Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shift happens!!

I am going to write a few blogs on the lens I see is changing...but what it can look like to look through the lens of feeling insignificant.  The journey to leave that behind and move on is my journey...leading while feeling like you have nothing of value to share or that your voice will never be heard is next to impossible.  I could teach others how much God loved them and how He wanted to set them free but was a struggle to find it for me...

Seems to me like I really am going through a major shift in my life...deep inside. I have struggled for as long as I can remember with thoughts of not being good enough, strong enough, smart enough, or spiritual enough. Never really feeling like I could ever make a difference no matter what it is concerning.  One night driving home on the turnpike in a pretty big snow storm, I noticed on the other side of the road an accident had happened.  It was pretty recent as there were no police or any other help there. As I started to drive by, I noticed the truck was beginning to burn, and I pointed it out to Barb but with no intention of stopping.  Why would I stop? I am not a fireman...a medical person...I would just get in the way.  Now Barb begins telling me to stop and immediately jumps out of the car and runs to the wall dividing the road...I sit in the car...what could I do?  What could I offer?  She grabs blankets and whatever else she can get her hands on and all the time her understanding. 

This is an over the top illustration I think and yet this scene demonstrates what I am talking about in a physical picture...she sees a need and runs to it...she is not a fire person...a medical person...she is not thinking she will be in the way...there are people in need. It is kind of over the top but when you are pretty sure you have nothing to offer you think more about yourself than others...or maybe the overwhelming feeling you just don’t have what it takes paralyzes you.

I also have discovered thinking you really do not matter or have anything to offer can impose itself when you want or need to show compassion or sympathy to others. Recently a a leader close by went through a hard, emotional time as they suffered loss. As I wrestle with how or even more real, do I reach out, I can be struck by how little I have to offer...more important people will step in...why would they need or want to hear from me. The low self esteem stops even the most simple of efforts just to say I am sorry to hear about their pain. Maybe they don’t need to hear from me...maybe they do...or maybe I need to go beyond my self preservation and show kindness.  Again this is a pretty dramatic scene but imagine when you feel this way how you respond to other invitations or opportunities.  Invited to go on mission trips I wonder why...what is the is just me...I really don’t do much...or have much to share.  I guess you have to wonder how I even came to be a too...the only thing I truly know is God  looks for someone to say yes to Him. I think that is how...I said yes.  

But the shift...ahhh the shift...shift happens. (sorry I could not pass that by) I am pretty convinced in our ministry journey we begin with much of ourselves being involved, mixed with God, knowing all things are possible with God.  I think where we end up is...we know without God we go no where. It is all Him...Maturity is, in my eyes, this journey from being independent to being dependent...on Him... for all things. So lately I see God bringing people...young and older, probably none older than me, but older, and He is bringing them towards I am finding I feel like I have stuff to offer is the strangest feeling I have ever had. How do you transition from feeling totally useless to being your own see, this is where it has to finally settle in.  God knows who you are...others see it way before you do...but you have to see it. You have to own it. I could tell others about it for themselves...affirm them...encourage them...but not for myself.  I think if I did begin to go there, I was convinced I was then becoming prideful...and I did not want that.  Wow! I sure am complicated aren’t I? See I am drifting back right now...

So I see these people coming my way and my first thought is!  They will find out I am a fake...I will discover I was right all along...I have nothing to offer. But instead I want to lean into this new discovery...this new sense of belonging...this sense that I can make a difference.  The good thing is when you come from way over on the other side of that, you know you have to give it is not mine to profit off let it leak out...pour out...because it is not yours anyway.  Then in God’s kingdom, others will draw it out of you, pull it out when you aren’t looking...their hunger...their faith draws it out. In conversations...just hanging out...doing life. I am talking with young leaders who are so much more gifted than I and it is such an honor...and they just want to hang out.  They are hungry and they pull the best stuff out of you...and then I meet with senior leaders who, by the way we measure things in church culture, are so much more successful than I, but we talk...about God...what I might know about Him. 

Such a paradigm shift for me...strange...humbling. I really don’t know when the shift began in earnest...I sense it began as I sought to be healed by the One who knows me the best...healed of deep stuff.  It began as others believed in me before I did...saw things I could not see...challenged me to be a pastor...a leader.  Recently we were in a setting where others in our circle were asked to speak words of affirmation to us...not just made us stuff but what they me.  Right towards the end one of the leaders asked me if I had heard all the things spoken to me and I nodded that I had but not in a very convincing manner I suppose.  He looked at me and said, “This is what we see...not what we made up...what we see. You need to hear it!”  Now that shook my world a was not make was real...for them...for me.  Shift happens...the Spirit takes one who will say yes and heals and moves them along the path of life.  


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Does Jesus really need the help?

I opened my e mail inbox a while back and found two interesting e mails waiting for me to open.  The first had a catchy heading that said, “Christian marketing that get results,” I guess as opposed to Christian marketing that does not. Well, I immediately deleted it but then went back and got it out of my trash to see what Christian marketing that works looks like...wouldn’t you?  So I read how I could advertise our church on this Christian e mail newsletter thing that gets sent out to keep other like minded evangelicals informed on what is happening in the Christian world. I have tried to unsubscribe from this newsletter myself without much success, so they are pretty tenacious if nothing else.  But marketing that gets results kind of leaves me a bit our our worship of our values...our very relationship with God.  Doesn’t that seem weird? So I did re-delete it...then went to the next e mail, “Outreach tips, ideas, and SPECIAL OFFERS.”  I have been trained to never, ever miss out on a special offer so I had to look.  

I was so relieved to find out it was not too late to down load the special kit for, “Back to Church Sunday.”  I was sure I was too late...lots of great things to welcome those who maybe took the summer off...or the last decade off from church, back to the building!  All for a small fee of course...well it got much larger if you got the door hangers, the posters, the 30 days of preparation, and the best thing of all the Pastor rap video! I am sure that is quite inspiring...but then I began to feel a bit did Jesus do all He did with out a marketing plan...and banners...and door hangers.  How did He get along without “ Marketing that gets results?”  How?  I think of a couple of stories in the NT that just scream to me that the Holy Trinity really does not understand marketing at all...not even close.  A rich young guy comes to Jesus and asks a simple do I get in?  Jesus plays along and gives him a few rules he should follow...and the guy smiles wide and says, “ Been there and done that!” I am pretty sure Jesus disciples are watching and beginning to think this whole thing is about to get much better...once Jesus welcomes this guy in, no more sleeping outside for us, no more praying for the food to get bigger, this guy will pick up the tab and it will be good.  The Jesus says, well fine and dandy, now go and sell everything, give it to the poor, and then come and follow me.  Can’t you hear Peter screaming in the background? What??? And the guy went away sad...for he had lots of stuff.  

Any marketing person with any sense would have pulled Jesus aside and told him getting this guy on His team would make life so much better.  He was well known, maybe even a celebrity, and would bring other people with him to Jesus team.  They could live better...everything would be better.  But Jesus does not go for bigger and better...He goes for the guy...his heart. The young guy went away sad because the call was more than he could handle.  Mark wrote, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” It was not because Jesus was angry or having a bad day, he loved this young guy...enough to tell him what he really put his trust in God...not his stuff.  Hard.  We spend so much energy trying to make it easier for people...more safe...not confrontational...but sensitive to the persons needs.  Are we really nicer than Jesus? It seems odd to me people of all kinds came to Jesus and we don’t really see that same thing happening with the Church and yet we continue marketing the church.  Jesus loved him enough to say to him, “Your religious acts are not enough...come and follow me.” 

Enough of Jesus lack of marketing skills, let’s look at this new entity called “The Way‘ or “The Church” that was forming in Acts. Acts 5 has to be a mistake...doesn’t it? A couple sells some property and is going to give some of the the money to the church because that is what was going on.  The husband walks in, plops down the cash, I guess pretending that this was all the money and wasn’t it grand this good thing he was doing.  Peter looks at him and asks, “Why would you lie to the Holy Spirit?” and BOOM! The guy drops dead...not good for church growth if you ask me.  Not a good marketing tool at all!  The news papers will be all over this...and it cannot be good. The story goes on...his wife walks in and agrees with the charade...Peter says the same thing to her and, well you know, down she goes. What in the world is God thinking here?  This Church thing can be dangerous to your health I guess...well playing church can be for sure.  

Marketing promotions...really.  Doesn’t it make your heart sad? 

A young woman at our church told her story on Easter Sunday...she told of her struggle in an area of her life.  She told of choosing, for a while, to satisfy that area of her life, all the while professing her love for Jesus. Then a friend challenged her with a simple question...”Do you love that part of your life more than you love Jesus?” Her actions said she did...until confronted with the question...and her love for Jesus won out.  She left that behind and moved forward with Jesus...I am sure there are still struggles but as long as she puts her love for Jesus first, she will win.  Church is where Jesus and His people are...where we hang out together...and where we are He is...and people are changed. I am not looking for marketing that gets results...because I know a God who gets results.  Way more fun...and much less stress.  

I know I am not a cutting edge leader...looking for the newest and the best...I am a leader whose edges have been cut off...who believes Jesus when He says those who follow Him have to die to themselves...