Don't be afraid

Twice in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells people: "Don't be afraid." 

The first time is when a father has just learned that his daughter has died. Jesus turns to him in that moment and says "Don't be afraid; just believe." Jesus then goes and raises the little girl from the dead, giving her new life and breakfast.

The second time Jesus says "Don't be afraid" in Mark's Gospel is when his disciples think they've seen a ghost on a dangerous, stormy sea. Jesus is walking on the water, about to pass their boat by as they row for their lives. When he sees their panic, he shouts "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

In life's most tumultuous seasons, when facing the death of a loved one or a physical danger, he says "Don't be afraid."

Fear is a major reality you will face if you try to follow Jesus. 

In fact, Mark's gospel originally ended with this line: "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." Fear sparked silence. At least ... for a while. Eventually the word got out. We know that because we've heard about Jesus and his resurrection.

Don't let fear drive you to silence.
Don't let fear drive you to unbelief.
Don't let fear drive you to cowardice.

Jesus is with us.
Jesus can help.
Nothing can conquer Jesus.

Don't be afraid.




Book Review: Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan


Spiritual Rhythm
Mark Buchanan is a Canadian author and pastor. His book, Spiritual Rhythm, was written in the aftermath of the death of a close friend and ministry partner, which sent Buchanan and his wife into what he calls “a winter season.”

The book is broken into two sections: a section on seasons of the soul and a section on spiritual disciplines. Spiritual Rhythm is shot throughout with vivid imagery, fresh poetry and lush prose. The guy seriously uses the phrase "lusty singing" multiple times.

The core idea of the book – that spiritual life is full of seasons – resonated deeply with me. I appreciated Buchanan’s insight into the various seasons and his willingness to talk about how the seasons affect our spiritual practice.

Reflecting on the seasonal concept, I feel like I’m shifting from a fall season to a winter season. Work is harder and less rewarding. And I’m tired. Buchanan has helped me figure out what to do with myself during this season and has given me language to describe what’s happening in me, which has been helpful.

I also connected with an idea that Buchanan mentions several times by asking “Where else is constant growth an unequivocal sign of health? In human bodies, it’s a sign of obesity or cancer. Yet we’ve applied the standard of constant growth to our churches and to our spiritual lives.”

The idea that healthy growth in spirituality follows a rhythm echoes Lewis’ idea of “The Law of Undulation,” which I wrote about here: 3 Laws for Spiritual Growth. The idea is familiar, but I’ve never heard it applied to ministry. Ministry is supposed to have ups and downs? When I say it it sounds so obvious. But my tendency is to treat every down as an indicator that something is wrong or unhealthy. A more rhythmic perspective feels very freeing.

Spiritual Rhythm was a great book. Totally worth checking out.

Letting yourself bomb

Stand-up comedians use violent imagery to describe their successes. Jokes kill. On a good night, you slay the crowd. And sometimes you bomb.

You know you're bombing when your jokes are falling flat, when no one is laughing, when "stage fright" becomes "stage I want to crawl under a table and die."

Comedians aren't the only ones who bomb. You might have bombed while giving a presentation. Or on a date. Or while preaching.

There's a lot you can do to avoid bombing (rapport-building, structure, etc ...). But sometimes, the situation calls for you to let yourself bomb.

I had the mike at an event tonight and bombed. Specifically, I was running a raffle at a friends adoption fundraising event. I had a dozen or so small items to raffle off in two big sets ... while everyone is eating. My jokes fell flat. I didn't make a connection with the crowd. But it wasn't a big deal.

The things I would have needed to have done to avoid bombing would have distracted from the main point: my friends who are adopting and raising money for them. Me bombing wasn't a big deal.

Here's when you need to let yourself bomb: when killing would be a distraction. That's comedian speak. The rest of us would say it this way: it's okay to not get laughs if the only way to get them would be to sacrifice something more important.

There are worse things than bombing.

Good problem to have

This is a phrase you need to adopt: "This is a good problem to have."

Just because it's a problem, doesn't mean that it isn't good.
Just because it's good, doesn't mean that it isn't a problem.

Problems tax your resources, challenge your plans, force you to adapt. Good problems may make it so you can face your problems with a light step, but that doesn't make them not problems. Pretending that a good problem isn't a problem at all prevents you from taking advantage of the opportunity that the problem presents.

Imagine you have a dozen students who want to go to a conference. The conference will be a great experience for them. But none of the students can drive. This is a good problem to have: a dozen students who want to go to a conference, even though they can't drive. Pretending like this isn't a problem prevents us from actually figuring out how to get the students to the conference.

But you see the other side of the coin too, right?

You'll miss something if you don't see the problem as a good problem. To be grateful for the students, even if you don't know how you're going to get them to where they need to go ... that's important too. Calling something "a problem" should not necessarily mean that you're calling it "bad." The best opportunities often present themselves as problems at first glance.

Now, not every problem is a good problem to have. I know that. But quite a few of them are. And you need to be able to fit those two pieces together: good and problem. If you do, you'll miss out.

God often sends us his blessings in the form of "good problems." They draw us out of our safe spaces, into places where we can encounter and lean on him.

Have you run into any "good problems" lately?

Do you have something to say?

If you had to speak at a moment's notice, would you have something to say?

We all have a "Something-to-say Tank."

It gets filled by the wild combination of our experience and our processing. We experience things all the time: life events, meals, books, television, podcasts, sermons, conversations. And we have the option to process the things we experience: reflecting, mulling over, meditating, Group sharing, journaling.

And if we do both - experience and process - our "Something-to-say Tank" won't be empty when we're put on the spot.

If you don't have something to say right now - if your "Something-to-say Tank" is empty - then you either need to have broader experiences or to spend more energy processing.

Check yourself. Do you have something to say right now?

Caught in the rain

I learned something about myself when I got caught in the rain this morning.

I was 5 minutes from my house, walking in the big loop I take through the duplexes and apartments that ring a big retention pond/lake in East Davie. There are lots of stray cats and fierce lizards but very little shelter from the rain. And today, it rained.

Being 5 minutes from my house when the rain started, I contemplated turning around. It would take me 40 minutes to go all around the loop. My running shoes made sucking sounds as the sidewalks filled with water. I should have turned around.

But I have a hard time turning around.

I'm fine changing course, as long as I'm going forward. But going back is hard for me. I have this massive internal pressure to finish things, to make it work, to press on.

It shows up in quirky and compulsive ways in my media consumption. I watch all of the shows I record and listen to all of the podcasts I download. I finish the books I start. I listen to entire albums.

This finisher tendency shows up in my ministry as well. I'm persistent. I press into places that are difficult to press into. I don't give up on people easily.

But the work of ministry is never finished. And there are times to strategically retreat. I need to learn to live with unfinished work and to identify when to retreat.

This isn't the first time I've been caught in the rain. But this is the first time I paid attention.

Did anything in your life today catch your attention?

Adapting to changes on campus

Our college campuses can change rapidly.

One of our community colleges jumped saw enrollment jump from around 17,000 to 34,000 in one semester. Another campus has it's only social space under construction for the next year, dramatically challenging our efforts to gather students. Every year, colleges shift and change.

What do you do when your campus changes?

You can fight the change or complain about it. This is what a lot of us do when we encounter change. You can continue doing what you've done before, fighting change by ignoring it.

You can also adapt to the new environment. A campus that's larger or less welcoming or more diverse can present you with an opportunity. And this is true in all of life. Change presents opportunity ... not just threat.

How are you responding to the changes you see?

Keeping promises

Promises are easy to make. And you get rewarded when you make them. Gratitude. Respect. Connection.

I think that's why some people make so many promises. They feed on those immediate, albeit small rewards that come when the promise is made. And so they make promises they can't keep, promises they have no intention of keeping, promises they'll never be able to keep. When the promise itself is rewarded - and it often is - keeping the promises seems less urgent.

I'm up to my knees right now in the consequences of broken promises. And I don't exactly know what to do. I want to try to hold people to their commitments. But, for some of these promises, that just isn't going to be possible.

I don't know exactly what to do. But I know what not to do.

I don't want to return broken promises with false promises.
I don't want to become a hard-hearted doubter of promise-makers.
I don't want to project this promise-breaking onto God.

What do you do when you encounter broken promises?

Book Review: Breaking Old Rhythms by Amena Brown



Amena Brown is a poet.

A poet does more than write poetry. Poets pay close attention to both the world and to words. They catch meaning and hear sounds. They know when to submit to words and images and rhythms and when to take control.

That's why I say that Amena Brown is a poet.

I find her book - Breaking Old Rhythms - difficult to describe. On the one hand, the book reflects on our life with God and with our walk/jog/dance with Him. On the other hand, the book is a collection of insightful poetry and poetic prose. Her writing is full of challenges. And it was a joy to read.

Two of her core ideas connected with me on this reading ...

The way we live our lives can be well summed-up by the concept of rhythm. We all have a rhythm. Rhythm is powerful. Even God has a rhythm. Day by day and week by week. Life goes by in rhythm

Answering God's call looks like adapting our rhythm to His rhythm. We have to make a break with our old rhythm and jump in with Him. And His rhythm begins to shape the way we live our lives. But in order to do this, we have to make a break.

Breaking Old Rhythms is a quick and strong read. Check it out.

If you want to know more about Amena Brown, here is a sample of her work:



Photo from Blake Atwood and FV Editors

Books You'll Never Read

What do you do with the books you'll never read?


What do you do with books you'll never read?

I've got a pile of them in my hallway. Four piles, actually. From one bookcase. I took 75 books off of a bookcase and it still looks full. 75 books. And I need to do something with them.

What do you do with books you'll never read?

Sell them.
Donate them.
Give them to friends.

Or ...

Keep them.
Keep them so that you'll look smart.
Keep them as if you'll eventually get to them.
Keep them because you spent money on them.

We all have books we'll never read, clothes we'll never wear, trinkets that fill up the empty space in our homes and lives. Look around. Dig around. And you'll find you have "books" hiding somewhere, desperately attempting to avoid your efforts clean and focus your space. And if our homes and desks and closets and bookshelves are cluttered, our hearts and minds and souls might likewise be at risk.

What do you do with "books" you'll never read?

Photo courtesy of jpmgrafika

Enough Evidence

Do you have enough evidence to believe?

You'll never get all the evidence there is to get. You'll always have some questions. You may always harbor some doubts. But do you have enough?

Faith ... the kind of faith that the Bible talks about ... isn't always a blind faith. Philosophers write about leaps of faith. Biblical authors talk about going with what you know. Or, better yet, who you know.

I was talking with a friend today about that scene in Mark 4 when Jesus calms the storm. Right after he commands the wind and the waves "Be still" and the storm runs away, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks "Do you still have no faith?" As my friend and I talked about the passage, it became clear that the "still" in "Do you still have no faith?" is and important "still."

Jesus' disciples had seen him work miracles and cast out demons. These disciples had heard Jesus teach and had shared life with him. They had heaps of evidence. When Jesus pokes at them for their unbelief,  he's poking them because they ignored the evidence.

You may have a heap of doubts, a heap of questions. But you may also have a heap of evidence. At some point, you'll have to ask whether or not you have enough evidence to believe.

And then you'll have to ask whether you want to believe. That's much more difficult.

A Step Behind

Always a step behind
Never a step ahead
Late to every party
Feet made of lead

Always a dollar short
Always a day late
Always catching up
Always told to wait

Never fully recovered
Never moving on
Never quite on track
Never getting along

But a day is coming
And has now come
When we who lag behind
Find that we didn't miss a thing
And as we round that corner
We lift our voice and sing

"Feet of lead
Now made light
Skip from earth
And take to flight

And meet the One
Up in the air
Who made everything
Everywhere"

Faithfulness and Fruitfulness

We want to be fruitful in life and ministry.

To be fruitful looks like having more, being more, doing more. More, more, more.

And "more" is healthy. God wants you to become more: more loving, more holy, more like him. God is always working transformation into your life. As Max Lucado said: "God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way." God wants your life to bear fruit.

But there's an unhealthy path toward fruitfulness.

This is the path full of shortcuts. People on this path jump from thing to thing, program to program, fad to fad in search of fruitfulness. They never dig their heels in, take their licks, suffer boredom. They feed their dreams of transformation the bones of their impatience. And the fruit they bear is small and stunted.

But there's something to be said for the fruit of faithfulness.

Think about that friend you've known for a decade. What you have with them takes ten years to develop. The stories you share are only interesting because they are covered in the dust of time and seen through the warped lens of memory. These friendships carry the stamp of irreplaceability ... who has another decade to develop a new friendship? We carry them around and feel rich.

Faithfulness shows like this. When you stick with something for a while, a long while, you can bear a very particular kind of fruit. Other people bail to the left and right, but you stay the course. And because of that, because of that time and commitment, you're in a unique place.

Be faithful.
Be fruitful.

Where is God breaking into your life?

We talked about this question a lot today.

The idea is that you go about your day ... everyday, ordinary ... and God breaks into your day, into your life. The Extraordinary invades the Ordinary.

But do you have eyes to see it when it happens?

You can easily ignore the interruptions of God. You'll skip right over the little ones and attribute the medium-sized ones to other causes and more rational explanations. For the big ones, you'll have to squeeze your eyes shut tightly. But you can do it.

But don't.

Pay attention to where God is breaking into your life.
Share it with someone.
Write it down.
Don't ignore it.

Disciples and Church

I heard this quote again today:

If you make disciples, you get the church.
If you build the church, you may or may not make disciples.

It's sobering to think that we can build churches without making disciples. But we know it's true. Jesus was acclaimed by the crowds, but his mission pushed him to think beyond crowds.

When you look around you, who do you see who excels at making disciples?

Book Review: Concerning the Inner Life by Evelyn Underhill

In Concerning the Inner Life, Evelyn Underhill challenges us to invest deeply in our own spiritual lives, for our sake and for the sake of the people to whom we minister. “The servant of God cannot do his best unless he is his best,” she writes. 

She writes extensively on how prayer shapes ministers, different types of prayer and how this life of prayer overflows into the work of ministry. Though Concerning the Inner Life was written in 1926, Underhill’s insights remain deeply relevant to the complex work of spiritual direction.

The idea in the book that most captured my interest was that spiritual ministry requires spiritual health. This isn’t a new idea. I’ve heard it and shared it. But I’ve struggled to live it. 

Underhill summed it up well in this way: “If you, with your special facilities and training, do not manage to do this, it is not particularly likely that anyone else will do it."

Another helpful idea in the book had to do with different types of prayer. Underhill shared several prayer-spectrums throughout the book. The most useful one for me was from Bonaventura: intercessor, theologian, and contemplative. 

I’ve experienced each type of prayer, but I’ve often felt guilt about not spending more time in one of the other of these categories. It was helpful for me to read that the proportion will vary from soul to soul. And I think I would add “from season to season.”

I love classic books and this one with definitely worth checking out.

Who you think of as you read

Do people ever come to your mind as you read?

You read something and think "This reminds me of So-and-so." 
You read something and think "So-and-so needs to read this."
You read something and think "This sounds like something So-and-so would say."

What do you do when that happens?

Share it.
Mention it.
Ignore it. 
Bury it.

For me, it depends on what I'm reading.

What do you do?

Stuck Proxe

We came up with a great idea for a Proxe Station today with the Broward College Staff team (and an excellent student leader).

A Proxe Station is an evangelistic, experiential art display. Picture a visual, real-time survey that engages passers-by in meaningful conversation. Students share deeply when they engage in Proxe Stations, and think more deeply still. InterVarsity has several high-quality pre-made Proxe Stations available for Staff to use. But we're do-it-yourselfers too, so we make our own pretty often.

Here's the one we came up with today ...

The Stuck Proxe

Can you share a story about a time you've been stuck in traffic? [Participant shares a story and gets one in return]

What do you think is the worst part of being stuck in traffic? [Participant puts a sticker on the board]
- Running late
- Running out of gas
- Being out of control
- Risk of accident
- Boredom
- Needing to use the bathroom
- Bad for the environment

Can you share a story about a time you've felt stuck in life (not just in traffic)? [Participant shares a story and gets one in return]

What do you think is the main cause behind our getting stuck in life? [Participant writes thought on post-it and adds it to board]

How do you think we can get unstuck when we're stuck? [Participant writes though on post-it and adds it to board]

As we finish, could I share with you a story about the Christian belief about what God does to help us get unstuck in life? [If participant is interested, host shares]

---------------------------------------------

I'm proud of our team. They showed a great understanding of our context: urban community college. Everyone at Broward College has felt stuck. Many have worked to get themselves unstuck. Few have thought about how God is related to the experience of being stuck?

What do you think? Would this make for an interesting conversation?

A little perspective

I Skyped with a man who works in campus ministry in Romania today. His name is Dragos and he is the General Secretary for OSCER, the Romanian sister movement to InterVarsity USA.

We're different in so many ways: he likes to climb mountains and I like to read books. 

But we have two things in common this semester.

We're both working hard to help our teams figure out how to help students become disciple-makers, pushing the work of making disciples beyond the realm of professional ministers. I'm reading books and training our team in replicable models. He's hosting a conference to equip students directly. It's encouraging to see that you aren't the only one working on a problem and that you aren't the only one who sees opportunity.

The other thing that we have in common is that our ministries are pressed financially. We both have generous ministry partners and are grateful for the resources we do have. But we both see the missed opportunities passing us by. And we both see the sacrifices our teams make to minister to students.

Global partnership ... heck ... global friendship helps put things in perspective. I'm not alone in this. My challenges aren't the worst ones out there. I'm not the only one who's refusing to give up. And the same God who's at work there is at work here.

What do you do to gain a little perspective?

Would you pray for Dragos and the ministry to students in Romania? They have a conference called Formacion that starts in a few hours. Students from across the country are coming to be trained to be disciple-makers. They will return to their cities and start discipleship groups next week.

Dragos asked if I would pray for two things:
- That disciple-making would become a way of life for these students
- That the finances for the conference would work out

Would you pray?

Interrupting a student

How do you interrupt a student?

I had a conversation about this today with a couple of members of my Staff team.

Students will sometimes get preachy and excited, talking more than is helpful and more than they realize. When this happens, everyone wants them to stop. Even the student who's doing the talking wants to stop. But it can be difficult to stop once you start rambling.

How do you help a student stop talking?

Here's my preferred technique ...

I use the Judo-Hijack Technique. What that means is that I roll with the ramble, take the conversational ball for a brief second and pass it immediately back to that same student with an affirmation and then, take the ball from them and pass it to the rest of the group. It's pretty tough to describe.

Student: " so you know the prosperity gospel isn't really the gospel and ..."

Judo-Hijacker: "Oh. That reminds me. I want your opinion on something. I've been reading Proverbs and it has a lot to say about money. I've been finding it challenging. How does the Bible shape how you think about money?"

Student: "Well ... [insert insightful comment here ... I work with insightful students] "

Judo-Hijacker: "What about the rest of you guys?" [turns to the Group and, yes, uses the "guys" even if it's a Group of women and, yes, feels awkward about it]

Group: "Thank you, for letting us join in" [to the tune of "Thank you for giving to the Lord"]

What would you do if you needed to interrupt a student?

Sick as a dog

"Sick as a dog"
The saying goes.
Well, I'm sick
From my head to my toes.

Seriously. Up and down all night. Sick.

What do you do when you're sick?

Only one said "Jesus"

"What is your current view of God?" asked a team of Staff and volunteers to a simple sample of students in 164 surveys on one of our campuses over the past two weeks.

"What is your current view of God?"

Only one student mentioned Jesus by name.

If Jesus is, as Paul said "the image of the invisible God," then students are missing out. How will they see God if they don't see Jesus?

Book Review: Real Life by James Choung

Real Life is one of the most practical books on disciple-making out there. Jesus calls us to "make disciples of all nations." But many of us don't know how to even get started. James has written a book that will help.

James offers a disciple-making continuum, marking stages that people often go through as they become and grow as followers of Jesus. In each stage, James talks about an area of focus that will help a person in that stage grow as a follower of Jesus.

Here are the stages and their areas of focus:

1) Skeptic --- Trust
2) Seeker --- Challenge
3) Follower --- Recognize
4) Leader --- Empower
5) World changer --- Envision

Real Life also has a brief overview of the Hear-Respond-Debrief Cycle and an insightful comment on four-generational disciple-making.

The book is written in narrative format (like a Patrick Lencioni book) and is very endearing. I particularly enjoyed how James has the super-Californian habit of describing the routes the characters took to get places ("The lunch commute from Rancho Bernado to La Jolla was surprisingly clear ..).

Here are a few excellent quotes from the book:

"Millenials can heed moral exemplars, and respond to principled leaders, far better than most of today's adults could when young. That's the opportunity side. Yet these new youths might decisively oppose nominal leaders who fail to provide real direction, and they might be inclined to support misguided leaders if better alternatives aren't available. That's the danger side" (p. 49).

"Actions are not self-interpretive" (p. 81).

"Discipleship and disciple-making go hand in hand" (p. 208).

I'd highly recommend you check Real Life out.


Two models of mission

Come and See

Come and see Jesus.
Come and see transformed lives.
Come and see a loving community.
Come and see creative gifts on display.
Come and see the work that's being done
To make the world a better place and
To make us a better people ...
God's work and God's people.

Go and Make

Go and make disciples.
Go and make inroads in hard places.
Go and make homes and families in the world.
Go and make progress for peace and justice.
Go and make yourself known
To people in darkness and
To people you love ...
Even as God did,
Even as God does.

Both models of mission are biblical and beautiful. But they are different. Which one do you find more compelling?

Extra outputs

Have you ever noticed this ...

We all have spiritual outputs. Life wears on us and drains us. 

Our devotional life provides spiritual input, repairing the worn edges and refilling the empty tanks.

Some of us have extra outputs. We care for children, aging parents, chapters and congregations. We should expect to be worn more quickly and drained more completely. 

The irony is that those of us who most need extra inputs are so occupied with our extra outputs that we have even less space for a devotional life.

Are you in a season of life when you need extra spiritual input to balance your extraordinary spiritual output?

Chess and Changes

I played one of the best chess games of my life today.

It's been years since I've played. I felt rusty. But I quickly noticed something as the game got going: I don't play chess like I used to. My game is different. I'm different.

I know that ministering in South Florida has changed me. But I saw two interesting facets of this change during today's chess match.

I'm more aggressive

I used to be a timid chess player. I would protect my pieces and let the other players take the initiative. I would wear people down, playing safely until they made a mistake. Defensive chess.

But today I was more aggressive. I didn't just protect my pieces. I attacked. I took control of the center of the board. I sacrificed pieces. I didn't just move my pieces, I made my opponent move his pieces.

I'm less afraid of losing. I've had so much practice in South Florida. Failure is no longer a spectre on the horizon, a shadow and a threat. Surviving made me more willing to take risks. This doesn't happen to everyone when they encounter failure, but it has happened to me.

I'm more patient

I used to respond quickly to threats on the chessboard. Attack one of my pieces and I would scurry away. I learned how to fight on the run. And yet, give me an opening and I would jump in, sometimes haphazardly.

But today I was more patient. At one point, I knew my opponent would have me checkmated in 3 moves, but I didn't panic. I continued to press him patiently and his checkmate never quite came together. For most of the match I was two or three moves away from losing. I could have pulled my pieces from the center of the board and put up a defense, but taking my time and continuing my attack in a measured way paid off.

I've learned the benefit of waiting in line. South Florida is a mission field that rewards the patient. There's something beautiful about committing to something that will take time to develop. The quick stuff is easy and has already been done. All the low-hanging fruit has been picked. But the best stuff is at the top ... harder to reach, but worth the work and the wait.

Life is full of moments like these. You round a corner and get back a section of the track that you've covered on a previous lap. These moments show you how you've changed. Do you pay attention to them?

Who is the bad guy?

I hate to be the bad guy.

But which is worse:
to be the guy who ruins a day with need-to-know bad news or
to be the guy who hid the bad news, preserved a false peace and caused you to miss your chance to do something about it?

On the 10 minute horizon, the bad-news-bringer is the bad guy.
He ruined a day.

On the 10 year horizon, the bad-news-hider is the bad guy.
He wrecked a life.

But what about the 10 day horizon? Or the 10 week horizon?

"Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." - Pr. 27:6

A cop car sitting in traffic

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself driving a police car on the Turnpike?

You'd probably pull over, jump out, reach back in and wipe the car clean of your prints, then walk away slowly so as not to draw attention to the fact that you are driving a police car that doesn't belong to you.

But imagine that the car did belong to you. You're wearing the uniform. The authorities expect you to be driving the car. When you flip the lights and sirens on, people show you respect. The car is yours.

Now imagine that you hit traffic on the Turnpike. Bumper to bumper. Parking lot in the roadway. Without hope of quick progress. An accident creating an inconvenience.

What would you do?

I would flip on my lights and drive on the shoulder until I passed the blockage.

But this morning, I watched a police officer do something different. He sat in traffic with us. He didn't drive up on the shoulder or make that magic U-turn that only cops are supposed to make. He sat with us.

I had a very distinct feeling this morning that I was catching a glimpse of Jesus. Though he had the rights to drive up on the shoulder, he sat in traffic with us. The Incarnation of God the Son is, in a way, God sitting in the slow lane, refusing to flash his lights and turn on his siren. Sitting with us.

And how I struggle to do likewise.

Two images as regards to leadership

I've been thinking and learning a lot about leadership lately.

These two images came to mind tonight.

I made Lemonade Can Chicken on the grill tonight. Rubbed and smoked. The recipe looked amazing. I decided to make two of them, since we were expecting a crowd tonight.

Getting the chicken off of the grill is kind of a trick. A 300 degree grill is no joke. The chickens get hot. The cans inside the chickens get even hotter. That hot liquid is a mess to clean up and painful when it spills on your feet. Don't ask me how I know.

I knew I couldn't get the chickens off of the grill by myself. When the time came to bring them inside, I called for back-up. Leah stepped outside with me. I knew what I was doing. And we swiftly and safely plucked the chickens from the hot grill.

Knowing when to ask for help.

The second image comes from what happened when we got the chickens to the kitchen. I started cutting them apart, but struggled. This was going to take a while. Leah and Matt stood at my elbow, coaching me to be more vicious with the knife. We were going to eat these chickens. There's no need to be gentle with them.

Matt started to pitch in. We all quickly realized that he knew a lot more than I did about breaking down a whole chicken. I was the host, the chef ... sure. But he knew what he was doing. So I stepped aside and let him do his thing.

Knowing when to step aside.

These two knowings - when to ask for help and when to step aside - often threaten to derail my work as a leader. Whatever a leader is though, a leader is not someone who never needs help and always has to be in charge.

I was reminded of that tonight. My leadership (and my chicken dinner) are better for it.

Starting back up

I've been doing a lot of writing over the last month or two, just not here on the blog.

- Ordination essays
- Posts for the InterVarsity blog
- Sermons
- Group curricula
- Long, theological emails

I'll post some of them here on the blog if you're interested.

My plan is to do some writing every day in September, stretching my writing muscles so that I can get back into a more focused and regular writing rhythm. I'll post snippets here if you want to follow along.

Have you written anything lately? Post a link in the comments and I'll give it a read.