Be still.

Life is hard. Life is busy. Life gets noisy.

When I get wrapped up in the routine, I often miss the good things God has for me.

That rainbow He created may just last a few minutes.

The co-worker who is hurting might find another job next month.

My youngest kid just started high school. When I drive past her elementary school, it just seems like yesterday that I went to her track day.

“Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)

How can I be still when I am running so fast all I can hear is my own hard breathing? (I’m not saying anything bad about Jon’s running – I’m talking about my pace of life.)

When I’m still, I can really see the look in someone’s eyes. I can hear the raindrops fall. When I pause, I can hear God’s still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Maybe this weekend is a good time to practice being still.

Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Five years, five years later.

(I first published this over five years ago, on June 24, 2010. Did any of you take my advice then? What if we started now?)

“What do you want to be true of you as a leader in five years?  What do you want your wife to say about you as a church leader? What do you want your kids to say about you as a church leader?”

That’s what I asked five guys the other night. They are studying church administration. I’m the eprof. I wanted a simple case study for talking about change. I picked them.

“What specific skills do you need to develop to make that happen? What attitudes? What habits? What barriers do you need to remove?”

They did well in brainstorming though spoke in vague terms.

I picked on a barrier that one person had identified.

“Give me a specific, concrete, practical set of actions that can help me decrease ___.”

That was a struggle.

We all love people with wonderful reputations. We think, “I want to be known like that.” But when it comes to practical steps that will take us closer to that reputation, we struggle. Can you learn to love, to surrender, to be humble, to be like Jesus? I mean, we talk about it, but what actual steps do we take?

Paul set as his goal

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…

He outlines some steps in the following paragraphs:

1. I haven’t arrived. (He was honest in evaluating his current status).

2. I’m pressing on. (He was committed to not staying at his current status)

3. I’m doing this one thing. (He was focused on his direction)

4. I’m forgetting what is already behind me. (He was not trapped by past successes and failures.)

That was Paul. What do you want to be true in five years?

You can read my followup post called Making Change

Repeat it once again.

I‘m all about  value efficient writing. I understand the value of editing. I can, when I choose, cut words and phrases and even paragraphs. I know that good writing isn’t redundant.

But good teaching is.

“It is good for us to say these things again.”

It’s a phrase that shows up in a letter Paul wrote to one of his favorite groups of people, a house church in the Roman colony of Phillipi. He talks a bit about how to live their lives well. He encourages them to rejoice. And then he takes a digression into talking about a couple of his colleagues.

These personal words are emotional. One of the men was Paul’s apprentice, Timothy. Paul valued his presence but was sending him with the letter, as soon as Paul knew that is own situation was safe.  The other was Epaphroditus, a person from Phillipi. He had come to help Paul, gotten sick, and nearly died. Paul talks about his own anxiety over Epaphroditus’ health and the grief it would cause in Philippi.

E is well now, Timothy is free to come, and Paul can get back to the outline of his letter.

“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord,” he dictates to the person writing down his words. And then, perhaps, he laughs. Or the scribe does. Paul had repeated himself. And so we get the next sentence, self-deprecating acknowledgement of his humanity. “To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.”

Paul’s right. There is value in repetition. Some phrases, some affirmations, some challenges bear repeating.

Rejoice. Love one another. I love you. Fear not. Go. Obey.

So that’s the question for this new week: What are the things that you need to learn again? 

Tell me your vision.

My boss and I hadn’t talked at length for a couple months. It was summer. We both had vacations and conferences and workshops and many good things. As we were looking toward fall, I was feeling a little lost.

I walked into his office one day. I asked him to go down the hall with me to the sanctuary (I’m a pastor.) We sat down in the middle of the room. As I write this, I wonder what he was thinking. Was he waiting for some big confession, some revelation, some earthshattering news? What he heard was me saying, “tell me again what your vision is.”

Fortunately, he knew me. He gave a simple clear explanation of the ideas I’d heard a dozen times. Hearing those words with his voice speaking them specifically to me got me back on track.

I’m a second chair person, an associate. I don’t make the vision, I help live it. I troubleshoot, I help with infrastructure. But every so often I need recalibration. I need to hear again what the mission and the vision and the guiding values.

I started wondering the other day what would happen if I sat down with a cup of coffee across from God and said, “Remind me again. What’s your vision.”

Would he tell me the story that starts before time and ends after time? Would I see hands with holes in them?

Or would I hear a series of stories which I’ve heard dozens of times but need to hear again.

He’d say,”The Kingdom of God is like a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep and looks for one.”  And then wait for something to click in me.

And then he’d say,”The Kingdom of God is like a woman who has 10 coins and loses one, and searches everywhere until she finds it and then acts like a mad woman telling her neighbors.” And then wait for something to click in me.

And then he’d say, “The Kingdom of God is like a father who welcomed his broken runaway son with open arms.” And then wait for something to break in me.


Reviewing the basics

She stopped me in the hallway on Sunday morning. “Can I stop by this week?” she asked. “I think I just need a reminder of what I’m doing.”

I’ve known her for awhile. She’s working hard to apply her understanding of what it means to follow Jesus in the many parts of her life.

She knows and lives out the basics of following. She has acted out the story of God’s forgiveness by being immersed in a pond. She has learned to talk with God about  a variety of things. She has read 2 Corinthians out loud. She has looked for ways to serve others, to grow in trusting and in trustworthiness.

But she knows that from time to time she needs a review of the bigger picture. When she thinks, “Give me one good reason to keep doing all this,” she finds that reason in the marquee story of a God and a death and resurrection and a cast of billions, an eternal story which is being lived out right now, by you and me and my friend.

I understand her need for both context and connection, for the view from 30,000 feet and the view in the mirror. I am fine with knowing that you cover the 13.1 miles of a half-marathon one step at a time, but I sometimes need to know that there is a finish line and this is how to get there.

I need to review the basics.

In his last letter to Timothy, Paul gave a simple summary: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.”

“I’d be glad to talk,” I said. “Remind me to tell you a story.”