Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Midlife Wisdom


Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she (wisdom) is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed (Proverbs 3:13-18).

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when a middle-aged guy buys a sports car, wears a gold chain, and dyes his hair?  Yep — a midlife crisis!  Some stories are comical, some are sad, and some are tragic.

It seems to me that instead of having a midlife crisis, which btw is not limited to men, we ought to tap into our midlife wisdom at this stage of life.

1. By mid-life you should know that success has its limits.  I’ve worked hard all my life.  I’ve worked smart too.  And I have experienced fulfillment from the things I have done.

But I have also learned that success has its limits.  For instance, my whole identity cannot be defined by my ministry, vocation, job, or accomplishments.  Why?  Because it will result in an identity crisis (or crash-and-burn) after my ministry is over.  If my whole sense of self-worth is defined by what I do, then what happens to me when I can do these things no longer?  No amount of success will help me find my center if I don’t know who I am as a person.

You are not your job, and neither should you be.  Additionally, if you are in your 40s or 50s you also know your body is not what it used to be – it has its limits too – which means you cannot maintain the same pace (in pursuit of success) that you could in your 30s.  Enjoy your success.   But keep things in perspective.

2. By mid-life you should reevaluate your values and priorities.  We’re here for only a short time.  Then we pass away.  By mid-life, the end is in view.  Now is the time to stop taking our opinions so seriously (after all, everyone has them), and enjoy the things we didn’t have time for when we were building our careers and accumulating material possessions.  Take time to look enjoy the blue sky, orange sunsets, the laughter of friends, and the fruit of your labor.  Seek to bloom in the garden of your circumstances.  Love your spouse, guide your children, and embrace your grandchildren.  This is your calling, and is the substance of life.

In younger years we derive our identity from college degrees, careers, promotions, vocational awards, peer recognition, and material possessions. But at midlife our old compasses no longer work.  The magnetic field alters.  These things lose their importance (and should) as we embrace a new season of life.  We have to learn that midlife has meaning and significance.  This is something we should embrace instead of dreading.  We should adjust our thinking to view midlife as an opportunity for personal growth and new experiences, rather than a crisis.  It’s a time for us to be mature and to be known for our wisdom.  Frivolity and youthful recklessness should be a thing of the past.  It’s time to let go of old wounds, to enjoy our families, and bring heaven down into our daily life.  It’s also a time to reconnect with a stranger in your life: your shadow. 

3.  By mid-life you should let go of roles you’ve outgrown.  We are so programmed to be the person we used to be that we fail to embrace who we are now.  We put on airs, adopt someone else’s style, and become an actor (or actress) pretending to be the person we would like to be.  And it takes its toll.  We minimize ourselves.  We lose authenticity.  We become pretenders – not even honest with ourselves.   

Many mid-lifer’s are still trying to emulate the style of younger people, and falling short – and it shows.  Your body, your face, and your appearance are not what they used to be. 

Myself, I accept the lines in my face and thinning hair.  I accept the changes in my body and the aches in my joints.  And I have asked my wife to speak up if I ever attempt one of those ridiculous comb-overs that midlife men are known for.  Yes, I still have a certain amount of vanity, (I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet and look like a slob), so I’ll keep exercising and eating right.   But I don’t want to look pathetic or desperate either by trying to look like something I no longer am.  Instead, I want to embrace this stage of my life and be known for the wisdom and accumulated years of experience I have gained – something I would like to pass along to younger people.

Instead of regretting that you have entered your 40s or 50s, embrace it.  You’ll be respected for your self-confidence.  Instead of wearing clothing that no longer flatters you, wear something that is age-appropriate.  You’ll look mature, confident, and like a person of substance – which will command respect from others (instead of their whispers and insults behind your back).  This is the season of life to take the emphasis off of your packaging and redirect it towards inner beauty, character, and wisdom.  Embrace who you are, and embrace this new season of life.  It could be your best.

The glory of young men is their strength, but the beauty of older men is their gray hair (wisdom)  Proverbs 20:29

Well there you have it – just a few thoughts to chew on.  Reflect and recalibrate your life where it’s needed. It’s never too late.  Take advantage of your midlife wisdom and avoid a crisis!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Can't Lead from Behind Your Desk


In 1997 I spent almost an entire year creating and writing documents that led to the launch of Pace Community Church in 1998.  I wrote our mission statement, vision statement, core values statement, and faith statement.  I wrote our strategy, and developed systems.  I wrote a document about church structure and government.  It was a good plan.

However, none of those things directly resulted in one person joining our launch team, our church, or showing up for any of our services.  Not one person has ever arrived at PCC with a print-out from our web site claiming that our mission statement is what drew them in.

There’s an important lesson here: LEADERSHIP INVOLVES PEOPLE, NOT JUST PAPER.

A pastor’s comfort zone is his study.  In there he can get lost in his books, reading, praying, studying, discovering new insights, preparing sermons, and connected to blogs.  He can lose touch with people too.  As a church planter I quickly discovered that I could not spend all week in my study.  I had to get my Sunday message prepared in one day (two at the most) and then spend the rest of the week making phone calls and actually meeting people so that someone would show up to hear my sermons. I mean, what good is it to spend all week in the study preparing the best sermon I can prepare if only thirteen people show up to hear it?  Consequently, I spent a more time in the community or among people in our flock than anywhere else.

You cannot make disciples via Facebook.  Sure, you can find out what vampire you are most like, or join the pirate army, or maybe even discuss some obscure Old Testament passage in the 100-Million-Christians-Strong-Study-Group.  You can quote authors and promote doctrine.  You can post cute sayings about Jesus that sound like they that came right out of a Hallmark gift card.  And you can have a friends list a mile long.  But for all the media that Facebook offers, life doesn’t happen there.  Facebook may give us a window into life, but it’s not real life.

You can’t develop other leaders on twitter either.  You can put out an All Points Bulletin for Help Wanted online or in the church bulletin, and if you’re lucky someone might respond.  But frequent calls for help like this are a sign that there isn’t a culture of real relationships.  If you need help, new volunteers, new leaders, new teachers, or new musicians, you have to walk up to people, tap them on the shoulder and personally ask.

When volunteers show up to do their work at church, they should be thanked and appreciated.  That means pushing away from your desk and paperwork and spreadsheets, and getting out there where they are, walking the hallway, and spending some face time with them.  It's how a leader says thank-you to real people.

If we’re going to make a difference, it’s going to involve conversations; the face-to-face kind.  For me it’s better to spend less time on status updates and more time on relationship updates.  A cup of coffee with the right person is often more effective that an e-mail blast sent to hundreds of the wrong people.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Mind Dump - Monday Edition


Another great day at PCC.

Attendance was off a bit – down 40 people or so from last week.

There was good energy in the house.  I especially liked seeing the front row filled with teenagers.  That’s like saying, “Sick ‘em” to a bulldog – makes me preach better.

Sunday’s message was:  In the end, God wins!  What a way to wrap up the eight-week series on the book of Esther.

Doing one service still feels real good.  We’re finding our stride.

Funny how long people hang around forever after church is over.  That’s a good thing.  A lot of fellowship, friendship building, and relational connection are taking place.  Some people linger for a solid hour.

The band was in the zone.  Enjoyed having a new guitar player on stage too.

Met some new people.  Always enjoy that.

I taught the Newcomers Class last night.  Twenty-seven new people were with us. Had a great time together. 

The hospitality team hit a home run providing a meal for us too.

About six weeks ago I lost a flash drive that had four years worth of writing stored on it. I was bummed.  I searched for three weeks to find it, retracing my steps over and over again.  It was a big loss for me.  Finally I accepted the loss and let it go.  Then, wala!  It came back to me.  Funny how things like that happen.

I plan to buy a new camera soon, upgrading from the small one I currently use.  With springtime just around the corner I want to take a lot of outdoor pictures like I did last year.

I’m still on the journey of establishing margin and boundaries.  This is not a quick-fix or a one-time deal. Got a long way to go.  In the end it’s going to be a permanent change for me.

Plan to do some gardening preparation today!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Yay!


Four years of writing... lost... and finally found!  I lost this flash drive six weeks ago and thought it had been lost forever!

 8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin' (Luke 15:8-9)



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Busyness, Boundaries, and Solitude


But Jesus often withdrew to solitary places and prayed.  (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:13)

God does not yell over the craziness of life to get my attention.  Instead, He whispers in the quiet moments of a focused devotional life.  The minute the phone gets turned off and social media gets blocked, I can hear.  I don't experience God on Facebook - I encounter Him most often in quiet places.  The moment I withdraw to a safe place, the better I feel.  It doesn’t even require an expensive whirlwind vacation to “get away from it all” – only margin and boundaries in my daily life. 

Jesus withdrew to solitary places for good reason.  Too much connectivity with the crowds along with the demands of ministry was draining.  On one occasion, He even got into a boat to withdraw to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13).

For the last couple of years I’ve been writing on this blog about this topic, even revealing my fatigue and the need to establish some margin in my life.  I’ve been saying all along that I was going to do this or do that, but haven’t really done much of anything to actually change my situation.  It’s been all talk.  As everyone knows, the road to ruin is often paved with good intentions.  So I have decided to make some changes in my personal life and work schedule. 

Funny thing, when you are in the pressure cooker all the time you simply muscle up and deal with it.  And if you stay at it long enough it begins to feel normal.  But that’s crazy.  It leads to exhaustion and an eventual crash-and-burn.  Though the Bible honors hard work, it also condemns overwork as foolishness.

For the last six or seven weeks I've been working my way through the process and there's still a long way to go.  I’m pushing back from the busyness and my workaholic pace.  I’m going to slow down and simplify. I’m going to unplug a lot more. There will be less noise, fewer phone calls, shorter to-do lists, regular work hours, and almost no evening meetings (which are the bane of family life), unless something is urgent or an emergency arises.  Some things can just wait until tomorrow to get done. 

I cannot attend every event that takes place at PCC, so I won’t try.  I have hobbies and interests (outside of work) that I want to have time for.  And I’m going to establish boundaries between my home life and church life – the two are not the same, you know, nor should they be.  Besides, pastors who make themselves available to everyone for everything are seldom any good to them when they are truly needed.

It’s very easy to get caught up in a squirrel cage of activity, spinning too many plates on the end of a stick. All of this leads to a diminishing shelf life for pastors. They just flame out because they burn candle from both ends.  Even my own pastor was not exempt.  His health is ruined, he's out of the ministry, and lost his wife.  Me?  I’m not going to be a causality of the ministry.  So I’m pushing back from the busyness and establishing clear boundaries.  My schedule is going to look different too.  You may not see me as much as you are used to, but when you do I will be in a better state of mind and much healthier.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Mind Dump - February 19, 2012


Very good day at PCC.

The Word was faithfully preached, worship was sincerely offered, and fellowship was authentically practiced.  It was a God-honoring day.

Attendance was very strong.

The series on Esther has been a big hit with almost everyone.  Several people have even told me the suspense is so great that they have been reading ahead.  It’s always a good thing when people are reading their Bible.

Last Sunday’s message was “What Goes Around Comes Around” (from chapter 6) and today’s message was “The Sovereign in the Shadows” (from chapter 7).

We have learned a lot of very important lessons (and content) from the book of Esther.

There are always nice comments on Facebook about our services.  These are always a source of encouragement to me.  While I enjoy the compliments, I experience greater joy seeing so many people in the PCC family deeply interested in the Word.

Those who find themselves utterly captivated by God’s Word can hardly be entertained by anything else.

Next Sunday we’ll be offering our Newcomers Class.  In fact, about ten additional people signed up today.  The Lord has brought us a lot of people in the last few months, even in the last few weeks, so the timing is perfect.

The Kid’s Zone was packed to capacity today.  I could not believe it!  Thank God we have these rooms because there is no possible way we could get everybody in the sanctuary.

A special shout out to the youth worship team that led worship at PCC today.  They did an exceptional job.  Plus, it gave our regular worship team a well-deserved break.  As I mentioned, every single one of them were the children of families in our church.  It’s a good thing to see young people growing up and dedicated to God.  It’s also a good thing that they belong to a church where their spiritual gifts and ministry gifts can be deployed to edify the Body.

Another shout out to James Wheelus and his brother who mowed the water retention pond in front of the church (that crater that is otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of Santa Rosa County, thanks to our county engineers).  This was no small job.  A lot of us noticed that it had been done, but no one knew who actually did it.  I kept asking around until I discovered who it was.  Thank God for the people who love their church enough to take pride in its appearance.

Another shout out to Paul & Roxanne Weekley who pick up trash almost every Saturday evening along the entire stretch of North Spencer Field Road so that the drive to Sunday services won’t look dumpy.  They even did it yesterday…. in the drizzling rain. 

Of course, there are hundreds of others who do just as much as those mentioned above…. And for each and every one, I am thankful.  Even if I (or we) fail to notice, always remember that God never misses any good deed you perform (Hebrews 6:10).

A lot of people have been asking me about my recent lack of blogging.  Well, here goes.  I have been on a fast from the Internet, as well as other activities, because I’ve  been attempting to create some healthy margin in my life.  I’m trying to make adjustments in my schedule, ministry commitments, and making more room for personal time.  Here’s why – over the last few years I have become very fatigued.  In fact, I have been leading on empty for a long time.  My reserves are depleted.  The constant on-the-job pressure and being on call 24-7 has taken a toll on my energy, my mental state, and to some degree my personal life.  Enough is enough, so I decided to pull the trigger and start doing something about it. 

This journey is not over by a long shot – there’s a lot more I still have to accomplish.  However, over the last few weeks I have finally gotten my head above water far enough to breathe again (I no longer feel like I’m drowning) and now feel the freedom to resume writing again.  In the days to come I’ll let you know what I have learned about myself, what I have accomplished, and the changes I am making.

For now, I leave you with two pictures from today’s services at PCC (below).

Ron

Monday, February 13, 2012

Update...


Hello everyone,

I’m still alive.  I haven’t given up on blogging and I don't have a case of writers block.  I'm on a break from social media because I need some margin.

I’ll be returning soon.  Hasta la vista!

Ron

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Garden Plot


This is the garden plot I started working on today.  My plan is to plant (family heirloom) field peas - the same ones I planted last year in my back yard and had such success with.  I might try potatoes too.  Not sure.  Maybe some peppers.  Since this is my first real attempt at establishing a large vegetable garden, I will keep it pretty simple.   My other endeavor is to plant blueberry bushes on the same property.  Right now I have twenty bushes, (waiting to be put in the ground), but would like to have about fifty.  I will be planting them very soon.  Renae and I get a lot of enjoyment from blueberries. 

Monday, February 6, 2012