Raw Reflections from the Journey

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Relaxed Relationship: How to Have a Lifegiving Gathering

It started small, and grew into a gathering that filled our home with love and laughter. Rich and Sharon wanted to see Carly and Gabby while they were home. Rob and Jenny called to ask if they could stop by after their weekly date. Mom (Patty Grandma to Gabby) loves to hang out with her family so we invited her to stay awhile. Sarah came with her parents, and Matt left a party for awhile to say hey to everyone...

Envision a family holiday gathering. People arrive at different times. Conversations are relaxed and natural. Curious questions abound, "Hey, how did it go with...Did you know that...I heard that you..."

A fast forward film of such a gathering would show people moving around to sit in different places and talk to different people. Relational connections in our gathering were fluid and fun. I especially liked "showing" Matthew to the door ala Michael Strahan's greeting of Donovan McNabb! (click to watch)

I think most of us checked something off our "bucket list" the other night. We laughed until we cried, and then laughed some more. Carly queried Rob (click here then scroll down) on and off for half an hour about his work as a funeral director. Her questions were serious, and Rob's answers were alternately touching and hysterical. What I liked best about the whole sequence was that there was "relational space" for them to have the interaction and for the rest of us to be blessed and entertained. Rob shared his heart about deaths that personally touched him and how this work/ministry gives him opportunity to serve families with his God-given gifts. Later in the weekend I asked Carly if such work intrigued her, "Yeah, maybe." All that from an informal, relaxed relational interaction.

Then Richard was a good sport to allow stories from the period of his marital separation. Thank GOD that is all behind all of us who were involved in it. The way God prepared Rich and Sharon for this was not lost on our gathering either. I dare say the youth (and even some of the adults) left w/ a new benchmark regarding Godly pursuit of relational healing, and persistence in His plan and purpose for our lives! Thanks Rich.

Why did I want to write this? Because I want such gatherings to be multiplied in my life, and yours. It was an abundantly life-giving time that could have lasted into the wee hours. It was fun, funny, empowering, uplifting, encouraging, loving, etc; all the things that life amidst the fellowship of believers can be!

What now?

I like the way that Wayne Jacobsen and Tom Wymore talk about such gatherings of believers in their blogs, and the way Wayne describes it in Jake's book.

All the best as you too seek to live in the midst of life-giving relationships with God and each other!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dead to Doing

I expected to only record a 5 minute blurb for the local Christian Radio station; that was their invitation. But, their ask was different when I got there, "Would you be willing to record eight segments for a show on Monday?" Ok. I was pleased with my internal response, "Whatever, Lord."

Upon return to Springfield which began as a part-time commute last January, I heard, "Wait to be invited." That's a pretty significant guideline for a type A, choleric driver who likes to get a lot done. But, it was a reiteration of His ongoing direction to me/us since 2006, "Do well with those I put on your path."

The way of some ministries we'd been involved with to that point was to drive, drive, drive, push, push, push...for numbers; the more the better (but was it really?). Sure, the Kingdom of God is about numbers, He wills that none would perish. But it must be Him who opens the doors of influence and opportunity.

A local pastor with growing influence in my life (Neil Haney) talks about Christ working through us vs. working for Him. The latter leaves us exhausted on adrenaline peaks and valleys, but the former is a peaceful flow and release of His life through us, to others, wherever and whenever He directs.

There was a time I would have thought that a "media appearance" was the best thing in my week. "I'm validated. Someone wants to hear from me!" But for some reason, it's different now. I was content to fulfill my friend's request at WEEC for a 5 minute blurb, and just as content to keep talking as they opened the door to share more. "Whatever", I thought. "He will open doors that can't be shut, and shut doors that can't be opened."

It's a more peaceful and joyful existence to wait for His invitations, and to peaceably walk in what He wants, releasing His life within where He directs. Goodbye striving and straining...hello godliness with contentment.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Phone Tag (and other threats to fulfillment of our calling)

“You’re it…call me back.” Ugghh. It’s a tiring game, and one I’ve increasingly refused to play; back and forth we go, wasting 90 seconds at a time in meaningless messages, “Shucks, missed you again. Please call me back.” More often now, I leave instructions on how to schedule some mutually convenient time to talk or meet in person.

Jill and I used to expend vast amounts of energy in call backs and emails to schedule appointments. But for the past year we’ve eliminated most of that by using an online schedule, Schedulicity, www.schedulicity.com. Clients with web access can view available appointments any time of the day or night, and then “book” an appointment for the date and duration they need. They receive a receipt to confirm the booking, and a reminder 24 hours in advance of their appointment, and we receive notification by email and text message. Wonderful!

I’ve even begun to use the service to schedule calls with friends and mentors, “Hey ____, would you mind scheduling a brief call (10-15 minutes, or 30 or 60 minutes) at a time that is mutually convenient? If it is on my calendar page on the website, feel free to schedule some time together. If that doesn’t work for some reason, just call, text or email and we’ll schedule some time the old-fashioned way.” A few have pushed back on this. “It seems impersonal.” Just today, another friend registered his displeasure, “At this rate (he mixed up the time zones and had to cancel), we’ll never talk. Do you ever take impromptu calls, or does everyone have to schedule time to talk with you?” I replied to feel free to call at his convenience, but his message got me thinking.

Why am I doing this? At the root, it has to do with fulfillment of calling as affected by time and energy management. At the root, it has to do with following the example of Jesus’ boundaries. There were times he invested in people, and times he invested in relationship with His father, and his own rest and rejuvenation which was the source of his power for effective public ministry. As a man, he had limits and he knew it.

Steve Grissom, founder and developer of Divorce Care, and other such ministries (GriefShare, Divorce Care for Kids, etc.), pulled me into his office for an impromptu intervention in 2006. “Right now, in your early 40’s (I was 41), you think you can do anything and everything, but you are going to have to focus. To have the impact that God intends you to have, you are going to have to say no more than you say yes, and be very careful about how you invest your time and energy.” For two hours Steve made his case, illustrating this principle from his own life and others. His words stuck with me, and they’ve been reinforced by others.

Those closest to me, (Jill and ministry partners from 2006-2009, Rich and Sharon Wildman, check out their ministry, Stubborn Pursuits), often said that I would need to be sent away to a cloistered retreat to complete the writing they want me to finish (i.e., training materials and some books). “As long as people with needs are around, you’ll try to help them, and never get the writing done that will help even more”, Jill said. She’s been right. I’ve had to turn off my cell phone, refuse to answer the land-line, and close Outlook to avoid emails when on deadline to finish some writing (e.g., training materials one-week in advance of the class, and articles).

So, do I take impromptu calls? Sometimes; if I’m able. What does that mean? It means if I’m not on task with a pre-determined priority, such as reading and prayer, conversation with Jill, exercise, recuperation from being with people (i.e., coaching and counseling, writing, etc.) I’ll pick up a call.

What my friend may not understand is that relegating him to an online schedule protects my calling from perpetual diversion and dilution, but also that it protects and provides for a quality and enduring relationship. Public times on my schedule are pre-determined and planned for. Prior to public times for friendship, counseling, coaching, teaching and training, I prepare to be my best. I rest, pray, eat and exercise in order to be my best for others. And since I’m an introvert who restores his energy in private time alone, there is only so much time I can be “Public”. In addition, since writing is one of the modalities through which I am to execute my calling to inspire and equip others for life-giving relationship with God and each other, some of my best-energy periods of life need to be protected from interruption in order to get things on paper.

Does all of this sound selfish, insensitive and impersonal or wise?

I’ve lived a helter-skelter adrenaline fueled lifestyle for a long time. But as Steve Grissom said, “That can’t continue without significant detriment to you physically, and compromise of the mission you were made to execute. Besides, as you realize physical limitations, you will necessarily become more careful about what you do and who you do it with.”

Will I take an impromptu call? Yes, if possible.

Will I continue to ask even friends to schedule an appointment time for us to be together? Yes. And that will be due to my respect for our relationship, and desire to give my best when we meet. I hope they’ll understand and support that.

Continuing the Journey!