In January of this year (2014), I began working as Vice President of Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tn. This was quite a change after 36 years of congregational ministry. For most of those years I worked with churches in Florence, Ala., Kansas City, Mo., and most recently in Waco, Tx. The change in ministry has been both invigorating and exhausting. Transition is difficult no matter how good the transition is. However, it can also be a time of renewed energy. You might be interested in the following: After all these years, why did you transition from congregational ministry to serving in this school? I received the invitation to serve in this role at Harding School of Theology. What excited me most about this opportunity was the possibility of making a real difference in churches as well as cities/towns where graduates would serve. Men and women who study at HST can really make a significant kingdom difference regardless of their vocation. These people are not at HST for academic study alone but are also being shaped and formed as Christ-followers.
See Keith Ferrazzi’s fine post “Take Charge of Your Career: The Four Strategies of Staying Curious in Learning.” Ferrazzi is the author of “Never Eat Alone.”
See Brian Fanzo’s fine piece “My advice to Millennials: become a master storyteller.” Good advice.
Read Mislav Illic’s words from the Christian Chronicle regarding the death of his co-worker Mladen Jovanovic.
10 New Yorker religion articles to read while the archives are free.
Robert P. George in First Things. See “Advice for Young Scholars.”
See Elizabeth Gilbert’s transcript from her TED talk, “Your elusive creative genius.”
Far too many men are silent at all the wrong times. A father’s silence can communicate volumes. The absence of his voice can leave a boy or girl feeling emotionally alone.
We were in the middle school gym. Our oldest daughter, in the seventh grade, was playing basketball. The game was coming to a close. One girl on our team was having great difficulty guarding a particular player on the opposing team. Again and again this girl would score. Finally at one point, the father of our player stood and began yelling. He called out his daughter’s name and in front of the entire gym said, “Your defense stinks!”
The gym became very silent as the humiliated girl stood on the the court looking at her father.
Most fathers I know would never think of doing anything like this. They would never want to humiliate or shame their child the way this father did.
However, fathers can do damage by remaining silent. They don’t inflict pain on their children with their words. However, they do not take advantage of the opportunities they have to build and encourage their children with their words. Instead, they remain silent.
When our children were small, I had to learn how to speak in a way that would encourage our girls. I did not come from a demonstrative family and it would have been far easier for me to simply be silent. Yet, I learned by observing other fathers how to speak life giving words into my daughters. You can learn this too.
Of course, I don’t remember this moment. Nevertheless, this picture means a lot to me. At that moment my parents were a young couple who had moved to a big city with their two year old. Little did they know of the twists and turns their lives would take. Nor could they have imagined what life would be like for their toddler.
Years later, a variety of experiences would shape and form my life and forever impact me.
I would enter kindergarten. Mrs. Rich was my teacher. I would come away from that experience with good memories.
Just a few years later, I would have a brother and sister. I would live with my family of origin, go to college and then eventually leave and marry.
I would have moments of joy and also moments when I felt utterly defeated.
I would learn the story of God’s love. I would be baptized. I would continue to grow in my faith as a part of a church community.
Years later, I would marry Charlotte and we would have two children, Christine and Jamie. We would spend much of our lives in Alabama, Missouri, and Texas.
Now, here we are with two grandchildren, two sons-in-law, and many great memories of the places where we have lived.
I never would have dreamed, even a few years ago, that we would live in Memphis and that I would be working with Harding School of Theology.
Why mention this?
See Paul Sohn’s list! “Counting My Blessings: 100 things I’m Thankful For.” Caused me to reflect on what I am grateful for.
See Coy Delistraty’s “The Importance of Eating Together.” Some important words for so families regarding the importance of eating together.
See Stuart Scott’s ESPYS speech “Never Give Up.” I love this annual award.
Don’t miss this list. “The Top Ten Sports Websites for June 2014.” Football season will soon be here. Time to bookmark a few of these.
Don’t miss Michele Cushatt’s fine post “The Secret to Becoming a Standout.” An excellent reminder that we need to be ourselves.
He snarled and complained about his job. A friend of his, who worked for another company, had recently received a promotion. “Some people get all the breaks!” He went on to talk about his friend who didn’t have to work near as hard as he did. There was no sense of joy for his friend. Nor did this man seem to take responsibility for anything related to his own career. Rather, he complained about how everyone else seems to get all the breaks.
I have learned there are some things in life that are best forgotten. Now I haven’t always practiced this. I can think of years in which I was stuck in unproductive thinking. I allowed too much futile thinking to take up space and time. Yet, how I think and what I focus on really do impact my life.
I want to suggest that some things need to be forgotten.
Forget what might have been.
Some people spend much of their energy focused on what might have been. For them, life would have been great “if only.” They are stuck in the past.
“If only my wife (or husband) was different.”
“If only I had taken a different job.”
“If only I had been treated fairly in my career.”
“If only I had gotten the breaks my brother-in-law received.”
Forget the entitlement.
Some people go through life believing they are entitled to a certain life. This may be the young couple who believe they are entitled to a certain lifestyle (that may have taken their parents 35 years to afford.) Others believe they are entitled to happiness and seem willing to break whatever commitments they’ve already made in order to experience this. Years ago, a woman used this very expression in a conversation with me. “I’m entitled to be happy” she said. Two weeks later she left her husband and children. People who are focused on their own sense of entitlement will break commitments and abandon relationships if they seem to stand in the way.
Forget the focus on someday.
Some people are preoccupied with “someday.” They speak as if life begins in the future. Someday they plan to save money, get their finances in order, and live within their means. Many people speak of changing their lives someday and quitting bad habits someday. Yet life is experienced today not someday.
Each one of these approaches to life is a dead end street. No progress is made when I am focused on any of these. Life is happening today, not yesterday or someday. I am entitled to nothing. Whatever good thing I experience in this life is a gift of God to be received with gratitude.
What else needs to be forgotten?
For the last 35 years, I have learned from a variety of people by simply asking questions. These are questions that I have thought about in advance. My goal is to glean something helpful from these individuals. What I wish to learn shapes the questions that are asked.
Typically, I will ask a person to coffee, lunch, or simply spend some time at that person’s office. We meet for an hour or less.
1. I interviewed the mayors of several of the communities where we lived in order to learn about the area. I simply asked these leaders for the opportunity to learn from them.
2. I have interviewed many, many preachers. I asked questions about ministry and preaching, as well as for guidance in experiencing a long term ministry. These conversations also included questions about spiritual formation, dealing with conflict, and overcoming discouragement.
3. I have interviewed business people. From these individuals I have learned much about personal organization, time management, and developing a process for getting things done.
4. I have interviewed husbands to learn about marriage. I have interviewed fathers to learn how to be a better father.
5. Finally, I have interviewed coaches, teachers, professors, and others to gain understanding about various aspects of work and life with the goal of personal growth.
Hopefully you had a great Fourth of July! We spent the weekend with our daughter Jamie and son-in-law Cal. We went to see Charlotte’s mom, her sister Carole, and brother-in-law Keith. It was a great weekend.
Now for the resources. Hopefully at least of one of these will be interesting and even helpful to you.
This post contains reflections on Robert L. Johnston Jr. who was my Greek teacher at Abilene Christian University. One semester, I took a Greek readings class with him and learned much about Greek, the text, and what it means to be a Christian gentleman. I was the only one in this class. Each day he served hot tea prior to reading the text.
Seth Godin says much in so few words. See “The difference between impossible and nearly impossible.”
See Roger Olson’s fine post “How American Evangelicalism Has Changed . . .” This made me pause and think.
“My Zombie, Myself, Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead.” From The New York Times.
I am very thankful. (Each Thursday I write a post with church leaders in mind. However, today I want to focus on what I am grateful for. Perhaps this will simulate your thinking and even your gratitude as you consider your own life.)
I am grateful for my family.
- I am grateful for Charlotte who dared to move to Memphis at this point in our lives to begin a fresh new chapter in our ministry. I am blessed.
- I am grateful for Christine, mother of two wonderful little boys. I can’t imagine a more attentive mother. So thankful for Phillip, a good and devoted husband and father.
- I am grateful for Jamie, the social worker with such a heart. Thankful for the way she is thoughtful to so many. So thankful for Cal, an unassuming, gracious husband and man.
- For those whom I’ve known for so many years. So grateful to receive those texts, e-mails, and handwritten notes. I take none of this for granted.
Consequently we close our eyes and hope it will go away.
Have you known anyone like this?
1. The doctor gives a stern warning to a 40-year-old man, “You have cancer. This has to be addressed immediately.” The man later tells friends, “I won’t be going back to the doctor anymore. I’m not about to undergo those treatments.” Just close your eyes and hope it will be all right.
2. The woman says nothing to her husband who exhibits all kinds of suspicious behavior. In front of their friends, they talk about their fantastic marriage. Meanwhile, at home they sit in silence, rarely speaking to one another. Just close your eyes and hope it will be all right.