Sunday, February 28, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • It's raining . . . now the sun has come out . . . now it's raining again. Oh well -- at least our camelias are in bloom.
  • Fox Conner's Three Rules of War for a Democracy are also pretty good advice for a pastor: 1) Never fight unless you have to. 2) Never fight alone. 3) Never fight for a long time.
  • When it comes to small groups and house churches, keep in mind that "flexible" easily morphs into "unstable." Just saying.
  • Looking for something to do? Go to Charity Navigator, and look up the salaries of people who work for non-profit agencies.
  • And I'll close with this quote: "The best of all prayers is: 'Bless them; change me.' "

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This week's lesson: meekness

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

Okay -- been there, done that.

It's worth remembering that some of this past century's nastiest governments did not come crashing down through violent means. No, it was not nuclear war that ended the Soviet Union; it was not guerrilla war that ended apartheid in South Africa. Instead, it the stubborn decency of million that brought down these regimes -- and others besides. 

Think of "People Power" in the Philippines.

The Civil Rights movement in this country.

Mohandas Gandhi in India.

Or the "Bulldozer Revolution" in Serbia, the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia . . .

Well, you get the idea.    

In short, the "meek" have been pretty busy lately -- busy enough to dispel any idea that "meekness" is a synonym for "weakness." No, as The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words points out:
In Classical Greek, praus [meekness] means friendly, mild, gentle. . . . Words of the praus group are used of things (e.g., mild words, soothing medicines), animals (tame), and people (benevolent). It is a quality shown by friends, while stern harshness may be expected from an enemy. . . .
[Both praus and its synonym, epiekes] are opposed to unbridled anger, harshness, brutality, and self-expression. They represent character traits of the noble-minded, the wise who remain meek in the face of insults, the judge who is lenient in judgment, and the king who is kind in his rule. Hence these words appear often in pictures of the ideal ruler and in eulogies on men in high positions.
In a world full of harsh and violent people, in other words, it is only the strong who dare to be meek.

To be sure, they've not inherited the earth -- not yet. And if the past is any guide, then the "powers that be" won't give let them have it without a fight.

But the meek can afford to be patient . . .

Because history is on their side.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dare to Putter

The last few months have been busy. Crazy busy. Oh-my-goodness-why-did-I-ever-say-I'd-do-this? busy.

Which can be kind of fun. Not only did it mean I got a lot of stuff done, but it gave me bragging rights with other pastors. (And have you ever noticed how often we try to justify our existence by carefully explaining just how busy we've been lately?)

But not this week. No, this week I can breathe in. Relax. Putter around the office. Read that stack of magazine articles that have been accumulating by my desk. And avoid that nagging feeling there's something important I really should be doing right now.

Because what I'm doing right now is important -- in fact, it's a process I compare to gardening.

For the last few months, you see, I've been planting, growing, harvesting; yes, it's been go, go, go, do, do, do, and rush, rush, rush.

Nothing wrong with that.

But now it's time to sharpen tools. Look through seed catalogs. Turn over the compost heap. And do all the other things that help me plan-without-planning for that next busy time.

In short, the work of Creation will go on.

But as for now, I'm enjoying a Sabbath.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • We have daffodils! On the Oregon Coast! In bloom!
  • 21% of Americans surveyed believe the lottery is a good way to save for retirement.
  • The good news: it turns out that pastors can apply for as much as three months in family leave if they need time-off to take care of a spouse, child, or parent. The bad news: once your vacation-time runs out, you don't get paid for it (and it doesn't count as sick-leave). The good news: you still have coverage for health insurance. (Talk with your conference's HR director for details.)
  • Want to make big bucks as a blogger, but you don't know how to attract readers? The Boston Globe tells you how to write an incendiary blog post.
  • In 1908, the average American washed their hair once a month. The average in 2009 was 4.59 times per week.
  • And I'll close with this quote from  Paul Koptak: "You can tell who you will be in five years by looking at the people with whom you spend time now."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

This week's lesson: faithfulness


A sower went forth to sow . . .

Stop. Given current demographics, farming is no longer a useful source of metaphors. Try again.

He walked into the classroom and sat down, just in time to catch the shy smile of the woman sitting next to him. He could have said something. He could have introduced himself. He could have invited her to grab a cup of coffee with him after class -- and there, they would have discovered . . .


We'll never know. Instead, he put his head down on his desk, and fell asleep.

Unsatisfactory. Try again.

Sitting there with a cup of coffee, he looked at her and realized, "This is it. This is the real thing. This is the kind of love that makes poets write, musicians sing, and movie producers try to sign somebody like Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts ('only younger') for the starring roles."

And then?

Well, the next two weeks were pretty intense -- but then they got tired of each other, and moved on.

Unsatisfactory. Try again.

They dated. They got married. They had kids, bought a house, worked hard . . . and then one day, they looked at each other and realized . . .

Please tell me this has a happy ending.

No. They looked at each other and realized . . . that somehow, over the years, they'd grown apart from each other -- and now they didn't love each other anymore.

Unsatisfactory. Try again.

They looked at each other and realized . . . they'd had their good times. They had their bad times. But through the years, their faithfulness to each other had been the soil in which their love had grown.

And great was the fruit of that love -- Amen..

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Okay, just so you know where I was last weekend -- here's a picture of my church's Sabbath afternoon hike to the Stein's Pillars near Prineville, Oregon. (This was part of our church's annual ski trip to Mt. Bachelor.)
And yes, I'm wearing ear-muffs.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This week's lesson: goodness

Is it good to be excellent?

When the Greeks talked about "goodness" or agathos, after all, they meant more than just moral worth. No, they used the word to describe anything done well.
  • When everybody went back for seconds at a church potluck, for instance, then you could say the food was agathos.
  • Or when your child graduates from high school with a full-ride scholarship to a competitive college, then you could say their education had been agathos.
  • And when the person giving special music in church finds a way to move you, enlighten you, and help you see God's grace in a whole new way . . .
Then some might say that was unusual.

But all would agree it was agathos.

So when Ephesians 2:10 says "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do," then it suggests we are called to do more than just slop through life with the attitude that "anything is good enough for God."

No, there is a call here for agathos in everything we do -- in our potlucks, in our schools . . . and yes, even in our worship services.

To be sure, God doesn't need our agathos to make Him look good.

But I'm not sure our lack of agathos makes Him look any better.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Just say "yes"

Something to remember in these uncertain times:
  • If your Conference "suggests" it's time for you to move . . . 
  • But the district to which they tell you to move is the worst possible match you can imagine -- the kind of place that make you wonder what were they thinking when they decided to move you there . . .
  • Then you first words that should come out of your mouth are, "I'm always happy to go wherever the Conference sends me."
Here's why: at least twice I've seen church employees offered this kind of call -- the kind where you can't blame them for turning it down.

So they turned it down.

And then they were laid off.

And when they asked about a severance package, they were told, "I'm sorry, but you were offered another job . . . and when you turned it down, that meant we could eliminate your job without any need to pay you all of that other stuff."

So . . . make it clear that any place the Conference wants to move you is just fine and dandy -- in fact, it's downright peachy.

Mind you, there are a few questions you have . . . and you'd like to work through a few details before the actual move takes place . . . and you may even want to explore the thinking behind this move . . .

But would you actually turn down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity such as this?

Certainly not!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • Blue skies and temperatures in the low 50s -- with any luck, this is the start of that week or so of good weather we usually get this time of year, i.e. "The Thaw."
  • By the power vested in me as the author of this blog, I declare February to be "Super Simple Month." As defined by unclutterer, this means no new projects, no big events, no major purchases -- just stay home, hunker down, and catch up. (h/t to Lifehacker)
  • The Scots drink more alcohol than anyone else in the world -- and as the New York Times notes, the effects are only worse when they add caffeine to the mix.
  • If you were to pick one book that every Adventist pastor should read this year so that we could get together and talk about it at Campmeeting, then what would it be?
  • I finally broke down and bought the SDA Bible Commentary on CD -- and yes, I spent the extra $20 to get the complete writings of Ellen White as well. And while I agree that nothing will ever replace real books, I must admit I'm using the CD version more than I ever did the hardbacks.
  • According to the Boston Globe, three things make it easy to believe something is true: repetition, clarity, and simplicity. (What does this suggest about preaching?)
  • And I'll close with this quote from John Malin: "The secret of a long life is to contract an incurable disease at an early age, and then look after oneself."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

This week's lesson: kindness

"If only I had known."

We've all said it, of course -- usually after we gave somebody exactly what they deserved for being such a jerk.

But then we discovered (too late!) they'd just lost their job . . . or their father had just died . . . or they'd just found out they have Lou Gehrig's disease.

In short, there was a reason why they were acting like a jerk.

That's why I try to remind myself just how much I don't know about rude and obnoxious people -- how much I don't know that might explain their behavior.
  • Did they just get bad news?
  • Are they off their meds?
  • Is their behavior caused by Alzheimer's, a brain tumor, or some other medical problem?
And no, this doesn't excuse what they do; neither does it necessarily mean I let them "get away with it."

But it does help me keep their behavior in perspective, and not take it quite so personally.

Chances are good, after all, that even the person who's being a jerk doesn't know why . . .

But if they had known why, then maybe they would not have been such a jerk!

There's so much we don't understand, after all -- and so much we all would have done differently . . .

If only we had known.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

More Odds & Ends

  • We've had both sunshine and rain this past week -- and the weather's been about the same.
  • It's easier to fire teachers than pastors -- but thanks to local subsidies and lower salaries, my back-of-the-envelope figures suggest you need to fire three teachers to equal the savings of firing one pastor. So . . . if a Conference needs to cut staff (and if it has already fired all the obvious people), then how should it divide the cuts between teachers and pastors? 
  • I believe that some of the best books being written about the costs of following God in a fallen world are the novels of John le Carre. Case in point: A Most Wanted Man.
  •  Anytime people tell me they love God but they don't like organized religion, I just steal a line from Sneakers and say, "Actually, it's not that organized."
  • And I'll close with this quote from John Wooden: "Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."