Monday, April 30, 2012

Sabbatical Reflections

So I'm thinking that I will share some of my learnings about myself as I move through this sabbatical time. Honestly, these are as much for me as for my readers. But if I'm publishing them on a public blog it must mean I don't mind you reading them. Your thoughts are welcome if you wish.

I'm also guessing some of these might even change as I think more about them and gain insight. Honestly, they are more of a snapshot of what I'm thinking at this moment. So for what it is worth:

#1. I really AM an introvert.

When I've done the Myers Briggs type tests in the past, I have waffled between introvert and extrovert. Actually, the older I get, the more I more I seem to move into the introverted category. (I suspect that is because I spend SO much of my life around people so I'm more aware of energy.)

I've alway have people question if I'm really an introvert. I think this is funny. ("But you speak in front of people!" or the more accurate, "You are a verbal processor!" etc.)  Granted, my desire to verbally process has been the thing that has made ME question my introversion the most, as I love to talk things out.

But if we define "introvert" as the Myers Briggs indicator does --"Introverts get energy from being alone" and "Introverts prefer to spend time in the inner world of ideas and concepts vs the outer world of people and things," than I'm an introvert. Still a mild introvert, but an introvert none-the-less.

I've found that the times I've been most energized in the past couple of weeks have been the times when I have been alone. Reading. Walking. Thinking. Although I HAVE enjoyed some times with friends (even though I haven't spent a lot of time with people so far), I haven't desired being with people as much as I thought I would. Granted, I know those times are coming. But for now, I'm enjoying my introversion.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Some of the content of this post was written 2 years ago. For various reasons I didn't publish it. So I updated it and am publishing it now. But it's longer than 142 characters.  :)

To know me is to know my dad. I'm Ed's son. So much of who I am, so much of what I do, has been formed by my dad. This post is from a series of reflections on some life lessons my dad taught me. They are based out of the eulogy I did for my dad's memorial service on April 7, 2010.

Life Lesson #4: "There's always a spot up front."

My family camped a lot. We traveled a lot. We spent a lot of time in the car.

And when I was growing up, even well into my adulthood, whenever we would go someplace, a restaurant, a mall, a theme park, a movie theater... wherever... dad would often get there late. And there would be this huge parking lot, maybe hundreds, even thousands of cars, and dad would boldly drive up to the front, right in front of the door or the gate... and he would almost always find a spot. Not like this car in the picture, but an actual open one.

Right up front.

It was uncanny. //

And the first several times he did that, I just thought it was luck. Then I thought it might even be some big conspiracy or set up; like he planned it somehow.

But again, for dad it was a teachable moment.

He would say, “Paul, there is always a space up front. Everybody assumes there isn’t, so most people won’t take the time to look. They just resign themselves to parking in the back. But a lot of the time, if you take the time, you will find a space up front.”

And of course, for dad, this pointed to a deeper reality that I saw lived out in his life... even toward the end when things were really hard for him: Dad always assumed that he was lucky. I mean, anyone who plays cards with him knows he was lucky. But dad assumed that he had as much of a shot at opportunity as anyone.

“Give it a shot, it might as well be you.”

Later, when my dad began using faith language, he called himself "blessed." [He heard a pastor defined "blessed" as being "favored by God" -- and that really registered with my dad for some reason.]

Dad often said, “I’m the luckiest man alive. I have your mom, you kids, a good job...” And then he would say, “There are very few times in life where everything is going well. This is one of those times. It just doesn’t get any better than this.”

I was going to post a couple of times when I didn't take his advice -- when I chose to not risk the spot down front -- and maybe I will at some later post -- but in some ways I carry his worldview.

I've never been a "my best days are behind me" kind of person. I certainly don't look to High School or College as my glory years. Actually, I love my life right now.

But again, recently, I stopped "looking for a space up front." In faith language, I think I walk by faith less today than I did years ago. I see that reflected in my prayer life. I see it reflected in my leadership. 

I've become a calculated risk taker. Maybe that is not a bad thing... but it doesn't feed my soul.


Confession: There is something I like about Facebook. It is a quick capture of what is going on right now. It's sort of a way to log my life and thoughts. It has served me well over the years.

But I've been reading through the back years of this blog -- and there is a depth here that I would never dream to take onto Facebook. Mostly because I'm betting few people actually care about me enough to read beyond 2 sentences or glance at a nifty picture. But I think I'm deeper than 140 characters. Or at least I used to be.

House of Breakfast

So I have very few protected times in my schedule. Honestly, I live my life giving people/work a lot of accessibility. Maybe too much. I often allow people [read: "my ministry"] to dictate my schedule.

"Hey Paul, I need to meet with you but I can only meet [lists times]."

I look at my calendar. I have sermon writing time scheduled then. I move my sermon prep time to accommodate that person.

"Hey Paul, we have this conference/district pastors' meeting on Monday. It is the best time for us to meet."

I don't need to look at my calendar. I know it is supposed to be my day off. Interesting: a lot of district and conference meetings are set on Mondays. Why? Because they know that pastors are often free those days. It's often a day off for pastors -- so they schedule meetings then. Yes, that is really sick if you think about it. Way to build health into your leaders!

These accommodations may not seem like a big deal for most people, but what it means for me is that I often don't take a full day off. Or I'm often writing at home-- sometimes really late/very early hours of the morning to get some alone time. Or work cuts into family time, or time with my wife.

And for some reason I allow this to happen.

As a pastor I allow others to dictate my schedule. It seems more servant like. You know; holy... to be accessible to everyone at any time.

Well, except for Saturday mornings.

Saturday between 9 and 12 is sacred to me. They are the most protected 3 hours of my week other than our actual weekend worship/gathering times. On rare occasions I have allowed those Saturday morning hours to be intruded on -- a membership class twice a year or an occasional conference meeting. But it's rare. I've said "no" to a lot of great opportunities because they conflict with Saturday mornings.

What is so special about Saturday mornings?

I have a standing date with my daughter at the "House of Breakfast."

I've written about this a lot in the past, so I'm not going to belabor the point. But that time is holy to me. The long walk there and back, holding hands. Reading at the table (currently "Prince Caspian"). Sharing a meal with just the two of us. No hurry. No distractions.

Those moments feed my soul.

I'm writing this because I just found out that my wife scheduled some piano thing for Lydia on a Saturday and she didn't check the time... it's during our holy time. And I'm mad. Really angry. Not at Laura necessarily -- but that my soul will shrink a bit on Saturday missing that time. And it makes me really sad.

I want to establish more routines into my life that feed my soul: dinners with friends, game nights, date nights, trips with my daughter. Which means I have to do less of some things. I just don't know what those things are yet. But something has to go. Somehow I need to free up more time for living beyond my role as pastor. And my role as pastor has to become more defined.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I'm doing something called the "CHIP" program [Complete Health Improvement Program]. I've been needing to make some changes to the way I see food and I thought this would be helpful. It's a move to a more plant-based, whole-foods diet. There is a big emphasis on eating "food as grown." In short, it's a vegan diet. Now, I have no intention on becoming a vegan, or even a vegetarian for that matter. But there is no doubt I can learn a LOT from eating a more plant-based diet. Overall it's going well.

 But this post is not about being a vegan or a vegetarian. It's not even about food.

The interesting thing about this program is how excited people get about it. (They say they are getting "chipper" about it. Groan.)

Granted, it's making a difference is people's lives. I know diabetics who are going off insulin, several people going off blood pressure medication, people losing weight. I myself will testify to weight loss, lower blood pressure, more energy, less hunger -- honestly, pretty impressive. And because people have experienced this change, they are excited. And they tell people.

 And then I think of the gospel.

I know Christians in this program -- or those who have gone through this program -- who are more excited about CHIP than they are about their faith in Christ. Now, they probably wouldn't say that, but it is how they act and live. They talk about CHIP/diet all the time. They tell their friends. They give them books. They invite them to lectures.

And yet I don't see this kind of contagious enthusiasm manifested in their life with Christ.

And I'm simply asking why.

I'm asking it for me too.

 Why don't I talk about the difference Jesus has made in my life more?

I've actually been thinking about this a lot the past several days and I don't have a complete answer. But for me, at least partially, it's because I have never really known life without Christ.

Granted, I've had times where I wasn't following Jesus. I certainly have had times where I haven't walked closely with God. But for the most part, I've always had faith in Christ as a part of my life -- even the presence and leading of the Spirit. So I don't appreciate the change that Christ had made.

Maybe this is why Revelation 2 reminds us to "remember the heights from which you have fallen."

So I've been thinking about the person I used to be and how Christ has changed my life over the years. And it's really hard to do. Sometimes the change is so slow that you don't notice it. But there is no doubt it is there. Sometimes I wish I could see and remember more clearly the person I used to be.

But I do know that I've changed. And it has been because of the Spirit at work in my life.

Still, why are we (I?) not as excited about the difference Christ is making in this world as the difference CHIP is making?