Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Honor of October 31st

Use your imagination. What if King Kong wore a wedding ring?

If he did, I don't know if he received if from the blonde in the movie.

If he did, the circumference would be large enough to fit his finger. But perhaps the thickness would be more the size of a Bic pen.

If he did, he lost it. On the entry street to the college near my house.

If he did and he lost it there, I found it yesterday morning.

As I was running.

In the dark.

When I stepped into it with one foot.

Then it flipped up and married my other foot at the same time.

I was running at a pretty good clip.


...splat on the asphalt.

Thanks, King Kong. :(

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One At A Time

Part 3

Triage. The word surfaces mental pictures of a disaster-populated emergency room. For some it means hope, but for others it signals despair.

In our saner moments, we objectively think on the scene of triage and acknowledge the wisdom of its implementation. But in other moments, we can be caught in the personal drama going on. The very idea of triage means some some patients will probably live and others will probably die. It means that a medical professional will accordingly choose who gets treatment and who doesn't. Failure to decide could leave the medical staff without the resources and energy to treat anybody. Morbid, don't you think?

Well, I am not a doctor and I don't have to think about medical triage very often. I do, though, face ministry times in which the dishes are stacked on the counter and manpower is stunted by illness, family emergencies or needed rest.

Those are the moments when, as a pastor, I must make tough calls. I must decide which short-range goal needs extension and which can't wait. I must choose whether to push the staff a little harder so we can enjoy a team victory. Or, is it time to delay or cancel something in order to maintain long-term staff health?

Our staff recently went away for a two-day offsite planning retreat. We prayed, worshiped, talked, laughed and -- before it was over -- cried. We made a tough decision which will cost significant time and energy for virtually every staff member. When we arrived back at home, I talked to one of three staff members who will pay the biggest price for the change we are considering. She shared her concern about another member of the team and whether our plan was just too much.

I told her that I am willing to lead us up this steep road. But I'm not willing to destroy the staff in the process. They need their health to face more challenges in the future. That means we may have to slow down some of our lofty dreams to do the dishes. We can't do everything (I hope some other pastors are reading this) but we can choose the best items on our agendas and make the biggest possible difference in the most lives.

In a way, it's ministry triage.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One At A Time

Part 2

Our company had just departed. The evening was fun; our hearts and stomachs were full. The pile of dishes waited like an impatient boss as they sat on the countertop next to the sink. Ugh!

Cathy and I both went into "task mode." This wasn't the time to check email, watch TV or write tomorrow's blog post. It wasn't the time to prop up with a good book. It was time to do dishes and clean up the kitchen. We set about doing the chores quickly, yet methodically. In less than twenty minutes we were done!

Yesterday's story, about a lady who was down in the dumps as she procrastinated about some simple tasks, was true. But it was also a parable. And it gives significant understanding to my recent realities.

I have been under incessant deadlines and pressures. You could say that the week I am behind in sermon preparation (I'm usually 3 weeks ahead; right now it's only 2) is like an unwashed plate on the cabinet. Then there's the planning for dinners we will host as part of a special project -- like a dirty glass. Then the planning for a giving emphasis for our future campus development -- like a crusted baking pan.

Add in the sickness that has at times compressed our staff -- like a dirty bowl. And the death in my assistant's immediate family -- like a stack of silverware. And the associate pastor away for a much-needed vacation -- like a another dinner plate.

Oh, I need to mention the day and a half away for my wife to undergo outpatient surgery (in Phoenix, difficult recuperation, but she's getting much better now) -- like a greasy skillet.

And, to top it all off, we are approaching our largest outreach event of the year this Saturday (Family Fall Festival) -- like a whole stack of dinnerware.

You see, my life can get stacked up just easily as that lady who called her pastor. Yours can, too. And, if we don't stop what we're doing to take care of business, we will probably be "down in the dumps."

Doing of the dishes. Putting life into perspective and avoiding the blues.

That's why I haven't written much on Dwell and Cultivate lately.

Tomorrow, I want to share about it from one more angle; that as a leader.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One At A Time

It's surely oversimplified, but a story I heard has fused itself on my brain for about a quarter century. A pastor I knew told about a lady in his congregation.

The lady struggled with being down in the dumps. Notice that I didn't say "depression" -- I'm certain her ailment was not depression. At least not the clinical type.

Anyway, this lady asked the pastor to come to her home and pray for her. He walked in (I hope he wasn't visiting alone, but that's another story.) and saw that her house was trashed. The lady was very low and she wanted a listening ear.

After a time, he told the lady that he knew how to cure her blues. "How?" she asked.

"I won't tell you unless you promise to follow my instructions."

"I'll try," was her reply.

"Then I won't tell you."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Have I ever given you anything to do that is impossible for you to do?"

"Uh, no," said the lady.

"Then I give you my word that the cure for your problems is within your ability and I will tell you what it is if you promise to do it."

"I'll try," she said again.

He arose to leave. "In that case, I won't tell you."

"But I'll try!" Pleading in her voice.

"No. I won't tell you unless you promise."

Finally, she gave in.

"When I leave, get up and go into your kitchen. Clean up that pile of dishes stacked in the sink. Tonight, call me and tell me three words: 'I did it.' Then I will give you the next step."

Fortunately, the lady followed through with her promise. The pastor gave her a series of small projects that, one-by-one, got her life manageable again. Within a few days, her blues were gone.
In case you're wondering, I haven't been in the blues. However, this story relates to something I can tell you about my recent absence here at Dwell and Cultivate.

I will do that tomorrow.