Confessions of St. Wannabe
Stories of one man's futile efforts to abolish imperfection, live the dream
and walk on water. He thought Jesus said 'Come'. What he said is 'Umm'.
The Man with a Plan
Some pastors are good at planning and setting long term goals. They have specific objectives for 10 years out and a plan for getting there. And then there's me. I could plan the next decade too. That is, if I can do it one day at a time. The only date on my calendar next month is Buddha’s appointment to get neutered. And I only scheduled that after a threat from my ex-military neighbor with 9 blind poodles.
I have an extreme dislike for planning. I also have a serious allergy to mission statements. I break out with a fierce urge to go west. On a horse. Now. Just the word ‘vision’ sends me into a coma. But one Saturday in 1993 while clipping Buddha’s nails, I began thinking about our church’s future. Why? I saw my wife’s calendar which informed me our annual vision meeting is tomorrow night.
And what does a leader do if he’s in a panic? Call Mom. Her advice: ‘Look over your goals from past years. Then read past ministry logs to see how you did at reaching your goals. Maybe it’ll stir up ideas.” Or 'my fear of commitment' I thought. Or it'll stir up my allergies and we could cancel! What I first noticed is that our vision meeting was postponed every year. Not much has changed. It’s April and I'm still unsure what our aim should be this year. Here’s what I found in past ministry logs.
Planning session for 1993: Our goal this year is to zero in on evangelism. Our motto for this year will be ‘Set the world free in 93’. We will present our vision and plans Sunday night, January 17th.
Daily Ministry Log for 1993: (Highlights)
Sunday night, Jan 17: Tried to launch vision. Forgot about AFC playoffs and the team we all root for is playing. 20 in attendance. Counted 12 hand held radios with earplugs. One belonged to Ralph, the organist. Who unintentionally picked up the pace in ‘Rock of Ages’. Everyone left early. Except Buddha.
Sunday, Jan. 31st: 2nd attempt to launch vision for setting the world free. Didn’t forget about the Super Bowl. But I knew our team wasn’t in it. What I didn’t consider is America’s devotion to this sacred holiday. Attendance: 5 women and Buddha. Identified only 1 handheld radio. My wife’s.
Sunday, Feb 14: 3rd attempt. Sermon title: ‘Set the world free in 93’. I forgot it was Valentines. The ladies expected a Valentines sermon. So I quickly titled it “If you love something, set it free”. And preached my original sermon about vision. The women weren't happy. Especially one. And the men were frantically trying to make Valentine cards out of the bulletin. (It doesn't work. I've tried.)
Sunday, Feb 28: I had to abort my 4th vision night attempt after the Gideon speaker went on and on about his neighbor’s goat ‘Billy’. Who ate two pocket-size nurse editions he left on the back porch. Claims it reformed the old goat. Hogwash! I know that goat and he hasn’t changed at all!
Sunday, March 7: A full house! Why? Promised a potluck and a short vision presentation. Here it is.
There are sheep. Then there are goats.
Thank God, the goats are fewer.
So let’s pave the parking lot and get a new sewer.
Gus told our deacons ‘Best vision night ever! Let’s do it every year. Just cut the vision part shorter.’
Planning session for 1994: Focus: Discipleship. Motto: ‘Your soul needs more in 94’. Plan: Small groups that are designed to foster spiritual growth and promote accountability with each other.
Daily ministry log for 1994: A typo in the bulletin said our focus this year is ‘Accounting Ability’. And I'm not the one to teach on accounting. (I use the envelope system. Without envelopes.)
So I preached a Valentine’s sermon. (It was still January.) The ladies loved it. Only problem: they think this year’s focus is romance. A few men balked. They said ‘accounting ability’ is the theme we need. Claimed no one is held accountable for our accounting. So I asked for an example. They asked ‘Did you know we'll need to pull from your salary fund to pay off the parking lot and sewer?
I wanted to change our motto to ‘Your pastor needs more in 94’. But I decided to trust God and those managing our budget. In all the confusion, I decided to not even present a vision this year.
No one noticed it’s absence.
We had a great year. 'Our souls found more in 94'
I know there's a lesson here. Just not sure what it is.
Planning session for 1995: Focus: Community. Motto: ‘Hi-five in 95!’ Plan: Bi-weekly potlucks.
Plus the men want a Fall class on Monday nights. To watch video sermons or whatever else is on.
Daily ministry log for 1995: Attendance doubled. Every other Sunday. Men’s group has tripled.
Planning session for 1996: Our plan this year is to not plan anything.
Daily Ministry Log for 1996: Everything went exactly as planned.
After reading all this, I realized why I don’t like planning. For years, I painstakingly wrote out my plans for the coming year. A script of what I think should happen. The problem is no one sticks to the script! Not my family, not the church, not the weather. Not even God! He keeps missing His cue. In fact, I’m not even sure He reads the script! Why bother planning my life if life won’t stick to the plan?
In hindsight, there is one thing I might stop planning.
And that’s for everything to go as planned.
So am I ready for tonight’s vision meeting? (Which I was reminded of by this morning’s bulletin.) To my surprise, I am. I finally found a plan for my own life. To follow the man instead of a plan. Who is 'the man’? Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. We're wired to follow a living person. Not a static plan.
If I’m lost in the Himilayas, don't give me a map. I need a veteran sherpa who knows the mountain. Jesus is one ‘sherpa’ I trust. A leader worth following. And I'll lead others well if I follow Him well.
But a church needs a plan! Yes, but whose? Shouldn't the head of the church lead it? My Mom said
‘Don’t ask God to bless your plans. Find His plan. That’s the plan He’ll bless.’ And His plan is Christ.
This was my topic this morning and will be our focus this year. Motto: Follow the Master. So I asked, “Are you following the Master?” Gus thought I said ‘masters’ plural. So he said out loud 'I think our pastor loves golf a bit too much! Pete cheered and said 'It's a sign from God! The Masters are on tonight! So Art said 'Let's grill burgers and watch the Ten Commandments. Or whatever else is on.'
Here's the steeple. Where's all the people?
In the late afternoon, I will occasionally get this sudden urge to ‘lay before the Lord’ in my office.
I call it my quiet time. On most afternoons, my quiet time is very quiet. Sometimes God speaks to me on these quiet afternoons. He once said “Percy, the UPS man is at your door watching you sleep.’ I later learned it wasn’t God after all. It was our secretary Dorothy on my speaker phone.
But today it was Lester Lane who woke me up. Our newest council member charged his way into my office, saw me on the floor and came totally unglued. Not that he was ever put together. He kept yelling at me that I should resign. At first I thought he was the UPS man. So I asked, “Where did you say to sign?” He shot back “I didn’t say ‘Sign!’ I said ‘Resign!”
The idea sounded wonderful right then. So I did. I took it as a sign from God and moved to Maui.
If only I had. I crawled back to my pastor chair, put on my pastor glasses and took a pastor pose. That’s when you fold your hands as if playing ‘Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple’ with a child. Then you slowly tilt your head so your chin rests slightly on the steeple. Then you squint, stroke your goatee and very calmly say “Can I help you?” Takes a few minutes if you do it correctly. But for Lester, it took him less than 10 seconds for him to say everything he marched in here to say.
I heard that you said “Rodeos are straight from the pit! I also heard you have a secret gambling habit”. Since Lester is a veteran bull rider and our head usher who counts offering every Sunday, I knew we had a problem. I removed my chin from atop the steeple and leaned in close, looking Lester straight in the eyes. They were angry eyes. So he looked in my eyes. My eyes were sleepy.
But fortunately for my sake this gave the appearance of calmness and control. That was not the case at all. I was anything but calm. The reason I looked sleepy is because I was asleep. At least partially. I stared at him a long time. Trying my best to pretend I was wide-awake and attentive. But I said nothing. He took this as a sign of guilt or regret. I just couldn’t think of anything to say.
Plus he hadn’t fully convinced me he wasn’t the UPS driver. But if he was, where’s the package?
He eventually calmed down. I asked him to explain why he thought I was gambling and who told him I thought rodeos are from the devil. After some detective work, Lester and I figured it out.
Hilda called Ida saying ‘Lester Lane is moving out of state and won’t be our head usher. He quit.’
So Ida called Flo and said ‘The Lanes are in a very bad state. And I guess Lester is starting to spit’.
Flo told her husband Leo to tell Minnie to pass it on to the prayer chain. She was going to Bingo.
So Leo rang up Minnie Bosch and said ‘Minnie, Flo says you need to have the ladies pray for the lanes or roads. I guess they aren’t straight. And pray Pastor will stop spitting the pits out of his peaches. And pray my wife wins at bingo. We need money to start a strike against the casino’.
Minnie then called Henrietta, Lester’s wife, who Lester says is hard of hearing. Minnie told her that Pastor Percy said ‘Pray the road to hell is straight and that he won’t spit while he preaches’. So she called Lester and said Pastor said ‘Rodeos are straight from the pit of hell and please pray he’ll win the bingo prize so he can pay back his debt at the casino. Or the choir will go on strike’.
The original story? ‘The Lanes are moving to another state so Lester is quitting as head usher’.
And the person who started it was none other than Lester himself. Who told his mother Hilda.
After wading through all this, I was more confused than ever. Lester explained he was moving and said ‘That’s why I had to resign’. I said ‘Where did you say to sign?’ I was very sleepy after
all this investigating. So I wasn’t listening very well. Lester said ‘I didn’t say ‘Sign’. I said ‘resign’. So I said ‘OK, but do you think you can get me on at UPS in Maui’. He shook his head and left.
I suddenly felt the urge to lay before the Lord. So I went to bed. No one woke me up. Not good
on a Sunday. I think my wife left early to stop the choir’s planned walkout during the offertory. So I showed up late. Lester met me at the door. I told him I was going to clear up the confusion and explain what happened. We had to stop these rumors. He begged me not to. But I insisted.
So I did. After my short sermon on James 1:19. ‘Be quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to anger’.
I first asked Lester if he would come up and announce his news. So it came from him. Not me.
He shook his head ‘No’. I shook mine ‘Yes’. He refused. His wife shook her head ‘Yes’. So he did.
I then explained how news of Lester’s move gradually morphed into the scandal that never was.
The laughter began with the first ‘prayer request’. By the end, we were all laughing hysterically. Myself included. But as pastor, I had to restore order. So I yelled ‘Let us pray!’ They all stopped. Except my wife. As I prayed, I heard outbursts of muffled laughter. But it gradually grew quiet.
In the silence, with my eyes closed, I thanked God for bringing order out of chaos. And helping us avert a crisis. I thanked Him for the rumors as they illustrate our need to ‘be slow to speak’.
Still in the posture of prayer, I said ‘Amen’. Lifting my chin from the steeple, I said to my wife,
Where's all the people?!
Unable to speak (as she was still laughing), she pointed to the entrance (which is also an exit).
I panicked. I must have angered them when I threw water on one of the happiest moments our church has enjoyed in ages. Laughter is medicine. And I made them spit it out! With a prayer!
Embarrassed by the whole fiasco and how I handled it, I told my wife ‘I’m going home’ and left.
As I walked out the door, a thunderous applause broke out. And then a song. A song I hadn’t heard for a year. ‘Happy Birthday to you …’ An outdoor picnic was all set up with food, birthday cake and presents. But before I had a chance to apologize, Lester came, put his arm around me and said ‘We decided to celebrate Pastor Appreciation Sunday and your birthday a week early.’
Then he added ‘By the way, I am moving, but not out of state. I found a house on State street. And I’m only quitting as head usher so I can give more time to bull riding. As for all the phone calls, they really did happen once I told my mom Hilda. So we’re buying hearing aids for all the ladies on the prayer chain. And Leo. But once it got back to my wife and I, we spiced it up a bit.”
He continued, “I planned to tell you about my move and the phone calls today. Which I just did. But it wasn’t my plan to tell everyone. Or for you to tell everyone. I hope we didn’t embarrass you. We love you too much to do that.” By this time, I can’t stop laughing. But once I looked at Lester and my precious friends, I realized how much I love them. I started to cry. As did they.
To break the silence, my wife brought one of the gifts up front and they all asked me to open it.
A box of peaches. I asked ‘Who’s it from?’ She said ‘Don’t know. UPS driver left it in your office.’
I followed my gut. Now I'm lost.
My sermon Sunday was only ten minutes long. And yet I preached through the whole book of Ezekiel. Verse by verse. Pretty amazing if I might say so myself. How?, you ask. Well, I promised our church I would not expound on any text I didn’t understand. Which left me with 2 verses.
I didn’t understand them either. But I had a hunch, so I followed my gut. Which rarely ends well.
It took me all of seven minutes. Add three minutes for an introductory joke and closing prayer.
The first verse was Ezekiel 21:21. The king of Babylon is standing at a fork in a road. Examining a liver. My point was short and sweet. (And wrong.) I said “So if you’re at a crossroads in life and unsure which way to go, just listen to your gut.” At my wife's suggestion, I dug into it's meaning. You won't believe it! It's not what this verse means at all. Always dig before you call. Or preach.
The other verse was Ezekiel 18:2. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge”. Now I only know a little Hebrew. And he's no help. Unless you need kosher donuts. Since I found myself at a crossroads and can't read livers very well, I listened to my gut.
Which I regret. I said. "This verse shows that even in Bible times, men don’t check expiration dates. It never occurs to them until after they eat year old cheese. Not only will they eat sour grapes, they put them in their kids lunches! And yet wonder why they’re losing teeth in Jr Hi."
Apart from these 2 verses, I don’t know what most of Ezekiel means. OK. I confess. I don't know what these 2 verses mean either. So what should a preacher do if he doesn’t understand a text? Skip it? Is that fair to the author who put it in there for a reason? Or to God who inspired him to put it there? So I can’t just disregard it. Yet how do I explain a text I myself don’t understand?
Example: I once tried to preach through Exodus. Verse by verse. Didn’t study much. I thought I could ‘wing it’. (I was wrong.) Realized this in Ex. 24:24. “And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him (Moses) and sought to kill him”. I knew better than make a comment. I chose to skip to the next verse and felt a wave of relief. Until I read the next verse.
“Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet.” After a long silence, coughs and chuckles rippled across the sanctuary. I said “Speaking of feet, I heard about a new remedy for bunions.” My diversion wasn’t lost on my wife. Or anyone else for that matter. I did as she knew I would. I said ‘Moving right along’. She mouthed it with me.
I know a ‘friend of a friend’ who tries to skip past difficult texts without anyone noticing. Never
works. Some fearless kid (with your same last name) who knows 25 comes after 24 isn’t afraid to speak up in church and say. ‘Hey Dad, you skipped v.25!’ Or the verse you skip to starts with ‘Therefore’. Now you're stuck explaining a text you don't understand. And hoped to avoid.
So I’m thinking maybe the best route is the honest route. From now on, I'll just read the text and say "You know, I have absolutely no idea what this verse means but I’m sure it’s important.
And since I have no clue what it means, let’s turn to a verse that I can identify with: Mark 9:6."
"He (Peter) said this because he didn't really know what else to say, for they were all terrified."
Even if I study and learn the meaning of a hard text, I still tend to skip over it if I can’t see how it applies to us today. Only problem with skipping is I fall prey to selective reading which leads to subjective preaching. And God rebukes those who ‘prophesy from their own hearts’. Ezek 13:2
Fortunately, a wise elder kindly challenged me to find the author’s intent in a text. Only then can I discover how it applies to us. So I dug into Ezekiel 18:2. God rebukes Israel for speaking this proverb about father’s eating sour grapes and children having a sour after taste. It was spoken as a complaint against God. Implying that the children were being unjustly punished for what their fathers did. If a father ate sour grapes, he should have the sour taste. Not his children.
My first thought was that it still doesn’t apply to people today. Or me. But then I remembered
how often I’ve blamed my ‘issues’ or problems on what my parents did or failed to do. As if I'm never the responsible party. Not considering I bring most of my ‘issues’ on myself. By myself.
So I read all of Ezekiel 18 and found it more relevant than I thought. Especially v. 23. ‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? ... Am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?’ Like Israel, I charge God with cruel and unusual punishment if I face the consequences of sin. But He's a Dad too. To discipline me truly hurts Him more than me. So why do it? For my good.
So I think I’ll share what I’ve discovered next Sunday in a follow up sermon on Ezekiel. It’s only fair to the sheep I’m called to feed that I lead them to grass, not artificial turf. I also may rethink my policy on preaching only what I understand. When I know full well I have not invested much in study nor have I asked God to open my eyes. It takes both to rightly divide the word of truth.
But even with diligent study, I know that some texts will leave me just as baffled as those I lead.
Whenever that happens, I think from now on, I’ll just admit I don’t know rather than ‘wing it’.
While preaching recently, I heard myself say “I won’t take the time now to expound on that topic”. Then in a sudden burst of honesty, I confessed “You know what? I couldn’t expound on that if I wanted to. I know nothing about it.” To which they applauded. And my wife said she’s never been more proud. My ego is confused. I like to be celebrated. But not for being clueless.
Maybe letting them see my ignorance goes a lot further than using a Greek word that actually means ‘potato’ when I’m claiming it means ‘propitiation’. Besides, I must not forget that I have deacons who verify everything I say with their smart phones. When they aren’t checking their March Madness brackets or researching what a ‘tarheel’ is. If it means potato, I'll hear about it.
I’m starting to think that sheep feel a lot safer with an honest shepherd than a brilliant one. Or one who thinks he is. Sheep also graze better when they feel safe. And I shepherd better when I lead them to the green pastures of God’s Word. Instead of the fluff I come up with when I wing it.
So next Sunday, I think I'll start over in Ezekiel. But this time we’ll actually do it verse by verse. I just may need to slow it down. I’m thinking 25 years with 2 hour long sermons. 7 nights a week.
I told my deacons about it. A few were not happy. Turns out, they liked my 10 minute sermon.
Whether it was biblical or not. I'm sure they don’t check expiration dates either. How do I know?
They still want 10 year old manna. Specifically a sermon I titled "Come and dine". I took it from a famous pastor. Never heard his sermon. Just his title. I thought people might like my sermons better if I laid out God's all you can eat buffet. And a few did. But most didn't. Like my wife. The
elders. Jesus. So I went back and listened to that sermon and text. It was titled 'Come and die'.
I'm confused. How is that supposed to win friends and influence people?
The Idea of the Century
Every once in a while a subject comes up in our church council meeting that turns wise mature men of God into overly zealous self-appointed ‘experts’ who believe they have stumbled onto the church growth idea of the century. Such an idea came up in last week’s council meeting. The verdict is still out. I'll let you be the judge. The minutes will fill you in.
Fred: Pete, how can you call that idea original? Every other church on earth is on TV!
Pete: Sure, but they're all the same. 2 songs +18 ads + 30 minute sermon = 1 boring hour.
Percy: What else did you have in mind?
Pete: Ever watch a late night talk show? The host comes out, cracks a few jokes to warm up the audience. Or take CNN. We could do interviews with a few experts on your topic. Let’s say you’re preaching about Armageddon next Easter. You could have a big screen drop down over the organ. Artie here could report live from Megiddo. Each of us can trade off reporting live from Israel, Paris, Bahamas, Nashville and all those other places in the Bible.
Artie: How about a roving usher who meanders through the audience with a microphone?
Percy: Which will take two minutes! We have 70 people! And half that when football starts.
Hank: I like it. At key points in your sermon, the camera could break away to the interview.
Percy: Interview? What about the sermon?
Hank: What do you think the interview’s about? Ever seen a political convention speech? While the speaker keeps on talking in the background, the reporter interviews a delegate on what they think about the speech so far? Adds a lot of spice I think. And a little more spice is what you need Percy if you really want to ‘Go Big!’ And maybe a white leisure suit.
Pete: This will help you Percy! Once in a great while, you have a truly profound insight. I don't remember any. But whenever you do, the usher could cue the cameraman and the spotlight guy. That's when our roving usher steps in to say “So tell me Mrs. Poptart. What do you think of Pastor’s point? Did you know God cared so much about pots and pans?"
Percy: Pots? What’s your plan if she wants chapter and verse or likes paper plates? Or what
if our roving usher falls prey to Henrietta Bagby? She'd love nothing more than a moment in the spotlight. And there's nothing I fear more. The last thing she needs is an audience. And the last thing an audience needs is a testimony of how God healed her lama's goiter.
Fred: Loosen up Percy. Pete’s on to something. You say ‘Go Big or Go Home’ and now that we find a way to go big, you start acting like you'd rather stay in Mayberry. With Barney!
Percy: OK. I’ll listen. But we are not pulling the trigger on anything until I talk to my wife!
Hank: You know what that means? The safety’s never coming off this gun and the bullet is staying in Percy's shirt pocket until Jesus comes.back. So is this all we're ever gonna do? Talk big? Perfectly happy if we never actually ‘Go big'? Let's stop talking and walk the talk!
Fred: But to go big, we first gotta talk big. Until we actually believe it. Then we can walk the talk. Besides, we're just brainstorming. We’ll lay out our plans later. You never know. In all our ramblings tonight, we might just stumble on the idea of the century. Any other ideas?
Artie: How about a play-by-play announcer who whispers quietly during the service like they do in golf? “Well folks, a fresh wave of inspiration is floating through the room like a summer breeze". And then when the worship leader leads us in 'Blessed Assurance', I'll remark to Gus “A perfect song choice in this age of rampant terrorism. Don’t you agree?”
Pete: Wait! Gus the auctioneer? He whispers so loud, it wakes me before the sermon ends!
Hank: I think we need a pre-service show like they do when the president speaks. Gus says “So Jim, think Pastor Percy will finish his series on ‘Pots, Pans, Palmolive and You’?” Jim says “I don’t know Gus. It’s easy to bog down after 4 years in Leviticus. But then again he was pretty spunky at men’s breakfast. I think we'll see more of an attacker in the pulpit today.”
Pete: Which is what America needs! Another Billy Sunday! Hey! How about we put a bow on top and wrap this whole thing up in a way viewers can’t forget! After the sermon, I can give a response to the sermon. Like the opposing party does after a presidential speech.
Percy: I'm starting to think you don’t like my sermons Pete. Maybe you should preach and I'll do parking duty! No, Artie! We don't need a second on that. I didn't mean it. Delete it!
So what's the next agenda item? We’ll revisit this topic later. Maybe. So item #2. What can we do with that old cash register in the basement? We really don’t need it. Can we sell it?
Artie: I say put it on the communion table. As a reminder.
Percy: A reminder of what Artie?
Artie: That the offering is right after communion. That'll give them time to write checks.
Hank: That cash register is an antique. I could sell it and start a fund for a TV camera.
Fred: Put it in the foyer. The ladies can use it for the bake sale. Fundraiser for TV air time.
Percy: Not on my watch! A bake sale in the foyer will start WW3. I say we call it a night.
Pete: Agree. Gotta get home. Wolf Blitzer is gonna ride an ostrich on the late show.
Percy: But I thought your wife said you always watch ‘Revival Hour’ Sunday nights at ten.
Pete: Me? Watch a TV preacher? Who does that? I get all the preaching I need right here.
Artie: Now that's something we can all agree on for once. In fact, I think I'd watch the shopping channel on New Year’s Day before I'd ever watch a TV preacher in my free time.
Hank: Hey! I love the shopping channel! Where do you think we got the cash register?
So went the meeting and with it, the idea of the century. My wife couldn't be happier.
'Why I always cry in January'
My New Year’s resolution last year: ‘I hereby resolve to no longer fly by the seat
of my pants. I will plan my work and work my plan. A plan reflecting my values
and life goals. Key words for the year: Visualize, Strategize, Actualize.’
My plan was going quite well until I hit January 2nd. And then it all fell apart.
Example: I designed a daily schedule which I was quite proud of. A well-oiled
machine destined to revolutionize my life and who knows, maybe the world!
Here’s my schedule for Jan 2. As originally planned + as it actually happened.
5 - 7AM As planned: Time with God: Bible Study and Prayer
5 - 7AM As it actually occurred:
Woke 6:23. Up late. Orange Bowl. 10 min to find matching socks in the dark.
5 min to read Leviticus. Skipped what I couldn’t understand. Leaving 1 verse.
Something about not eating camels. Which is fine. I’m not tempted anyway.
Spent 20 min reading article about a camel with 3 humps. Leaving 2 min for
prayer: 1. My cholesterol (i.e. bacon) 2. An insecure camel. 3. World peace.
7 - 8AM As planned Breakfast, Family Devotions, Drop kids off at school
7 - 8AM As it actually occurred
Hole in sock + not a match. Learned she got up early. Leaving me in the dark
to find matching socks. She laughed. I didn’t. I told her my whole life is like
trying to find matching socks in the dark. ‘Why me?’ I cried. About the socks
I mean. She said, ‘Do you realize kids are dying in Sudan?’ She doesn’t get it.
30 min to make breakfast for the kids. Cheerios. (Painted the bowls orange.)
My son got the Captain Crunch prize first. Turned into a big brawl. (With me.)
Plus kids all got mad simultaneously for my insisting that we leave for school.
I refused to listen to all their arguments. Sometimes they just need to obey!
Devotions in car on the way. Asked for favorite verse. Son said ‘Jesus wept’.
They all laughed. Even Jesus. I didn’t. I wept. Arrived at school. Only to find
out school is closed on Jan. 2nd. No one told me! Drove home. Skipped Devo.
9 - 11 AM As planned Sermon Preparation
9 - 11 AM As it actually occurred
9:06 Read the sermon text. Matt. 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air…”
9:07 Watch sky for possible duck migration. (I take the Bible literally.)
9:20 Found myself in a remote corner of Canada with a shotgun, beef jerky,
a bag of licorice and a dog named ‘Rambo’. (A fluffy white miniature poodle.)
10:23 Elmer the janitor woke me from my dream. Baptistry is leaking again.
11 - 12 As planned Lunch with Small Groups Coordinator
11- 12 As it actually occurred
35 min discussing why the Orange Bowl losers went to the fullback as other
receivers were wide open.
20 min to eat and discuss whether it truly matters if your socks match or not.
5 min to decide when to eat next. (We do need to talk about small groups.)
12 - 2 PM As Planned Administrative Tasks: Calls, Emails, Paperwork, Filing
12 - 2 PM As it actually occurred
68 min to clean up 68 million emails. Deleted those I don’t need. Which is 2.
52 min to read article ‘Keep your inbox empty’. During which I got 793 more.
2- 4 PM As planned Visitation, Prepare message for Nursing Home
11- 12 As it actually occurred
Claude came in as I was walking out. His sister-in-law has gout and pet goat has
diarrhea. That goat and I have a long personal history, so to change the subject
I invited him to go with me and visit Shorty. He has laryngitis. (Not the goat.
Shorty.) He got it from yelling at the referees. We discussed gout, goats and
the effect of global warming on a referee’s ability to see clearly.
4 - 5 As planned Plan tomorrow. (Tweak Vision + Schedule if necessary.)
4 - 5 As it actually occurred
Decided to reinvent myself by revising my New Year’s resolution. ‘I hereby resolve
myself to devote my time, energy and resources to one single goal: ‘Fly by the seat
of my pants’. My key words for the New Year will be ‘flow, flexibility, impromptu, haphazard’. Which means ‘having no particular purpose, organization or structure’.
Translation: My goal this year is to have no goal.
The secret strength of my new structure will be to not have one. I’ll harness all my
energy toward the one focus of not having a focus. I will use all my organizational strengths to avoid being organized. As of January 3rd, I’m doing pretty well.
At the end of the day, I asked my wife if she knew what ‘haphazard’ means. And then handed her my revised New Year’s resolution. She read over it. Then she looked at
me for a long time. Obviously overcome with awe and admiration. Can't say I blame
her. She then asked if I knew what ‘balance’ means. Yes but what does that have to do
with anything? I guess not being understood is the price you pay for being a genius.
So I wept. While cleaning up emails and babysitting goats. Trying to learn to multitask.
The Upside of Total Chaos
'Chaos: a place or condition of great disorder or confusion'. (i.e. my brain)
I don’t focus well. Far too distracted. If I walk ten feet, I'll notice ten things.
Why? I’m looking for stuff I lost yesterday. I once sprained my thumb and
lost the adhesive tape. With brace in hand, I scoured the house. Found the
tape an hour later. As I went to tape my thumb … you guessed it. No brace.
It’s a gift. My shadow once fell across the neighbor’s dog. He’s still missing.
I can also transform an ordinary room just by walking in. It’s kinda like an organizing gift but in reverse. One day I watched my garage turn itself into
a mountain of stuff. All I did was 'reorganize' it. And look for a thumb brace.
I actually have a certificate in this stuff. A Dr’s official diagnosis recognizing
my amazing ADHD brain. I am not embarrassed by my brain or my need of
assistance in using it. I love my brain. It functions perfectly. Just differently.
By 'differently' I mean this: Imagine you're a traffic director in a third world
country in rush hour with no lanes, traffic lights and no whistle. Like drivers,
every thought has a mind of its own. Not pretty. But it works for me. Kinda.
Ok. Maybe not. I do need to focus more. Makes life easier. And me happier.
Yet I'm amazed at how much more God does with my weakness than I could
ever do with the strengths I wish I had. I find His grace more than sufficient.
He even brings beauty out of the very weakness that I 'knew' would ruin me.
One day my dear friend Dave told me “Jack, I’m so glad you have ADHD.”
I replied “Tell me what you mean. Quickly, before I smack you!” Dave said,
“If I needed a friend, I would never call the highly organized professional
you wish you were. The people I know who are hyper organized will most
likely have no open time slots. Unless it's 3 weeks from Friday at 4 sharp.
I’d call you first. Know why? Because I know you’d drop everything and
come and listen to me. I know you care. That’s why I’m glad you're you.”
I've often resented my inability to get stuff done or finish my daily task list.
One reason I don't is that I receive many calls as a Care Pastor. When I do,
I ‘drop everything’. Dave helped me see my unfinished tasks in a new light.
I am doing what God wants me to. I'm loving people. Like He called me to.
I had begun viewing these calls as interruptions. They weren't in 'my plans'.
Plans to become this highly organized professional pastor who 'does it all'.
But these calls are in God's plan. A plan to help the weak. Love the hurting.
I saw my tendency to drop stuff and respond to every call as irresponsibility.
God saw my heart. So He sent a friend to show me my 'weakness' is an asset.
Imperfection has an upside. So does chaos. Our chaos may be an unwanted
weakness or a string of setbacks. For life rarely preforms like we expect it to.
Neither do we. None of us are unaffected by weakness or chaos. But chaos
is where God shines brightest. It’s where He does His best work. Genesis 1:2
I love it! For I have no shortage of chaos over which God’s Spirit can ‘hover’.
Whatever my chaos: a weakness, a minor setback, a major crisis or a mess I
made by my sin or foolishness, God can create something beautiful out of it.
More chaos to come, with upsides in tow. I'll explain my title in next month's
post. One thing I 'wannabe' is in control of how my day goes. (Laugh here.)
And where my mind goes. (Not here.) Yet it is fun to never know what's next.
Speaking of which ... gotta run. Neighbor got a new dog. Wants me to see it.