What I Wish I Known Earlier

earlier-faster-better-precocious-kids-Nov06-istockI admit it.

At times throughout my life, I was confused – very confused. Maybe you weren’t. I do know people who appear to have had it together all of their lives. Not me.

When I was in college, I stayed up all night writing page after page of areas of life where I was confused. I still have these writings – I think – somewhere.

Yet, I have learned so much about life. I am still learning. However, I can point to growth in things I have learned.  I wish I had known these five much earlier.

1. I wish I had known the value of being gracious. Gracious people have a way of extending grace in their different relationships. People who are not gracious can be curt, rude, self-centered, and even self-absorbed. The gracious person has an extended hand – always willing to be helpful. The ungracious person looks out only for themselves. “Don’t ask me for help. That’s not my problem.”

Lifelong Learners Grow Emotionally and Relationally

learn1They may be pleasant and intelligent people. Very often, they are Christian people.   There are some people who have developed their thinking processes quite well. There are some who have the capacity to grasp intellectual complexities and make sense of them.

Yet, some of these same people never seem to grow up emotionally.

Yet, there are people whohave just never been able to progress or move ahead in terms of allowing the Gospel to make a difference in the way they handle their emotions.

Lifelong learners are willing to learn and grow. Learning, however, is not limited to mental, cognitive growth. A commitment to be a lifelong learner is not just a commitment to read more books.

No, we make the commitment to grow relationally and emotionally.

A few years ago, I read Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Church. A good book.   This particular paragraph in the Introduction (p. 17) caught my attention:

The sad truth is that too little difference exists, in terms of emotional and relational maturity, between God’s people inside the church and those outside who claim no relationship to Jesus Christ. Even more alarming, when you go beyond the praise and worship of our large meetings and conventions and into the homes and small-group meetings of God’s people, you often find a valley littered by broken and failed relationships.

Ministry Inside.88

CoffeeBar_rephotography_011Each Thursday, I write a post that is designed with church leaders in mind. Many of these Thursday posts, however, are applicable to those who are not church leaders.  Church leaders and lay people both may find today’s post useful.

During July, I sat in a restaurant with a wonderful man in his 80s.  He is a former college professor, administrator, and minister.  He continues to think, grow, and make a difference.  I asked him to lunch because of particular questions I had about life as well as ministry.  I have always valued his wisdom from a distance.  This conversation, however, would be in person and last about an hour and a half.

My friend was generous with his time, his insight, and his wisdom.  After the conclusion of the lunch, I wrote several pages in my journal, carefully recording his answers to my questions.  I have read through these notes several times.  The conversation was one of the most valuable experiences I had in July.

One of the most important practices of my ministry has been creating the opportunities to learn from various people by simply asking questions.  I will ask someone to coffee or lunch and then ask questions about life, ministry, or leadership.  I have learned so much from these conversations.

I continue to seek out people whom I can learn from.  Let me encourage you to do the same.

Be Interested–a Key to Life and Ministry

coffee35.jpgI have been thinking some lately about people who happen to be a particular age and then seem to shut down for some reason.  Yet, there is something very stimulating about simply being interested and curious about life.  I have been thinking about what has received my attention lately:

1.  The Kingdom of God.  I have spent a lot of time reading, studying, and reflecting on the Gospels this year.  This has been a very stimulating time in the Gospels.

2.  I have read a few books recently which have been stimulating.  My friend Jon Mullican has recommended Peter Block who wrote a very fine book entitled, The Answer to How is Yes.  This is a wonderful book which speaks of the importance of asking good questions in building community and relationship.  Very helpful.  Scot McKnight’s two newer books, The Blue Parakeet and Fasting have also been very stimulating.  I finally finished a book that really made me think entitled, Generation Me by Jean M. Twenge.

3.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for wisdom.  I mean this in terms of who we are as Christians and Churches.  What does it mean to live with wisdom?  We are technologically advanced but often lack wisdom regarding our everyday lives and behavior.

4.  I enjoy both Facebook and Twitter.  Twitter, in particular, I have found interesting for the number of interesting links that are posted.  Lately, I have been thinking about possible uses for both.  I also found stimulating a recent article on technology and and the generations by George Barna.

5.  Lately, I have been listening to a number of MP3’s from the National Pastor’s Convention.  You can find them here.

6.  I have been thinking lately about how to be a better father to my adult children (and one son-in-law).  While the role is different (being the parent of adult children) it still remains an important role.

7.  Last year, I heard Tim Keller speak of the value of reading book reviews.  He spoke of his discipline of regularly reading The New York Times Review of Books and The New York Review of Books.  For about a year, I have been regularly reading the print edition of each.  However, you can get to many book review resources by looking to the right hand bar of this blog. 

8.  I recently spent part of an afternoon updating God-Hungry Live.  I added many new videos to this site.  The new videos include some by Christopher Wright, John Ortberg, Roger Olson, Luci Shaw, etc.  There are many videos on this site which you might enjoy.  I find these videos interesting.