Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On writing and living

I came down to visit an old friend this morning.  My honey is spending some time with a friend on the East coast this week during Spring break...and by East Coast Spring Break I'm not referring to Panama City or any sort of beach like destination.  I, however, am at the beach; my friend being my Starbucks hangout of former days.  The sun is out and glowing a faint orange on the snow caps and the ambitious ones are on bikes or on foot.  I wasn't intending to write anything this morning...just going to hang for some early coffee before entering the realm of office, work and all things pastoral.  It's pretty unavoidable though, the writing I mean, when you are sitting as a spectator before a sight like this.  It makes me feel better in the days when my better half is not around.  It makes me, even though I fight it, not want to be a spectator.  I see the runners pacing themselves along the sea wall.  I see the cyclists optimistically pumping their way downtown.  I even see a different level of freedom in the dogs who are privileged to wander the shore than I see in the ones walking the sidewalk in front of my house.
A hero of mine, Donald Miller, believes that the best stories are those that are planned.  There is a deep part of me that understands this.  It is the part within me that sees a runner and puts an ancient memory into my leg muscles of days gone by when running was actually not a spectator sport for me.  It is the familiarity of picking up a fly rod after decades of not and feeling it run through my forearms .  It is the gazing that I was doing yesterday at my, still wintered, bike and running through the mental checklist of Spring time prep that I just want to do.  These days, this understanding of story and the desire to be active in mine can too easily be countered by age...either my own feeling of it or others felt need to point it out.  It seems that the more days that pass, the more effort it takes to step back into my story...much more than it used to anyway.  I have been blogging on this site for years now, long enough to be able to look back fondly and remember moments when I was in mine.  I can also see, in some old posts, familiar echoes of longing to be.
There is good news in all of this though, and it is directly related to my stop by an old friend this morning.  It may take more effort to get in to the story than it used to, but with only a little guidance and some inspiration along the way, it takes a lot more effort to get me back out.  Within the familiar posts and this familiar view, I can see both sides of the story; the one reading and the one writing, the one planning and the one watching.  There is no comparison.  My wish, prayer, and blessing for you today is that you will engage your story and write it for all its worth.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

High maintenance

In the place where most of my writing takes place lately, I have a ring side seat to listen in on the various ways that people want their coffee prepared.  Two words generally come to mind each and every morning that I sit here.  "High maintenance".  I mean really, who came up with the thousands of variations of drink/flavor/milk/temp options?  And how many tries does it take the average person to come up with a 3 minute spiel for a single order?  And what did we possibly do before it was discovered that when one was finished smoking hemp, one could actually drink it as milk?  How do you milk a hemp plant?  Maybe that was in one of the out takes from "Meet the Parents".  The longer that I sit here, the more I admire the baristas who juggle these orders from people who obviously desperately need them.  I feel very boring when I can walk in and know that my drink can come lovingly without me even speaking it.  Not only that, they know what drink that I'm needing merely by the time of day that I'm walking in.  I'm so glad that I'm not high maintenance.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Setting spam filters

So yesterday my wife started a new 2 year lockdown with Sprint by getting a new phone.  She has now joined me in the land of iPhone.  It seemed like a logical step considering her love affair with her iPad.  Anyway...we really only intended to "look" at new phone options in the midst of a walk past our neighborhood Sprint portal.  We were going to look, leave, consider, return, purchase.  However, in communicating her desire to spend literally nearly nothing on this exchange due to the near mortgage cost of her current but disappointing EVO, the customer service rep made a brilliantly calculated move.  He offered her the iPhone (remember the iPad ) for free.  Since I'm the only one alive who would jump at that quicker than she,  needless to say, he had her at free.  Remember that I have already stated that we were not prepared to actually grab a new phone...we were on a walk after all... And if you realized my age, you'd appreciate how important that it was to continue on it.  So we did.... And we left the discarded EVO to have its worth transferred to the new phone.  We came back almost an hour later and it was still in transfer mode.  I fact it still had 30 minutes to go.  So I'm fairly technical and I noticed, upon spying on the transfer setup that the delay was being caused by the incredibly bizarre amount of images being transferred.  I add bizarre because she rarely uses the phone for any sort of images.  She rarely takes photos, even more rarely takes video, and has practically never downloaded anything.  Imagine my surprise when, upon finally receiving and examining the phone, we discovered nearly 2000 images.  Only about 150 of them originated with her efforts.  The rest were a phone version of spam.  Her phone was nearly overrun with it.  For months she has been getting low or no available space warnings.  Somewhere along the course of the past two years, various sources have felt the right to dump crap into her source of life and communication.
So it occurred to me that, ultimately, people are somewhere behind the spam in technological circles, just as they are in relational circles.  Nearly every day we are exposed to others "spamming" of our lives...intentional or not.  People, especially hurting people, have a way and or need to dump on others lives.  It is just the way it is.  All of us have done it, all of us have had it done to us.  Some of us, short of a supernatural spiritual intervention are never going to stop.  Seem of us, short of the same intervention, are not going to be able to take anymore.  It acts the same within us as it does on our technical devices. It clogs our life, it slows us down, it takes up all available resources.  We could choose drastic relational choices.  Many people have.  We can run away.  We can self medicate.  We can lash out.  Or just maybe we can learn from the tech companies in their battles to neutralize spam. We can set filters.  We can set limits.  They would look different in every life certainly.  Here are some that I have found helpful in a profession where spam can indeed be a hazard:

"Limit your exposure" ... You know what and who can tend to clog your life...set boundaries to how much and how many you can be exposed to and keep a reasonable level of sanity.  You may need to literally stay away from some sources during certain rhythms of your life...or at least literally schedule the blocks of exposure...and I do mean appointment style, and not open ended appointments.

"Watch your energy (storage) capacity".  Make sure that your personal life has a balance between people who give and people who take.  This will give you what you need to listen and be present in the lives of people who need you to be there.

"Do not open".  Be aware of the relationships that you have and the hot buttons that cause a spam dump.  Listen more than you speak. Relational spammers tend to thrive on open channels and will turn every conversation that you initiate or elaborate on into their issue (read ... Never ending)

"Engage a professional" when necessary... Either for yourself or the spammer.  I am pretty tech knowledgeable but even had I known the extent of the crap in my wife's phone, I would have gone right into the store to have a tech deal with the issue.  Ironically, the longer that I've been a pastor, the more aware I am that I don't know a great deal about "pastoring" people in a great deal of their situations.  I am very quick to refer to the professionals.  It is best for those I am pastoring, and its best for me.  It leaves me with the energy to deal with the things I can and need to deal with.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Same journey, next chapter

"One of the hazards of being a pastor is that you are continually exposed to Gods prompting and movement.  It may be through the constant evaluation of His word, through sermons offered and received.  It might be through prayers offered and answered.  It might be through interaction with people whose paths you cross.  It may be a combination of them all.  Joanne and I have discovered in our lives that these promptings can begin as whispers, but eventually can become a relentless pushing that becomes difficult to ignore.  The process has been the same every time we've been led in our ministry lives.  It's how I ended up leaving an engineering career to pursue ministry.  It's how we landed at a younger church in New York.  It's how we ended up at an older church in West Seattle.  Over the course of 24 years we've learned what it feels like to be called.  It is important for you to know that Pastors are not immune to God's word.  It has the same power to prompt those of us who teach it as it does for those who hear it....."
This is how I began our announcement to my faith community this past Sunday that, because of a series of promptings,  Joanne and I will be moving at the end of Summer into the neighborhood that we in Seattle know as South Lake Union in order to plant a new church.  I was grateful to be able to finally invite this incredible community into the journey that we have been walking with only a very few individuals these past few months.  I will say that, although we were very optimistic about what the reaction to this news might be, we were and continue to be overwhelmed by the love, support, encouragement and excitement offered by the people that we've journeyed through life with for more than a decade.  While sorrowful to a point, I am proud to serve with a community that has overwhelmingly received this news as one more opportunity that they/we can be  actively and missionally followers of Jesus who see the larger kingdom before our personal ones.  A body of people, faithfully willing to follow Christ with attitudes such as this will accomplish much for the kingdom.  In fact, Jesus statement to Peter about the Church that "the gates of hell will not prevail against it" is most appropriate to this group.  I am honored to have been considered a pastor to this group.  I cherish the next months that we have and I covet the excitement, encouragement, and prayers for a new journey and most importantly for people that we don't even know for whom we are starting this next chapter.  It will and does pull at our hearts to know that we will not be personally involved in the great future of our current community, but I am proud to have part of the leading up to the next great opportunity here.  Every bit of our life here prepared us for what God already knew would be the great need there.  Every journey is comprised of steps, one after the other.  The only time the journey stops is when we quit stepping out.