Thursday, May 27, 2010

Workaholic or sloth?

I think laziness and workaholism are two sides of the same coin. Both are equally dangerous.

Slothfulness is a lifestyle of perpetual leisure and rest. Those who engage in it don't have time for work because they are too busy taking life easy.

Workaholics are compulsive in accomplishing tasks. Their days are spent 'doing' something, anything; they avoid rest and sabbath being perpetually busy with work. They steer clear of rest for one of two reasons: 1. They fear that others will perceive them as slothful or 2. They fear solitude, contemplation, and the voice within.

I think the biblical model is somewhere in between workaholism and sloth. It's a rhythm of engagement and disengagement; it's a movement between work, play and rest that results in productivity and efficiency when working and, conversely, peace and joy when resting and playing.

Want to know if you've got the balance right? If you spend your days off thinking about work or your working days thinking about time off, you likely need some adjustments.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Leadership and Relationship

Leadership rises and falls on relationship.

Nowhere is that more true than at home. Tonight, after supper, I walked upstairs to change my clothes. Close behind I heard the thumping feet of my five-year-old boy. He was following me. While I slipped on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt he hopped up on our bed and spilled the beans about his day. I learned about how his sister soaked him with the hose and how he got to play the Wii, not once but twice!

Moments later a spontaneous game of "betcha can't get off the bed" erupted. I did my best to restrain and tickle him into submission, hoping to keep him on the bed, while he wiggled and squirmed his way toward the carpet. It didn't take too many little boy squeals to bring my eight-year-old daughter running into the room to see what she was missing. Soon she too was twisted up and laughing right in the middle of everything.

I think that's the heart of leadership. Being able to listen, laugh, and play in a way that draws people into a community of laughter and freedom.

Don't get me wrong, I know life offers it's fair share of pain and disappointment. But somehow I think all that is more tolerable in the midst of a community where leaders know how to listen, play and celebrate in a way that offers safety and protection. I'll likely never play daddy games with my congregation but I hope my commitment to listen and relate to them, and my family, never wanes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Sabbath. Do you take one?

That was the topic of conversation around the staff meeting table this morning. I brought a book I picked up this weekend called, Sabbath by Dan Allender. It's part of the Ancient Practices series of books edited by Phyllis Tickle.

Allender writes, "We live in a dark day, but it is still rare for someone to publically tout his or her violation of the Ten Commandments, with one exception--our debasement with busyness. We love to tell others how much we work, how much we still have to get done, and how overwhelmed we are with the exhaustion of our labour. We admire busyness, speed and productivity, yet we envy those whose leisure time is abundant. We are mad, crazy mad--and we know it. To write another book on the need for margins seems at best superfluous and, at worst, avoiding what most needs to be said: Sabbath rest is not an option; it is a command."

So, when's your sabbath?

I take a mini-sabbath every Thursday afternoon. I've reserved that time for family. It's not always easy to walk past other staff members, through a long line of parishioners, and out the door of our busy church in order to drive home to rest, play and enjoy my family. But, then again, no one ever said sabbath would be easy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Telling it Slant

I'm finished the second book.

A while ago I committed myself to reading Eugene Peterson's colossal five volume spiritual theology series. Tonight I finished Tell it Slant: a conversation on the language of Jesus in his stories and prayers.

Two pages from the end my mind flipped back to my weekend experience. Here's what happened.

As many of you know it's unusual for me to sit in an unfamiliar pew but I've been on holidays. I embraced the rare opportunity to visit a small, rural church. As the pastor rose to speak, I prepared myself for a barrage of local jargon and inside jokes. To my surprise, the dialect was formal, religious and propped up by cliches like, "entering the waters of baptism" and "extending the right hand of fellowship". Now, I've been to Bible College and Seminary. I have a pretty good grasp on church words. But, after reflection, I still don't know what "the right hand of fellowship" means.

Here's a secret: I've been there. I sometimes use religious cliches when I haven't adequately prepared and I want to say the right things. I've even apologized to a worship team after bowing with them and proceeding to string together cliche after cliche to form a fine sounding prayer. We don't use religious jargon while barbecuing or picking up packages at the post office, so why do we use it on Sunday mornings?

Two pages from the end of Tell it Slant Peterson writes, "I want to eliminate the bilingualism that we either grow up with or acquire along the way of growing up: one language for talking about God and the things of God, salvation, and Jesus, singing hymns and going to church; another language we become proficient in as we attend school, get jobs, play ball, go to dances, and buy potatoes and blue jeans. One language for religion and another for everything else, each with its own vocabulary and tone of voice. I want to break down the walls of partition that separate matters of God and prayer from matters of getting food on the table and making a living." (Peterson, Tell it Slant, 267.)

I'm with Eugene Peterson on this one.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Domestic lesson #2: When the cat stays outside

Our cat lives outside. Except for the winter when she sleeps in the garage.

But lately, even when the sun is shining and the thermometer is above freezing, Tiger is coming in the house.

Maybe it's because our daughter adores her. Or maybe it's because we take pity on her for having to sit outside on a rainy day (the cat, not our daughter). Perhaps it's because her food dish comes inside at night, and we forget to put it out in the morning.

Usually, I'm okay with it. But there is one time when it's never okay for kitty to enter through the patio door...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

10 Years: A Look Back

Ten years ago today, we said "I do." At that time neither of us knew where we'd end up after a decade of marital bliss. We speculated and dreamed, even drafting a rough ten year plan. But nothing could have prepared us for such a fun-filled, wild, and crazy ride.

Here's a brief look back:

2000 - Wedding in May; move to a new town, Owen Sound, ON; I start work as a pastor and Erika lands a job teaching at a Christian school.
2001 - Shawna enters the world.
2002 - Our closest Owen Sound friends move to Ottawa.
2003 - We're first time homeowners! Our new abode is a 2 & 1/2 story brick house on 7th St.
2004 - Erika eats KFC & Elijah is born; We move to Kitchener, ON.
2005 - Jason begins a Master of Arts program. Erika launches her online business.
2006 - Shawna begins J.K. in January; Jason graduates with an M.A. and begins two jobs: director of worship and arts at HMC and teaching at EBC
2007 - We move to a home in the country in Hanover, ON; Erika's business continues to grow
2008 - Elijah begins J.K.; Shawna enters grade 2
2009 - Shawna and Elijah begin homeschooling their parents
2010 - Jason starts new role at HMC as interim lead pastor; Erika begins exploring new opportunities...

I can't wait to see what the next ten years will bring.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

Dying spruce trees: we've got a few of them at our house.

I think it's either a disease or lack of sunlight that's causing them to shed their needles from the bottom up. Either way, it makes for a sad looking tree and and even sadder looking landscape.

Trees, meet chainsaw. The ones covered with naked branches were taken down at the base of the trunk. Those with dead branches at the bottom got a trim; only dead branches were lopped off.

When I set the chainsaw down I planted saplings. Right now they are only four feet tall but one day I hope they reach 40 feet into the sky with luscious dark green needles on ever branch.

Spending a day chopping down trees and planting new ones reminded me of local church ministry.

There will always be 'dead tree people.' You know the ones, those who stand as a reminder of the 'good ol' days' when the tree was 'fed' and the landscape wasn't polluted with so many 'other species' that grew up around it and blocked its SUN. Now, rather than reproducing, it stands as a defender of deadness in a changing landscape of beauty and freshness.

Thankfully, there is hope. I don't spend too much energy trying to revive 'dead tree people.' Most aren't willing or able to cultivate much more than death and disease. Instead, look for people who are alive and interested in being planted somewhere new, helping to propagate a future forest. Where can you find new tree people? Check around the canopy of mature, healthy tree people. There are usually a host of little tiny 'healthy tree people' in the initial stages of growth. When you find them, dig them up and plant them somewhere where they can make a difference. Oh, here's tip for planting new tree people: when you find a good location, dig a hole and mix a little crap (can I use that term?) into their environment. It makes them healthy and helps them grow.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Domestic lesson #1: Water isn't sauce

Tonight is our Life Group potluck night.

It's extra special because we're getting together with 'the other group'. They formed when our house could not longer hold all the young families. 'The other group' has been a shining example of successful Life Group reproduction, mainly because of Cory and Marie--the fantastic husband and wife team who lead/host it.

So, in light of tonight's festive occasion, I thought it would be the perfect time to flex a few of my, largely atrophied, domestic muscles.

After lunch I worked on a main course dish. I started by throwing some potatoes, onions, and cubed ham into a crock pot. Then I watched and waited in eager expectation for those ingredients to break down and form a creamy, buttery, mouth watering sauce. They didn't. There was no sauce, only water.

So, today I learned that sauce doesn't just appear in the crock pot. Water does, but water isn't sauce.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Leadership Principles

Here's what I'm learning as a lead pastor of a multi-staff church:

1. Don't let things fester. If there's a problem, address it quickly. As soon as I hear that there are people asking other people about church leadership decisions, I call them and do what I can to address their questions personally. It keeps me on my toes and lets them know we have nothing to hide.

2. Concerns should be directed to those with whom you have concerns. I can't count the number of times I've listened to someone rant about something 'somebody' said without talking to that 'somebody' about it. Whenever someone wants to talk to me about something another staff member has said I kindly re-direct them to that staff member first. I may seem un-empathetic but it keeps small things from being blown out of proportion.

3. Model behaviours you want to see in others. I had a mentor who would often say, "do what I say not what I do." It was a joke but it was also a bad leadership principle. My leadership starts when no one else is around. If I want the staff and congregation to learn about living sacrificially, then I'd better be modeling it when no one is watching.

4. Trust is paramount. I innately trust the staff I work with. I assume they are capable and responsible to manage their time, budgets, and ministries. I see my role as being their cheerleader and coach. I applaud them in the tough times and I help them see potential blind spots. However, if they can't stay on budget or I hear rumblings and unrest from the people with whom they minister, I take note and use the trust we've built to have the hard conversations.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Formative blogging

My semester of teaching in the classroom ended a few weeks ago. However, my work continues. I still have stacks of papers to mark.

Tonight I finally finished reading and grading the final blog posts from my spiritual formation class.

If your wondering how blogging fits into a college course on spiritual formation, here's a quick overview:

At the beginning of the semester, students form groups of 3-4 students. Each week they are given time to talk about the lecture and interact with the previous week's reading from Henri Nouwen's book, Spiritual Direction. Then, each week, a different student summarizes the content of their group discussion and posts it on a group blog (they have the option of making it private so only the group and I have access). Each week I read the blog and make a few brief comments.

I've been using this format for the past two years and it has been a helpful for two reasons: it serves as a feedback mechanism to make sure the lecture content is being understood, and it provides a way for me to interact individually with each student in a class of 40-50 students.

If only marking papers could be that fun.
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