I Heart Seeley Booth

I go through cycles of enjoying one TV show at a time (i.e. it’s all I watch) and currently it’s Bones. Recently, I was watching a rerun when I caught the following exchange between FBI Agent Seeley Booth, one of the main characters of the show, and another FBI agent.

Booth: Look, I don’t have anything against you, Agent Finn. I just don’t like the way you view the FBI.
Finn: What do you mean?
Booth: This is a proud and noble job, but you’re using it to get to something else. My advice, write your script, get an agent, hell, have a little plastic surgery, but quit using my Federal Bureau of Investigation as a stepping stone to something you think is better. Because in my book, there is nothing better.

I cheered. My heart soared. I resonate with Booth deeply, but not about the FBI. Such is how I feel about working in the Church.  Read More

I gave the women in my family group little Forget-Me-Not grow kits for Valentine’s Day this year. It seemed fitting to have a little reminder that God doesn’t forget us, so I printed out labels with Isaiah 49:14-16 and attached them to the kits.

I bought one for myself as well and as I’ve watched the plants grow, it’s been a source of many leadership and faith lessons for me. As I continue to learn, I have found great joy in watching these plants grow & I want to share my lessons in hopes that it might bring others joy and insight as well. Without further ado, I bring you Lesson #1.

Lesson #1: …Then all of a sudden!

I planted  these forget-me-nots and was doubtful about them growing. See, my cat decided that the little pot was a great toy for him and started batting it about early on. I moved it and he left it alone, but I had no idea whether the seeds were even still planted, so I added a few more.

I continued to water the soil, hoping something would grow. I went away for several days to visit a friend. When I returned, I noticed that one plant had grown. Just a tiny little green shoot was in the middle of the pot. All of a sudden, there was life!

At the time, I was reading through the Gospel of Mark and had just read the Parable of the Growing Seed:

“Jesus also said, ‘The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle because the harvest has come.'” (Mark 4:26-29)

I couldn’t think of a better description of my little plant. I planted a seed and watered it, but I really didn’t cause it to grow. It just did. The fact that I was away on vacation further underscored the fact that I didn’t cause the growth, I was just there to provide the right conditions and had the pleasure of witnessing it as it began to happen.

And thus a learned a lesson about spiritual growth, both in myself and in others.

Prominence and Significance

Several months ago, I heard a pastor talk about significance. For the life of me, I can’t remember exactly, but I believe it was Rick Warren. This pastor pointed out that it is very easy to confuse prominence for significance.

When you think prominence, picture your nose. Your nose is very apparent. Some are more apparent than others, but that’s another topic. It juts out for the world to see.

When you think significance, picture your heart. It is unseen to the world, even unseen to the person it sustains, yet it is vital.

You can live without a nose, but you can’t live without a heart.

Most of the time when people speak of significance, it’s really prominence they want. Fame. Success. Wealth. All it takes to achieve prominence in America is money, a good publicist, and bad behavior.

Significance comes from loving and serving others over the long haul.

I’m in the process of writing a paper (well, taking a break at the moment) in response to Donald Smith’s proposition: “Communication is involvement” from his book, Creating Understanding. Smith states that in order to truly communicate, you must build commonness. You share experiences, understand others’ worlds, and participate in their lives and culture.

The irony is that the first things we cut out of our lives in the search for “significance” are significant relationships. Real significance happens on the ground level. It happens in doing life with other people. That significance may or may not lead to fame and fortune, but it changes both you and the recipient forever.

At the risk of sounding trite, John Maxwell is right, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And you can’t truly care about people you don’t know.

P.S. Through the magic of the internet, I have just confirmed that it was, in fact, Rick Warren.

On Success

I’ve started this post several times now, but it never seems to come out just right. I decided that today I would write it and whatever comes is good enough.

Success in ministry is often judged by numbers. We judge a church by its butts, budgets, and baptisms. We ask for the bottom line to determine whether we’re honoring God. While growth and large numbers are impressive, I wonder whether it’s the best way to measure success in the Church. Is God impressed with big numbers?

This question is all the more important in my life, since I’ve felt like I could be doing so much more. I have experience and education, but it hasn’t translated into anything impressive. I often wonder whether all I will ever have is potential that never comes to fruition. How do I know when I’ve been successful in God’s kingdom?

This is what the LORD says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.

I read that passage a year or so ago and was moved to memorize it. I don’t often memorize verses word-for-word, but that just sang to me. “Don’t boast in being smart or successful or strong. Boast in knowing God.”

I believe the true measure of success in ministry is in faithful obedience to God. We are successful when we know and follow God. Perhaps it won’t mean outward success or fame or fortune. Scratch that, it probably won’t mean those things. But obedience to God means a life free from striving for bigger, better, more. We will be entrusted with much if we are faithful, but it won’t be striving, chasing after what the world is chasing after.

I continue to pray that God will use me as he desires and that I will serve him faithfully with the opportunities I am given.

I also continue to pray for ruthless trust as I wait for him to bring me into the place he is preparing for me. God, free me from striving.

Culture Making

The worst thing we could do is follow that familiar advice to ‘pray as if it all depended on God, and work as if it all depended on you.’ Rather, we need to become people who work as if it all depends on God–because it does, and because that is the best possible news. We work for, indeed work in the life and power of, a gracious and infinitely resourceful Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. And we need to know ourselves well enough that the thought that it might in fact all depend on us would drive us straight to fasting and trembling prayer.” -Andy Crouch, Culture Making

As part of a spiritual leadership class I am co-leading, we are practicing lectio divina with different passages. It was John 15:1-17 this week, a passage with which I am very familiar. Now, I’ve been a Christian & studied the Bible long enough to know that no matter what I think I know, I still have so very much that I don’t know about God. Even so, I’m always surprised that he shows up in ways I didn’t expect.

As I went through my practice today, I was caught on the word “remain.” The most common translations for this word are “remain” and “abide.” “Abide” has a connotation of longsuffering to me. You’re withstanding some onslaught when you abide. “Remain” has a static connotation to me; you’re staying in one place and doing nothing. Neither of these words ever opened up this passage for me.

I was caught on a note in the NET Bible that said this word could also be translated “reside.”…Well, that’s a different word entirely. Read More

Jenga Ministry

[originally written 1/11/10]

I had some friends over yesterday to play board games. After a few rounds of another game, we played Jenga. I thought it would be a nice quick game, but I was wrong. This was the world’s longest game of Jenga. Several times, someone would be left with only a few stubborn pieces left to pluck out of the structure and we would all stand holding our breaths, sure the game would end with this move. In fact, we even called my cat over to the table to see if he would knock the game over. That way, none of us would lose. He literally jumped onto the table and snaked around the game several times, but this percarious pile refused to budge. By the time I finally knocked the tower over (yes, it was me), we all breathed a sigh of relief. The tower had been plucked clean and any piece one chose to remove would cause it to fall.

Just before my Jenga tower fell, it resembled a skeleton picked clean of its flesh. Jagged wooden “bones” stuck out in different directions. As leaders, we can easily end up resembling picked over skeletons as well. Hollow. Weak. Dried up. A shell of what we once were. Read More

“What Else?”

As I was driving a few weeks ago, I noticed someone driving in front of me with their rear windshield wiper on. I noticed it because it annoyed me. There was no rain. Why on Earth would they have their windshield wipers on, let alone the rear windshield wiper? As the wiper persisted, I got more and more irritated. I was so annoyed that I noticed myself trying to look at anything but the car in front of me (I know, I know, great driving technique).  Read More

“The Middle”

Confession time: I hated being single. Of course, anyone who knew me during my early and mid-twenties could tell you this, so it’s not really a secret. I really struggled with the idea that things were supposed to be different and that God had forgotten me. One morning, when my clock radio turned on, the song that came on was “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World.

Hey, don’t write yourself off yet.

It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on. Read More

I am finally catching up on my blog reading and I came across this post on The Gospel Coalition blog concerning the question, “When has a preacher crossed the line into plagiarism in his [*ahem* or her] sermon?” It is worth reading (as well as the responses) because it touches a really important issue in preaching ministries.

I brought up this subject in my own post “My Preaching Manifesto.” One of my points is:

I am to bring my best to God and his people. I will be prepared enough to allow for the Holy Spirit to truly work. I will refuse to “borrow” messages from other pastors; it’s plagiarism and does not allow God to bring his specific message to my local church.

I know that I can be idealistic about ministry, especially as far as preaching is concerned. Preaching a few times a year (as I do) is far less rigorous than preaching weekly, sometimes pastors even preach a few times a week. I get that life as a minister can move at breakneck speed; however, I am resolute about this because I firmly believe that preaching is a key role of a pastor. Read More