Monthly Archives: August 2011

Live Like You Were Dying (a confession)

My church (FSBC Lawrence, KS) is beginning a new spiritual campaign. Building off the popular song by Tim McGraw, we’re asking ourselves “What would we do if we learned we had only 30 days to live?”
I have found myself inspired by this question. For 2 months I’ve prepared for the campaign and in my review of the studies, I recognized how often I take this life for granted. Days pass and weeks, where I put off the things that matter most, in the name of working harder. It seems valiant sometimes for ministers to sacrifice for the sake of their churches. Some churches have even come to expect it, having become accustomed to pastors who have given more than should be expected. But this blog isn’t about churches expectations on pastors. It’s about pastors unrealistic expectations on themselves. Or, to be more specific, this pastor of worship’s unrealistic expectations on himself.

I’ll say upfront that I’m much better than I used to be. There was a time when I felt guilty when taking a vacation. If I sat down to read a fiction novel I would get a pain in my gut because I wasn’t using my time to study. It was difficult for me to enjoy my time with my kids, though I loved them very much. During this time I poured myself into my job and wrongfully looked for approval from the church I served only to be disappointed over and over again.

I hid my disappointments from my wife and glued a fake smile on my face for my kids. This robbed Mel of the calling God had given her – supporting a husband in ministry. Being robbed of the opportunity to fulfill one of her callings was discouraging to her and made our marriage strain. My kids, I’m sure saw me more as worship pastor than as dad, and that is a mistake I can never undo.

My upside-down paradigm of leadership (work harder, longer – neglect family and self) also lead to professional frustration. I’m sure that most of my failings came not from lack of work, but rather from a lack of balance. It is not possible to be successful in ministry following a set of rules that are out of balance with God’s grace.

No one on their death bed ever says “I wish I would have made more money.” or “I wish I would have spent more hours at work and less with family.” On the contrary, more regret spending so little time with family or regret the selfishness of their lives. Ty Cobb, who achieved wealth and fame said this at the end of his life; “I wish I had more friends.” only 3 baseball players attended his funeral in 1961.

God has, more than once, brought it to my attention that, most of the time, I’m not the father, husband or Christ follower that I should be. Jesus died so that my life would be more than this. Why have I allowed status quo? Why have I bought into the “do more/try harder” nomenclature?

Father, help me stand secure in your grace. It is enough. My pride and insecurity lead me down a path of guilt. I feel guilty when I don’t produce the result I think I should, but you have simply called me to be faithful. I trust you for results that fit your plans. I will be faithful. I become defensive when I look to satisfy my insecurity with achievement or adulation from others. Help me to find all the security I need at the foot of your cross. It is enough. Help me to be humble enough to forgive others and courageous enough to seek forgiveness.

What does it mean to you do “Live Like You Were Dying?” In what ways do you want to see more of Jesus in the way you live? Please leave comments below.

Honesty; The Best Policy

Honesty is hard! So hard that I find many people avoiding it all together. I’m not saying they have been dishonest with me. I can’t be sure. I do know this, that honesty is a must for those who choose to follow Christ.
I can think of many cliches regarding honesty and many of them seem negative. “Can I be honest with you?” “To be honest, I…” “Let me be brutally honest,” Brutally Honest? Does honesty have to be brutal?
I guess honesty can be brutal to those who prefer the world of their own ideals to the truth that is staring them in the face. Take it from a recovering idealist; Truth is better than the seduction of a false reality. But I don’t think honesty needs to be “brutal.” It’s not something that needs to brings us fear.
Jesus declared himself to be “the TRUTH, the way and the life” and No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. In order to “come to the Father” we must face the truth of who Jesus says He is and who He says we are. It is impossible to come to God with out coming through Jesus, Who is truth.
Honesty is good. And I don’t simple mean being honest by telling the truth to others. It is imperative for us to be honest with ourselves. Our failings, our brokenness, our inadequacies take on a transformational value when we are honest about them. For instance, if we treat failure with denial, we are doomed to fail again. On the other hand, if we are honest about our failure, we will seek help and advice and turn that failure into an opportunity for growth. Same goes for our brokenness and inadequacy. Healing and Courage will come from truth and honesty. Faking it, will only lead to more pain and more fear.

My prayer for “Live Like You Were Dying” is that we as a the body at FSBC will be honest to God about who we are and where we can improve.

Father help me be honest with myself about the kind of husband, father, son, employee, leader, steward I have been. Help me be honest about how I have spoken to others so that I can Speak Sweeter. Spirit, lead me to a place where I can be honest about the feebleness of my attempts to “love” others and help me to love deeper with Jesus’ love. Where I have chosen to hold on to hurt and anger and bitterness, help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. I don’t want to wait until my life is nearly over to do the things I ought to. Lord, I realize I’m asking for a blessing I don’t deserve. Please grant me the blessing to live a transformed life.

Growing into EverNote

I started using EverNote early last spring when a friend turned my attention to it. I wish I could say that I’m an expert, on the contrary, I’m far from it.

Currently I’m using EverNote for keeping track of my Audio and Video teams schedules. It used be tedious to weed through all my old emails looking for the 2 month sign up schedule for these teams, just so I could send them reminders for serving. Now once those dates are filled with the names of my fantastic A/V team members, I simply forward the email to my EverNote and it is only a few seconds away and available to me on 3 devices; iPhone, iPad and computer.

Additionally, I’ve been using EverNote to keep track of my writing ideas and notes. When a blog idea comes to me I write something about it in EverNote. When a story idea comes – Evernote. I tweet or link to read later – I send it to EverNote.

My goal is to use EverNote more often and More effectively. For help with this, I’m studying and trying to apply the instructions and ideas I’ve found at Michael Hyatt’s blog. Here is a blog of his where he has organized all his EverNote blogs.

A List of handy blogs for evernote users and learners!

Do you use EverNote? How do you use it? How does it help you the most?

Everyone Needs a Break

I last blogged on my birthday and have had several occasions since where I might have blogged, but other things have taken my time and priority.

First, I spent a week at the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City, Kansas. It was a fantastic time and I was able to spend some time under the teaching of some godly men, women and mentors. I sat under the teaching of Leonard Sweet, Scotty Smith, Tommy Walker, Tim Hughes, Rory Nolan and Buddy Owens, just to drop a few names.
As a worship leader this was a week to learn, grow, fuel and be challenged. All those things took place in me. I was exhausted when it was over and ready to rest. Having been to NWLC the last two years, I was prepared and already scheduled a week vacation following the conference. (Foresight is a wonderful thing when I can get it.)
I had every intention of sleeping till noon, indulging myself in my favorite books and shows on netflix. God had something different in mind and I’m so glad that at least on this occasion, He found me listening.
Here is what I heard my heavenly Father calling me to… Spend quality time with my kids and wife. The time schedule for this pastor of worship can be demanding. (my friends tease me that it must be tough only working on Sundays) Added to that my older 3 kids are teenagers and have many activities throughout the year. It’s tough to get quality time with them and when I do get time it is usually with 2 or 3 of them at a time, so one-on-one time is even more rare.
My 3 year old gets one day with me every week throughout the year, so God impressed upon me that I should offer that to my teenagers as a part of my planned week off. Here is how it set up. Tuesday was Daddy-Jared day, Wednesday was Daddy-Hannah day and Thursday was Daddy-Timothy day.
Jared and I started our day with some work. Together we stood out in the hot 100+ degree morning and changed the driver-side head lamp assembly in my van. I’m not a mechanic and don’t pretend to be, but it was good for Jared, I think to see me struggle to figure out how to get the old headlight out and the new one in. And he got to help and use his creative thinking gifts as we worked it out together. After, we went together to pick up Hannah from band camp, went to lunch together and did one more job before spending the afternoon watching some hero shows on Netflix. During our time I was able to share with Jared how, as a teen, I experienced many of the same pressures and teasing that he sometimes experiences. Too often I present myself to my kids as a “sure-of-myself, successful man.” I allow them to see my successes but rarely my failures. Mistakenly they may only think that I have experienced success and have always been popular and sure-of-myself. On the contrary, this is far from reality. I pray that they don’t think that they have to live up to a misunderstood concept of their dad.
Hannah and I got to make a trip to the city on Wednesday, and she drove. She has been anxious to try her driving skills in the city and on the interstate. She did well. Especially when she had to keep her cool when we encountered a tire tread which had recently been deposited in the middle of our lane. At first unsure of which way to go around, she slowed and chose the shoulder rather than changing lanes. It was the right choice as there were several cars behind us and in the next lane over. Her reward? Splitting a full slab of ribs from Oklahoma Joe’s with her dad. It was a good time together.
Timothy and I also started our day with some work. I had recently built a raised bed for next year’s garden and was needing to cut the tips off of the screws so we wouldn’t cut our hands while digging in the dirt. I pulled out my dremel tool and showed Timothy how to use it. He caught on quickly and did the large share of that little job. We also needed to change a light in our stairwell, so I borrowed the long pole from the church and showed Tim how to use it. He also did great at this. We went to lunch with my friend Bob, and Tim got to hear what it is that grown men talk about: baseball, Bonhoeffer, theology, politics, church life. After the work, Tim schooled me at Halo 3, and we watched some Star Trek Voyager on Netflix.

Ending the week I got to spend some wonderful time with my wife. During the week we had begun reading a book to each other in the evenings, and Sunday we celebrated our 18th anniversary. We watched Captain America at the theater then went to supper and finished off with some Cold Stone, Coffee Lovers (our favorite) ice cream.

Too many times during the business of life, I’m putting off those little times I could be spending with my kids. It’s easy to be exhausted mentally after a full day and full week of carrying the weight of my job on my shoulders. I’m getting better, but I still knew that I owed this week to my family. This vacation was more for our together time. I’ll get “me time” later. I always seem to find time for me.

What is the best quality time you’ve spent with your kids or wife? Are they seeing the real you or are you only showing them the “you” that you wish you were?