A few of these weeks were vacation and a few of them were to enable me to think and plan some of my teaching/preaching for the coming school year. … I read books such as Embracing the Love of God , The Poet of Tolstoy Park , The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery , Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me , Resonate and pieces of another of other books.Continue Reading...
For the next four weeks, this blog will rest and so will this writer.
I am taking two weeks vacation and two weeks study leave. During this time, I’m going to be away from the blog, as well as Twitter and Facebook. The next post on this blog will be July 25.
I am thankful to all of you who read these posts. Some of you have been reading this blog since it began seven years ago. I don’t take this for granted.
The intention here is always to be encouraging. Sometimes the topic is directed to particular concerns or to people in stages of life. At least once a week, the posts are written with ministers and other church leaders in mind.
There are many, many blogs available.
I am thankful that you come here.
I am blessed to have two daughters, Christine and Jamie. Christine is married to Phillip and they are the parents of a little boy, not quite one year old. Jamie will be married to Cal in August. We are very proud of each one of them. Our family continues to change as we soon will not have not only two daughter’s, but two son’s-in-law.
I am grateful to be a dad. This morning, the Wall Street Journal had an excellent article on the importance of a dad in a daughter’s life. Sometimes, dads underestimate their importance in a child’s life. I believe that a dad can move from being good to being great by focusing on the kind of man he is becoming.
I want to suggest five ways to move from being a good dad to becoming a great dad.
Be a Lover
A great dad deeply loves his wife and children. His children listen and see his interaction with his wife. They know he is exclusively devoted to her. In turn, his children also experience an incredible love from their dad. His faithful love for his wife and for his children creates a safe, secure environment for his family.
Be a Person of High Character
A great dad models solid character before his children. This dad doesn’t manipulate others for his own gain. He tells the truth, even when it may not be to his advantage financially. When in line for a ticket at the amusement park, this dad tells the truth about the age of his child, even though that ticket may him more money. This dad practices truth telling and honor in some might perceive to be the little things.
A great dad models loyalty in his relationships. He can be trusted. His affection for his wife is exclusive. This dad is no flirt at work. His family doesn’t wonder about who he is texting or privately meeting on Facebook. No, this dad has honor and is loyal to his family. He will not throw his family under the bus while he pursues his fantasy with other women.
A great dad is present with his children. That is more than showing up at their ball games. Children know their dad is present by his eye contact and his active listening. Unfortunately, too many dads will not give their children complete eye contact. The television is always on and dad has one eye on the screen. Or, he constantly checks his phone as the texts come in. A great dad will turn off the television, the gadgets, and the phone in order to be fully present with his children.
A dad also communicates his presence by really listening to his children. Intently listening to our children really does increase the sense of connection that they experience. Looking back, there were times when our girls were at home, that I should have spoken less and listened more.
Be a Jesus Follower
A great dad, who claims to be a Christian, really does intentionally follow Jesus in his life. That is, he lives with the intention of carrying out his teachings at work and at home. He models this lifestyle before his children. This is not about the perfection of his life but the direction of his walk. This dad desires for his children to see what it means to be an authentic Jesus follower.
What would you add to this list?
1. Wade Hodges has just released a very helpful e-book entitled, Before You Go: A Few Sneaky-Good Questions Every Minister Must Answer Before Moving to a New Church. This is a must read for anyone considering moving to a new church. This book could be incredibly helpful to ministers. It could also be valuable to other church leaders. Note the following paragraph:
Most churches deceive themselves about how healthy they are. Most ministers deceive themselves about how capable they are. Too many interviews boil down to two self-deceived parties trying to convince each other of how much they can accomplish if they work together.
While it’s vital to maintain a sense of hope that God can accomplish great things through every church and every minister, there is too much at stake to assume the best about the church you’re interviewing (and remember–you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you). This decision will impact your finances, your family, and your faith. Avoid cynicism. Use suspicion sparingly. But for the sake of everyone involved, square up with reality and ask the tough questions about the church and yourself. You may not always like the answers, but the truth will set you free to make better decisions.
The book (Kindle) is only $2.99. If you are even remotely thinking about moving, I encourage you to get this book.
2. Lately I have been reading Jeff Goins’ blog and have enjoyed his posts on writing, productivity, blogging, etc. If you haven’t read Jeff yet, you might want to browse through some of his posts. For an example of his writing, you might see today’s post, “Why E-Mail Kills Productivity and What You Can Do About It.”
3. In a few days, I will be co-teaching a Doctor of Ministry seminar at Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee. The class, Exposition of Luke, should be a lot of fun. I look forward to working with longtime New Testament professor Dr. Allen Black.
Are you aware that seminaries regularly post their syllabi on their websites? Incredible resources! If I am about to be preaching through a particular book of the Bible, I will often check with a couple of seminaries to see if a course on that book is being taught. Then, I will skim through the bibliography. Very helpful.
As I prepare messages/classes for the academic year 2011-2012, I am doing some work in the area of spiritual formation, with a particular emphasis on how we are shaped and formed as a church. I went to the websites of several seminaries and looked at their class offerings in this area. I became aware of some valuable resources by reading through the syllabi of courses being offered.
4. I want to encourage you to read a post from earlier in the week. “6 Ways to Avoid Having an Affair.” Please be sure to read the excellent comments.
5. Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to be with a number of younger ministers. I am so impressed with these people. In the last few weeks, I have been with Benjamin Neely, Shane Alexander, Scott Meyer, Scott Seela and Brandon Baker.
Yesterday, I shared a meal with a younger minister who has been a friend for several years. After we ate, the waitress, in her early 20s, came to our table with the check. I reached for it and said something like, “I’ve got it.” The waitress looked at my friend and said, “It’s good to have your daddy pick up the tab.” Good grief!
Last week was a busy time that included a funeral at our church on Friday and then a shower for our daughter the following day. In 24 hours, we went from grieving with our friends to a time of thankfulness and joy for our daughter and her fiance’. (They are getting married in August.)
This week reminded me once again about how much we contribute to one another during these significant moments of life. We have the opportunity to communicate to our friends how much they mean to us. During these moments, our behavior can speak volumes to other people about how important they really are to us.
The following are five ways we communicate value during significant moments.
Be emotionally engaged. In many, many ways we communicate value by showing interest and concern about another’s life. I have watched my mother-in-law for years communicate this through her interest in the details of her grandchildren’s lives. Other people communicate this by regular phone calls, e-mails, and texts with loved ones.
Show up. Go to funerals. Stop by a funeral home for a visitation. Go to a wedding or baby shower. Visit someone in the hospital. These moments really do matter. Quite often we don’t realize how much they do matter until we lose a father or mother. We may not realize the importance of a baby shower until it is our child who is having a baby.
For example, when a friend loses a family member, it means a great deal for them to see you at the funeral. Attend events that are important to a family member or friend. Going to funerals, weddings, graduations, baby showers, etc. are just a few examples of times when being present communicates value. So many people underestimate how important these moments are to the people involved.
Do something practical to communicate value. One of our daughters was in the hospital for a week during her high school years. I remember one friend who called me several times each day to check on her. The first day she was hospitalized, he knocked on her door. I stepped out into the hall and he said, “I want to pray with you.” He put his arm around my shoulders, bowed his head and prayed briefly in the hall. By what he did, he communicated value toward her and our family.
When the significant moment is difficult, acknowledge that person’s experience. Far too many people ignore or even minimize another’s significant moment. “You are having surgery? No big deal! Why I have a friend who had that same surgery and she was back at work two days later.” Far better to listen intently and ask questions to seek understanding.
Make an effort to stay in touch. If I don’t make the effort to stay in touch with someone, we will probably lose touch. Some complain because friends and family do not call. Meanwhile, they do not take the initiative to make contact either. Yes, it is frustrating to feel as if you are the one who must always take the initiative to stay in touch. Yet, I’ve learned that if we are going to stay in touch I often (sometimes usually) will need to be the one who takes the initiative.
What significant moments have you experienced, that caused you to notice and appreciate the presence of others?
Have you ever known either of these families?
For several years, Heather tried to communicate to her husband, Paul, that she wanted to feel special again in their relationship. Too often she felt taken for granted and lonely. Meanwhile, her husband seemed more focused on his career and the golf course. She wanted to renew their relationship. He seemed content.
One day, she was about to leave for work and Paul noticed that she looked particularly nice. Heather had lost weight, purchased new clothes, and lately seemed to enjoy going to work each day. That day, Paul noticed that her skirt seemed shorter than what she typically wore. She put on new perfume as well.
Little did Paul know that a guy at work had recently begun paying a lot of attention to her. Quiet frankly, Heather enjoys the attention. He gives her what she had wanted from Paul. He listens to her, not only to her words but the emotion behind them. He values her opinion about particular work projects. He has made a few comments about her appearance.
Lately, she has found herself thinking a lot about this man, even when she is not at work. This bothers Heather. It also makes her nervous that she feels more attractive than she has in years. Not long ago, she and this man began texting one another outside of work hours. She really doesn’t want Paul to know about these texts.
Kevin’s job required much contact with top clientele and consequently demanded his best each day. This included being well dressed. His wife, Jennifer, was a stay-at-home mom, where she cared for their three children. He missed the companionship he once had with his wife. For awhile, he looked for opportunities for her to see more of his work life. He tried to arrange for lunch downtown and offered to get a sitter. Jennifer said it was too much trouble to drive downtown just for lunch. On another occasion, he wanted his wife to be with him at a reception for the new boss. She declined to go, saying she didn’t know anyone and would be bored. On occasions, Kevin tried to include her in settings where it was appropriate to invite a spouse. She seemed to have little interest in going. Finally, he stopped asking.
Kevin continued to advance in the company. He not only had the attention of the executive vice-president, but also had the attention of a particular woman who had been with the company for about five years. This woman was attracted to Kevin and began to subtly pursue him. She laughed at his jokes and complimented him regularly on his appearance. Recently, he learned he would be traveling to Miami with a small group for a two day seminar. This woman would be in the group. Yesterday, she suggested to Kevin that maybe the two of them could explore the city together one afternoon. He sensed that she did not intend to invite others. Kevin thought about it but chose not to tell Jennifer about the offer.
Each scenario could could easily become another woeful tale of secrets, deception, and moral failure.
The following are 6 ways to avoid an affair.
1. Pay attention to your spouse. If you do not pay attention, you may find there is someone nearby who will.
2. Don’t be naive. At some point, there may be someone who is not only interested in your spouse, but obsessed with him. That can also be true for yourself. Listen to your spouse if she begins to send warning signals about a particular person.
3. Be involved in your spouse’s life. Think hard before turning down invitations to join him for lunch during the workday, receptions, office visits, work conferences, etc. Allow the people at his office the opportunity to see you as a couple.
4. Some couples promise to tell one another if there is a person who is becoming a problem for them. That is good, but doesn’t go far enough. Quite often, men are being pursued and don’t have a clue. Sometimes you need to tell your spouse what you are seeing, feeling, and sensing regarding a particular person.
5. Think hard about the impact of flirting. Would you talk this way if your spouse was present? Would you give prolonged eye contact toward another person, if your spouse was in the room?
6. Get honest. Is there a particular guy who you are dressing for today? Do you want to look particularly nice today because you are attracted to one of your clients?
What else would you add to this list that might help someone avoid this pitfall?
1. You might find Ministry and Spiritual Formation resources from the Wheaton College website very useful. There are some very good resources here. Also, you might enjoy these podcasts from The Center for Excellence in Preaching, Calvin Theological Seminary.
2. I read this article in the print edition of the The Wall Street Journal last Saturday. This article, “Practice Makes for a Perfect Presentation” is very good. The author, Jerry Weissman, writes about the importance of verbalizing a presentation aloud before actually giving it. This one practice would really help many of us who preach. In particular, it is important to verbally articulate a story, whether retelling a biblical story or one that you might be using in your sermon. Weismann says that many people try to do this by going through their PowerPoint slides and thinking about the point they will make at each slide. Still others think that mumbling through the sermon is adequate. Yet, there is nothing like actually verbalizing your message before preaching it.
3. Several years ago, I took a class with Dr. Neal Plantiga, president of Calvin Theological Seminary, and Dr. Hulitt Gloer, professor of preaching at Truett Theological Seminary (Baylor University). The class was entitled “Reading for Preaching.” We spent a week looking at novels and other books that in some way might contribute to one’s preaching. You might read this article by Dr. Plantiga entitled “Reading for Preaching.”
4. One of the criticisms that has sometimes been made regarding Christian ministers is that they do not live in the “real world.” Perhaps there are ministers who isolate themselves from their surroundings and from people in general. Yes, I realize that it is very possible for a minister to live an insulated life and that really is very unfortunate.
However, most of the ministers I know have tasted much of life as they have walked with men and women through marriages, sickness, physical suffering, unemployment, prison, child birth, and death. Some of my memories include:
- Looking through bars or hard plastic at a man or woman in jail. At times, this has been a person from my congregation.
- Standing in a dusty cemetery in west Texas, about to preach the funeral of baby.
- Sitting in an emergency room all night in Birmingham, Alabama, with the family of a car wreck victim.
- Talking with a young couple who love God and are about to be married.
- Being with a couple who are experiencing the impact of sin and destructive choices.
Again and again, I am reminded of how broken this world is and our desperate need for God.
I encourage you view this 2 minute video, in which Trevor Hudson invites us all to take hold of life’s greatest opportunity. You might also enjoy Trevor’s latest book, Discovering Our Spiritual Identity: Practices for God’s Beloved.
This spring, Charlotte and I spent our Wednesday evenings with seven wonderful couples who have been married between five and ten years. We were very impressed with them. Each week, we came together to learn more about marriage, as well as what it means to be a parent. About half of our classes were spent interviewing couples who had been married for at least 20 years. Each one of these couples allowed us to ask questions about their own experiences with marriage and being a parent
One reality that we tried to stress throughout this class:
Our behavior as married people cannot be disconnected from our relationship with
There are people who pray, read their Bible, and never miss an assembly, yet they do not see a connection between these practices and how they treat their spouse.
Self-centeredness. “It’s all about me.” You know the attitude. If we are planning to go to a restaurant, there is one main issue. Is this a place I like?
Little consideration for their spouse’s feelings. Being thoughtless with words and actions.
Deception. Not being honest about where they are spending their money. Not being honest about whom they are talking to on Facebook. Not being honest about their thinking and feelings.
Rudeness. Speaking to a spouse in a way you would speak to no one else.
Here is a person who is “deeply
spiritual” but ignores his wife. There is nothing spiritual about such behavior. In some cases there is a real disconnect. Some people do not even see that there is an inconsistency with this. Some people do not comprehend what it means to live as a Christ-follower so that the marriage/family are impacted.
There are some serious implications for a person who follows Jesus and is in a family. The question that I must grapple with is not, “Am I happy in this marriage/family?” Nor is it, “Are all my needs being met here?” The questions that I begin with are questions like:
• Are the ways and teachings of Jesus impacting how I function in this family?
• As a husband/wife, am I living in obedience to Jesus’ teachings? Am I being intentional about obeying his teachings?
• In what ways am I coming to know Christ or getting closer to Christ because of what is happening in my family?
Some of us view our marriages like a can of Coke. Put your hand around the can. If feels cold. You anticipate the taste. You know that when you pop the top you will hear the fizz. Finally, you open it. You hear the fizz and you enjoy the cold drink. You drink it all and look for a place to throw the can away. One day, you see another can of coke. You are so thirsty. Again, this can is cold. You pop the top and hear the fizz.
Is that what marriage was meant to be? Are we to be a people who just look for the next cold can that promises some fizz? Or do we know that marriage is more than fizz. Fizz is nice. Yet, marriage is much more than fizz.
All around us are people who flaunt the possibility of fizz. Again and again, men and women are seduced by this possibility. It could be that a woman is attracted to this possibility because she is being ignored and neglected by her husband. It could be that a man is attracted to another woman because he attracted to the possibility of fizz.
Marriage is more than what I can get out of it in any given moment.
People who are maturing in Christ learn that fizz is only a foretaste of real joy. There is a real joy that can be experienced in marriage that is born after years of loving one another in the ordinary moments of life. Raising children. Struggling through difficult times. Looking out for one another through fun times and not so fun times.
In what ways do we sometimes allow marriage to become disconnected from our relationship with Jesus?
On Sunday, May 29, NPR host Liane Hansen interviewed Dr. David Loxtercamp, the author of A Measure of My Days: The Journal of a Country Doctor. (Find a preview of the book here.) At the end of the interview, she asked the Belfast, Maine, physician about a list of medical aphorisms he had been working on.
As I heard him read these 14, I thought about how relevant to ministry that most of these are. The following is a portion of the transcript in which he reads these. He speaks about these ideas being what he has learned over the years as he has practiced medicine.
Health is not a commodity. Risk factors are not disease. Aging is not an illness. To fix a problem is easy, to sit with another suffering is hard. Doing all we can is not the same as doing what we should. Quality is more than metrics. Patients cannot see outside their pain, we cannot see in, relationship is the only bridge between. Time is precious; we spend it on what we value. The most common condition we treat is unhappiness. And the greatest obstacle to treating a patient’s unhappiness is our own. Nothing is more patient-centered than the process of change. Doctors expect too much from data and not enough from conversation. Community is a locus of healing, not the hospital or the clinic. The foundation of medicine is friendship, conversation and hope.
Patients cannot see outside their pain, we cannot see in, relationship is the only bridge between.
Implications for Everyday Ministry
1. It is very difficult for anyone to see outside their pain. Talk with anyone who is going through a divorce, undergoing cancer treatments, or has just experienced the death of a spouse. Very often this person is unable to see anything else but this pain. What that person does see is filtered and shaped by his own intense pain. This person is not to be criticized for this. This is the reality of pain.
2. Meanwhile, it is very difficult for the rest of us to see in. Sometimes a well-meaning person will say to someone in pain, “I know how you are feeling.” A person may say this because he has experienced a situation very similar. Or, if you are a minister, you may say this because you have been involved with other people in similar circumstances. Even so, one might want to think again about making this particular statement. Such a statement may suggest you can see inside their pain. Far better to be a listening presence than one who tries to convince another that he understands.
3. Relationship is the only bridge between. Perhaps this is where the greatest ministry can take place. When a person is in pain, what is most powerful is the relationship you already have. Your ministry is not a matter of you understanding what your friend is going through. Nor, is ministry dependent on your friend “opening up” to you or anyone else. You have a powerful ministry in simply being a friend and honoring your relationship. This is the bridge that exists between a person in pain and one who is on the outside looking in. The relationship you have with that person is the bridge. Consequently, being a faithful presence may mean much more than we may realize.
If relationship is the key bridge between a person in pain and a friend (family member, co-worker, minister, etc.) on the outside, what does a person do to honor that relationship?