflects on why he loves preaching.  Jonathan Storment has written this post: “What is Great About Preaching.”  Both are excellent.

 

Ministry Inside.112

PanicHave you ever been in a hurry to finish a particular project and cobbled something together at the last minute only to later regret it?

I have.

I remember once announcing to a congregation that we were embarking on a major series during the preaching time on Sunday mornings. As I recall, the announced series would be quite long. I had only been preaching for a short while at that time. I began the series and then realized that I was in no way prepared for such an undertaking. Much to my embarrassment, I had to eventually abandon the series and preach something else.

It is a lot easier to suddenly start something than to actually work through the process or even finish it.

Congregations sometimes get anxious and we make hurried, even rash, decisions only to later regret what we have done.

Some examples:

1. Elders panic over the budget and suddenly fire two ministers, uprooting two families who must now move and relocate.

2. A minister is frustrated with the congregation where he has been serving. He begins talking with another congregation that has been looking for another minister in a similar role. Within a month of the initial conversation, that minister announces his resignation. He makes this decision ignoring the warning signs that exist in the other congregation.

3. Church leaders panic over the number of people who have left the congregation. They make a rash decision to borrow an incredible amount of money for the construction of a new building on their campus, thinking this might draw new families to their congregation. Such a decision has saddled this church with a stifling debt for many years to come.

4. A congregation is looking for a preacher. They have interviewed a number of people and have made offers to two different preachers. Both turned the church down. People are complaining about how long the process is taking. Now the leaders are looking at the resume of a person who seems very eager to be interviewed. Some things on the resume don’t seem to add up (in addition to comments made by some of his references). At first, they wondered about theological compatibility but now some are suggesting that these matters will work themselves out. In their minds, they just need to quickly extend an offer to this person.

Now you might say, “But aren’t churches notoriously slow when it comes to getting things done? Surely you are not saying that churches need to continue to drag out the simplest of decisions, as many regularly do.” I’m not saying that at all. Churches can be incredibly slow at getting things done.

However, church leader’s anxiety can fuel a process.

Suddenly, there is panic. “This must be done now!” Rash decisions are made. Unfortunately, many ministers and other church leaders can tell stories of how panic and rash decision making only led to more problems and dysfunction, not less.

 

Question:

Have you see or experienced this in your own life and ministry?

 

Do You Have Time to Be Present?

BrodyTractor2Time is so strange.

How can you graduate from high school one year and then what seems like just a few years later be holding a grandchild?  Why do some days seem to last forever (especially when you are sick or a toddler is crying) and then entire years seem to breeze by?

The other day our grandson Brody was at our house.  He and I rode our riding lawnmower (without the blade) around and around our yard most every day.  He sat in my lap and “drove.”  Guess what?  I was in no hurry.

My phone was in the house.  My iPad was turned off.  My computer was in my briefcase.

The last thing I want Brody to remember is that I starred at a screen instead of being fully present with him.

Being fully present meant that I was with him and not thinking about a post, a tweet, a call or anyone else.

Being fully present meant that I wanted to be with him completely.  Yes, even at two and a half years old.

Being fully present meant that I wanted to live an unhurried life with him.

He is home now.  I look forward to seeing him again.  In the meantime, I want to remember that life is not about living in regret at what might have been.  Nor is life about constantly saying “If only.”

Life is about being fully present in the one life that I am living — to the honor of God.

 

Question

What are your greatest challenges to being fully present with others?

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start1Helpful

I find John Stackhouse to be helpful when thinking about tough issues.  Stackhouse has taught at Regent College for a number of years.  You can find a list of his books here, as well as some audio/video resources.

Healthy Self-Examination

Peter Scazzero has written a good post: “You Know You Need a Sabbath When

Church Health

See Margaret Marcuson’sNine Indicators of a Healthy Congregation.”  Margaret writes from a Systems perspective.  Her blog is very helpful and consistently has very good posts.

Storytelling

Check out this very nice colorful info graphic “Pixar’s 20 + Rules On Storytelling for Teachers and Students.”  Also see “5 Awesome Info graphics on English Language.”

Writing

An interesting post for anyone interested in writing.  “Why these famous authors write — and why you should.”

Rome and Latin America

Peggy Noonan has written a very fine article reflecting on the election of the new Pope.

What Went Viral

See “Apparently This Matters: Mississippi man’s obituary.”  You can find the obituary here. 

 

When You Realize You are Out of Control

outofcontrolOne night I was driving home from my job at UPS.  It was about midnight and was raining. I was in college and was driving my father’s car, which I rarely drove.  As I recall, my car was in the shop being repaired.  I was on Stemmons Expressway (I-35) and going much too fast considering the rain.  At one point, the car began to hydroplane on the water surface.  I remember wondering how I would stop.  The car began to do a 360 on the expressway.  I wondered if I was going to get hit from behind.  Finally after turning around completely, the car came to a stop. I then slowly began to drive ahead again.

I had been totally out of control.

Reynolds Price, novelist and longtime English professor at Duke, spoke at the 1992 Founder’s Day at Duke and challenged his audience with some observations regarding many students.

But you’ll find other sights that breed concern. . . . walk your attentive self through the quads.  Stand at a bus stop at noon rush-hour; roam the reading rooms of the libraries in the midst of term and the panic of exams.  Lastly, eat lunch in a dining hall and note the subjects of conversation and the words employed in student discussion.  (I’m speaking mostly of undergraduates, but not exclusively.) 

Try to conceal your consternation at what is often the main theme of discourse — something less interesting than sex and God, the topics of my time.  If for instance you can eat a whole meal in a moderately occupied Duke dining hall without transcribing a certain sentence at least once, I’ll treat you to the legal pain reliever of your choice.  The sentence runs more or less like this, in male or female voice – – “I can’t believe how drunk I was last night.” 

Considering that the social weekends of many students now begin – – indeed are licensed by us to begin – – at midday on Thursday and continue through the morning hours of Monday (as they never did in the old days of “country club” Duke), maybe the sentence is inevitable – – at least in the bankrupt America we’re conspiring to nurture so lovingly and toward which we blindly, or passively anyhow, wave our students.  

“I can’t believe how drunk I was last night.”

Totally out of control.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start2Encouraging

I really liked this article from CNN.com, “United Airlines delays travel for man to see dying mother.”

Writing

Jonathan Mead has written a good and helpful  post on Jeff Goins’ blog, “Is This Writing Mistake Getting You Ignored by Everyone?

Prayer

Thom Rainer has really been transparent in this post.  See “When We Lie About Praying for Others: Seven Thoughts.”

Resource

Are you familiar with Religion-Online.org?  You might look at the articles available here.  A wide variety of perspectives.

Legalism

Scot McKnight reflects on “Legalism.”  I found this post to be very helpful.

 

Ministry Inside.110

quitHave you been tempted to quit?

Many of us have considered quitting at one time or another.  After all, serving in a ministry role can be very, very difficult.  In fact, there may be times that are so grueling you may wonder what you got yourself into.

Why would a minister and his family consider leaving a “full-time” ministry role?

1.  Relentless criticism from members of the congregation.  Many people in ministry roles understand that criticism comes with this work.  However, some criticism can be deeply hurtful and debilitating.  A minister may experience great pain and frustration when some in a congregation criticize his children or his spouse.  The same is true when criticism is aimed toward one’s personality or even his integrity.

2.  Disappointment that one experiences in a congregation.  Serving in a ministry role with a congregation often means that a person will become aware of some of the wonderful ways in which members quietly serve the Lord.  However, this can also mean that one is now exposed to some very nasty attitudes.  Perhaps this minister or elder even admired these people at one time.  Now, however, this church leader is witnessing another side of this church member.

3.  Financial stress.  Sometimes congregations do not provide adequate financial support to their ministers.  Consequently, some ministers and their families feel constant stress due to their financial situation.  Ministers may feel like they can not share this burden with their elder group or friends within the church lest their motives be misconstrued.  Consequently, these families bear this stress alone.  Yes, I know that some ministry families put themselves into debt due to unwise financial decisions and undisciplined spending.  However, some are simply trying to live on an income that is inadequate.

4.  Loneliness and isolation.  Some church leaders (ministers, elders, pastors, and many, many others) feel lonely and isolated.  They find that their friends really don’t understand the work they do or the pressures they are under.  Complicating this even more is the reality that some ministers often feel geographically isolated from their extended families due to their location.

 

Question:

What are some other reasons that might cause a church leader to consider leaving a particular ministry role?

Ministry Inside.110

quitHave you been tempted to quit?

Many of us have considered quitting at one time or another.  After all, serving in a ministry role can be very, very difficult.  In fact, there may be times that are so grueling you may wonder what you got yourself into.

Why would a minister and his family consider leaving a “full-time” ministry role?

1.  Relentless criticism from members of the congregation.  Many people in ministry roles understand that criticism comes with this work.  However, some criticism can be deeply hurtful and debilitating.  A minister may experience great pain and frustration when some in a congregation criticize his children or his spouse.  The same is true when criticism is aimed toward one’s personality or even his integrity.

2.  Disappointment that one experiences in a congregation.  Serving in a ministry role with a congregation often means that a person will become aware of some of the wonderful ways in which members quietly serve the Lord.  However, this can also mean that one is now exposed to some very nasty attitudes.  Perhaps this minister or elder even admired these people at one time.  Now, however, this church leader is witnessing another side of this church member.

3.  Financial stress.  Sometimes congregations do not provide adequate financial support to their ministers.  Consequently, some ministers and their families feel constant stress due to their financial situation.  Ministers may feel like they can not share this burden with their elder group or friends within the church lest their motives be misconstrued.  Consequently, these families bear this stress alone.  Yes, I know that some ministry families put themselves into debt due to unwise financial decisions and undisciplined spending.  However, some are simply trying to live on an income that is inadequate.

4.  Loneliness and isolation.  Some church leaders (ministers, elders, pastors, and many, many others) feel lonely and isolated.  They find that their friends really don’t understand the work they do or the pressures they are under.  Complicating this even more is the reality that some ministers often feel geographically isolated from their extended families due to their location.

 

Question:

What are some other reasons that might cause a church leader to consider leaving a particular ministry role?

Harding Seminar

HardingSince last Thursday, I have been teaching a Doctor of Ministry seminar at Harding School of Theology (Memphis).  The course is entitled “Connecting Preaching with the Congregation.”  I have been co-teaching this seminar with Chris Altrock, who preaches for the Highland Street Church of Christ in Memphis.  In this class are some wonderful students, all of whom serve in ministry roles in various congregations.

I have enjoyed being at Harding.  For many years, this school has offered excellent preparation for ministry.  This week, I have also gained a great appreciation for the encouraging atmosphere.  The faculty, staff, and students have been exceptionally helpful and accesible.

I have especially enjoyed teaching with and learning from, Chris Altrock. I encourage you to follow him on Twitter.  Also be sure to visit his website.  You may want to check out his book, Preaching to Pluralists or his book Prayers from the Pit.

Chris is a wonderful model for any preacher.  He is a person of high character who takes his own spiritual formation very seriously.  He is a good thinker and knows much about preaching and ministry.  He is also humble and unassuming.  Chris has a gracious manner that puts those around him at ease.  It has been a pleasure to teach this seminar with him.