Friday, April 30, 2010

Sabbatical Reflections...

Time moves quickly. Almost two weeks have passed since my return from my sabbatical. It's taken me all of that time to begin to process some of the lessons God taught me through the sabbatical. If no particular order, here are some reflections from my sabbatical...

I began my sabbatical with this prayer:

"Father, my desire is to hear You. Not necessarily that You would speak to me, though that would be wonderful, and I trust You to do that if You see fit. Rather, I want to be listening for what You are saying and what You have been saying. I fear my hectic pace is often such that I’m too busy doing things I believe would please You… and I fail to listen for what You are saying to me. Tune my ears, Father… still my mind, and calm my spirit and my heart."

I approached the two weeks of sabbatical with intentionality and prayer. I did not view my sabbatical as a vacation, or even a study break. My sense was that the Spirit was leading me into a time of rest, reflection, prayer, reading, solitude and renewal. It took me about two days to “cycle down”… as my normal life pace (RPMs) tends to be fast-paced, but God was patient and waited on me to quiet down.

Initially, I was not looking forward to hours of solitude… but I came to delight in them. Reading, praying, thinking and walking became thrilling ways for me to spend time alongside God… and wonderful opportunities to hear Him.

New Orleans has some great parks… and I spent delightful days at both Audubon Park and City Park. Walking, delighting in God’s creation, taking in the beauty of springtime (the azaleas were in bloom!), being among people--but not necessarily interacting with them.

I spent two wonderful afternoons at the New Orleans’ Museum of Art (Wednesday afternoons are free admission!). Being able to take in the work of master painters, sculptors and other artisans at a pace I rarely allow myself (do you rush through museums?) was nourishing to my soul. I saw and experienced God’s majesty and creative power revealed in the talent He had given these artisans.

I did enjoy some great food while in New Orleans… my good friend and Carrollton elder, Robert Carpenter and his wife, Myrna, were my gracious hosts for several meals. And I discovered that while it was pleasant to read and people-watch as I took most of my meals alone, I really missed the companionship of others (especially Susan) around the meal table. I realized that for me, food is best enjoyed in the presence of family and friends.

I preached at Carrollton Avenue church on the three Sundays I was in New Orleans. This responsibility in no way detracted from my sabbatical. If anything, God used this time alongside fellow believers as a reminder of the great gift He’s given us in providing church family

My last Sunday’s lesson at Carrollton was on Sabbath. This was a lesson I would not have thought to bring, or even been prepared to deliver, if it had not been for my time spent in sabbatical. I have returned to Abilene with a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, God’s great gift of Sabbath. I have committed to God a weekly observance of a Sabbath.

My sabbatical ended with this prayer on my lips: "Father, I delight in You! Praise your Holy Name!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What You Can Learn From A Lousy Teacher...

Seth Godin seems to have a knack for making me think about things differently. He did that again for me in this recent post.

If you have a teacher (of any sort) that you cannot please, that you cannot learn from, that is unwilling to take you where you need to go because he is defending the status quo and demonstrates your failure on whatever report card he chooses to use, you could consider yourself a failure. Or you could remind yourself...

- Grades are an illusion.

- Your passion and insight are reality.

- Your work is worth more than mere congruence to an answer key.

- Persistence in the face of a skeptical authority figure is a powerful ability.

- Fitting in is a short-term strategy, standing out pays off in the long run.

- If you care enough about the work to be criticized, you've learned enough for today.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Quilt...

I'm a fan of Seth Godin. I appreciate his ability to pack a ton of insight into a few words... as evidenced by this recent post:

When you've had enough, can't tolerate your job any longer and are ready to quit, perhaps you could try one last thing.


You've got nothing to lose, right? I mean, you're going to quit anyway, so what's the worst that could happen to you?

So quilt. Spend hours every day integrating the people you work with into a cohesive group. Weave in your customers as well. Take every scrap, even the people you don't like, and sew them together. Spend far less time than you should on the 'real' work and instead focus on creating genuine connections with the people you work with. Including your boss. After all, once you quit, you're never going to see them again anyway, right? Might as well give it a try.

Careful... it might change everything.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm Back (I Think)...

It's been almost a week since I returned from my two-week sabbatical and I've been somewhat conflicted about resuming regular postings to Conexus. My struggle hasn't been with not having anything I'd like to share. More to the point, I've wrestled with some deeper concerns about the place social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) now occupies in our culture, and the time being invested by so many of us in social media.

Frankly, I've grown a bit disenchanted with some who have appointed themselves arbiters of what's worth saying, and their self-ascribed expertise in how to say it. To put it bluntly, the pretentiousness of some out there in social media land has made me question if I want to continue to add to the on-line cacophony of words and sound... in what seems to be an ever increasing environment in which very few are truly reading and listening.

So, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I've decided to return to a somewhat regular routine of posting to Conexus. I re-examined why I started this blog in the first place
("ll try to have something I think is worth reading or I won't bother writing it." - Quote from my first post in April of 2008) and felt that remained a valid platform to work from.

My bottom line... I'm writing as a creative and introspective outlet. I'm encouraged you might want to occasionally read what I write... but I'm also okay if you want to click elsewhere. Further disclosure: I turned off the comment feature on Conexus some time ago, not because I didn't enjoy your occasional comments, but because I didn't want the desire for comments to drive what and who I wrote.

It's good to be back. I look forward to seeing where God takes me and Conexus in the future.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I begin a two-week sabbatical today... a gift of personal and spiritual renewal provided me by my SoHills' shepherds. The prayer I am praying as I enter this sabbatical is not that God would speak to me... don't get me wrong, I'd be thrilled if God did, and I trust He will do so if He sees fit. Rather, I want to be listening for what God is saying... and what perhaps I've not been hearing because of my pace or "busyness."

I'd appreciate your prayers on my behalf. I'll see you in two weeks.

For the darkness of waiting,

of not knowing what is to come,

of staying ready and quiet and attentive,

we praise you, O God:

For the darkness and the light are both alike to you.

For the darkness of staying silent,

for the terror of having nothing to say,

and for the greater terror of needing to say nothing,

we praise you, O God.

For the darkness and the light are both alike to you.

For the darkness of loving,

in which it is safe to surrender, to let go of our self-protection,

and to stop holding back our desire,

we praise you, O God.

For the darkness and the light are both alike to you.

For the darkness of choosing,

when you give us the moment to speak, and act, and change,

and we cannot know what we have set in motion,

but we still have to take the risk,

we praise you, O God.

For the darkness and the light are both alike to you.

For the darkness of hoping

in a world which longs for you;

for the wrestling and the laboring of all creation

for wholeness and justice and freedom,

we praise you, O God.

For the darkness and the light are both alike to you.

All Desires Known by Janet Morley

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Two Most Important Leadership Responsibilities...

I really liked, and really related to, these thoughts on leadership Mike Foster shared recently:

If I had to pick my two most important leadership responsibilities, here's what they'd be...

1. Build Trust:
I do this with striving to live transparently and with character in both my personal and professional life. Bottom line is if people don’t trust you, they won’t let you lead them. Especially if you are leading to a place of challenge, risk, and the unknown. Our inspirational speeches, clever mission statements, and our stunning business card titles are nice, but they don’t trump trust.

2. Bear Pain:
Let me shoot straight. If your heart isn't burdened for others and you're not helping to carry that weight, then you are not a leader. If your world isn't uncomfortable and you aren't navigating pain on a daily basis, then you’re probably not a leader. I love what Craig Groeschel said to me many moons ago: “The size of your platform is directly proportional to the amount of pain you can endure.”

Your thoughts? Are there any other leadership responsibilities that you think are more critical?