Archive for August, 2016


Just Five More Minutes

There is a species of the mayfly, the Dolania americana, that has the shortest lifespan of any creature.  The female will deposit her eggs and die within five minutes of emergence.  It is believed to be the shortest adult lifespan of any insect.  Five minutes is not a lot of time.  It has taken me longer than five minutes just to write this paragraph.  (In fairness, my daughter is in the office today, so… anything is going to take longer than five minutes this morning.)

We think of five minutes as almost a throw-away time.  You need to waste five minutes? No problem.  Just check Twitter or Facebook, and that will eat up five minutes in a heartbeat.  Yet, for the Dolania americana, five minutes is a lifetime.  It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

The life expectancy for a person in the United States is 78.74 (at least, that’s what Google told me).  How many different five minute segments do we have in life?  Well, according to… math… that over 8 million five minute segments that one person can expect.  Again, for us, five minutes isn’t that big of a deal… or is it?  Ask anybody that has lost a loved one – five more minutes would make a difference.  For some, five more minutes is all they would ask for.

Five minutes seems like a small, insignificant period of time… until it’s not.

What are you doing with your five minutes?

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What are you afraid of?  People are afraid of many different things; some seem to be afraid of nothing, others… of everything.  In no particular order, some of the more common fears that people have: public speaking, crowds, spiders/snakes, clowns, heights.

For me in particular, I have a few years as well.  I know, I know, that may come as a shock to most people who think I’m completely fearless.  In a rare moment of self-revelation, what I want to do right now is share a couple of my fears with you, how they have affected me as a pastor, and what I’m doing about it.

I used to be a major perfectionist.  I would work and work and work to make sure that everything was perfect.  I was unhappy with myself for missing a few questions on a quiz or test.  I once pulled an all-nighter in college to finish a rough draft, and then, when I got a copy back from the professor, I saw that he would give me an A- if that was the final draft of the paper.  I went to his office and argued with him that it was a terribly incomplete paper and there was a lot more left to do on it.  He said, “So do it.”

Now, being a perfectionist is not always a bad thing.  It can cause me to be more intentional about thinking through the details of projects.  I can be very thorough, or, surprisingly, it can cause the complete opposite to happen.  I can become so overwhelmed by trying to get all the details in place that I never get around to actually doing the thing that needs to be done.  It’s called paralysis by analysis, and it’s a very real thing.

You see, being a recovering perfectionist has given me a fear of failure.  I don’t like failing.  I went 0-4 in softball last night and was really mad at myself.  It a rec league softball game.  It’s sole purpose is for me to have fun, get to know some people better and get some exercise.  At the end of the year, whatever happens in this league will not affect my life whatsoever, and yet, I focus on the “failure” of going 0-4.

As a pastor, failure is a very real and ever-present reality… depending on what you define as a failure.  I think part of the struggles that I have had in ministry is that I think not being able to implement something or having something not work would be a failure in my own eyes.  And I don’t want to fail.  So, I get caught up in the details and experience the dreaded analysis paralysis.

But, lately, I’ve been thinking about an even bigger fear – irrelevance.  Here’s what I mean by that – not that I need to the be the cool, hip pastor in town (let’s face it, that’s not going to happen), but that, when I look back at the end of my days, I don’t want to think that I have just wasted my life, pursuing meaningless things.  It’s really easy to get caught up in the weekly tasks and lose sight of the bigger picture.  It’s also easy to get so caught up in the big picture that you never notice the little things that you’ve accomplished along the way.  I don’t want to look back with regret, saying, “I wish I had…”  I want to make a difference in people’s lives for the glory of God.

In the last month, I’ve started being more intentional about my development as a leader.  I’ve always been interested in reading and listening on leadership, but putting it into action has been a whole different enchilada.  So, I’m seeing a counselor to remove some of the mental roadblocks that I’ve put up through the years.  I’m meeting with a coach to help me with specific things relating to ministry.  And I’m trying to be more intentional about getting together with ministry peers to talk about ministry on a level that you just can’t with anybody else.

And I’m reminded of the words in Joshua 1.  Joshua was selected to lead the Israelites after the death of Moses.  How do you follow Moses?!?  I imagine it was a daunting task.  And then he hears these words:

[5] No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. [6] Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. [7] Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. [8] This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. [9] Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5-9 ESV)

Be strong and courageous.  Three times, God says this to Joshua.  And there is a promise, that as long as they stay focused on God, they will be successful.  God is with them wherever they go, just stay focused on the Word of the Lord.  And the Israelites prove God’s word to be true.  As long as they rely on Him, things go well.  It’s when they don’t that things start going down the drain.

And so, let those words encourage you today as well.  Be strong and courageous for God is with us.

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One of the great joys of having a little one is spending time at the sink washing bottles.  Has anybody come up with a sarcasm font yet?  I feel like it should be comic sans.  Yes, comic sans for sarcasm!  Anyhoo…

I still wash Hannah’s bottles by hand.  We put them in the dishwasher once, but didn’t really like how they came out, and so, we’ve been washing them by hand ever since.  Maybe that says more about my psyche than I should let on, but it is what it is.

As I was washing them the other night, something struck me – call it inspiration, boredom because I was standing at the sink washing bottles, whatever.  The bottles that were rinsed after they were used were a LOT easier to clean than those that weren’t.  I know, no-brainer, right?  Anybody that has “found” a bottle or sippy cup of milk after a couple of days could tell you the same thing.  But, then, I made the logical leap –

PREPARATION IS MORE BENEFICIAL THAN PERSPIRATION

Sure, I can work extra hard in the moment to wash the bottles OR I can do a little work ahead of time and ease the stress (and smell) of the need for a deeper cleaning.  It’s like that with so many things, isn’t it?

  • We can avoid cleaning the house until people are coming over OR we can spend 20 minutes doing a little every day.
  • We can wait until the last day to start working on our annual reports OR we can keep good records over the course of the year.
  • We can write a 20,000 word paper by pulling an all-nighter OR we can write 1,000 words each day for three weeks.

You see where I’m going with this, right?  Preparation is so important, but it is often at the bottom of our list.  So, how can we prepare better?

  1. Monthly, weekly, daily planning – Do you have a calendar?  Of course you do.  Everybody has a calendar.  Whether it is paper and small enough to carry with you or the one that came on your smartphone, we all have access to a calendar.  Having a calendar is not the issue.  Using it is.  So, do you want to prepare better? USE YOUR CALENDAR!  Calendars are awesome because they can give you a quick glance at your schedule, whether it is for the day, week, month, or even year.  Using the calendar helps get things off our minds (ever had the nagging feeling that you forgot what you forgot, but know that you did forget something?), helps us block out our time (it’s hard to double book when you already know that you have something going on – not impossible, but more difficult) and helps, you guessed it, prepare us for upcoming events.
  2. Write it down – On thing that has helped me immensely is having a To Do list.  It helps me get things done because it keeps the things that need getting done right in front of me.  Right now, I am using Wunderlist.  It took a little bit of time, but I have set up a recurring weekly To Do list.  Some weeks, I don’t need to do something on the list – that’s fine, I just check it off like it is already done.  There are many sounds much sweeter than the *ding* that comes alongside checking off an item in Wunderlist, but it’s a pretty sweet sound itself; the sound of victory!
  3. Set big goals, as well as small ones – Here is where I struggle the most.  But, by setting big goals, and then backing it into segments of little goals, we can better prepare ourselves to succeeding in the bigger things.

Here’s the thing: all of these suggestions (and I’m sure there are more you could add to the list) take some time.  Preparation always takes time on the front end.  There’s no way around it.  Actually, the way around it is to not prepare, and constantly be dealing with the stress of being unprepared – that doesn’t seem like a viable alternative to me.

Several coaches are credited with saying something along these lines (Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi among them), but in Indiana, you have to go with Bobby Knight:

The key is not the will to win… everybody has that.  It is the will to prepare to win that is important.

Games are not won on the floor, in the field, on the diamond.  Games are won in the meeting room, in the gym, on the practice field.  You practice how you play.  Some athletes may disagree with me here.  Great ones, even the good ones, and their coaches, will not.  Ultimately, they do have to go out on the floor, field or diamond to win the game, but if they go out there with the confidence that comes from solid preparation, they already have the upper hand.

Washing bottles may be a chore, but rinsing them beforehand makes it less so.