4 things to KNOW instead of FEEL

4 Pillarsi’ve written quite a bit about how dangerous it is to trust what you feel. (read some here, here, here, and here). our hearts are deceptive. therefore, when faced with a choice between trusting what you feel and trusting what you know…i’m going to try and go with what i know to be true.

today, here are four things i want to know, even though they are sharply contrasting to what i feel. maybe you want to know these things too?

1) i know i need to pray.
prayer has always been a challenge for me. i think some of that stems from my role in ministry: i was always the “official pray-er” at every church and ministry event i attended. maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore?

notice what i wrote there? maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore.

i know i need to pray. i know that communication (both talking and listening) is vital to the development of any relationship. i know God wants to hear from me. i know God has a lot he would like to tell me. i know the discipline of prayer would be good for me…it would force me to slow down and quiet down.

2) i know i need to love others.
my kids. my co-workers. the guests who sit at my tables at Applebee’s. the unbeliever i really like and the Christian i don’t like at all.

no matter who it is or how i feel about them…i know i need to love. not just like. or get along with. or tolerate.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but i don’t feel like i have any of those. it might be just as hard to love those you feel apathetic towards. and i know i need more of the Spirit to do this well. see #1.

3) i know God is close.
it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have one arm full of hot plates of food, the other hand with a check to be dropped, two tables who need drink refills, and the expectations your managers, staff, and guests have for you to be perfect.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have 3 kids screaming at you and each other, 2 kids wrestling on the couch, and 1 kid waking up cranky from a nap with the worst kind of bedhead.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when your bills are past due, your friends ignore you, your dreams abandon you, and your heart is breaking.

he. just. doesn’t. feel. close.

but. i. know. better.

if anything, on my better days, i may be more aware of God’s closeness in the chaos of my full house and full restaurant than i was in ministry. at the very least, i am definitely more aware of my need for his closeness.

4) i know i’m not a big deal.
i think everyone likes being a big deal. our culture makes a big deal out of becoming a big deal.

i felt like a big deal in the previous season of my life. i was leading a growing ministry. i was sought after to speak in lots of churches and at lots of functions. i had successfully funded a book project, partnering with hundreds of people.

i felt like a big deal.

and i let my big deal-ness define  me. (but more on that another day.)

when you think you’re a big deal, you have to make decisions that help you stay a big deal. you don’t make decisions out of faithfulness or humility or for the benefits of others. you make decisions to help you maintain your rock star status.

here is what i know today: i’m not a big deal. i never have been. and that truth is incredibly liberating. it frees me to be a child of God, a husband to Keri, and a father to my gaggle of children. it allows me to be a lowly server at the neighborhood bar and grill.

i wasn’t making much of a lasting splash when i felt like i was a big deal. now that i know i am not a big deal, i receive the grace to try again and hope for a bigger splash for my family, my guests, and for the little corner of the Kingdom in which i reside.

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a confession and www.mynameisbrandon.me

157507122it’s been an insane 6 months.

resignation from ministry.
temporary jobs.
moving to a new city.
new school for my kids.
new school  for me.
trying to sell a house.
deciding to rent the house.
the death of dreams.
the birth of new seasons.

the last six months have been about survival. sometimes you simply need to withdraw in order to make it. it makes me think of my cat growing up. vortex (his name…the coolest pet name ever…) had surgery once and when he came home, he immediately went to hide under my bed. no amount of coaxing or kitty treats would bring him out of hiding. he was wounded. and healing. and needing space. and when he was ready, he emerged. he wasn’t 100%, but he felt the call to re-enter.

similarly, i am ready to emerge. i am ready to write and create and share. i’ve got thoughts and ideas and stories and lessons learned.

if you’d care to keep up with the journey, here are a few things to know:

new address: you can now access this blog at: http://www.mynameisbrandon.me
(someone pilfered my old website address.)

new attitude: i used to write to build a platform. it made me feel dirty. no longer. the things i plan on writing will be more honest. i have no board of directors or elders to fire me if i say something out of line. this will be a space for me to clarify and voice my thoughts. in doing so, i think (and hope) it will benefit you, the reader. i know i am not blazing any trails. the benefit is in our journey together.

new content: i’ve made a painful realization over the last several months. so, here is my confession: my faith was dependent upon my role as a minister. i have no idea how to be a follower of Christ as a “non-professional.”

and so, much of what i write will be under the banner of my finding my sea legs. i hope this will be an encouragement to other “recovering ministers” and a help to those of you struggling to find or own your faith while still in ministry.

if you’d like to connect, there are a few ways we can do that:

you can find me on facebook here.

you can find me on twitter here.

you can subscribe to receive emails of my blog post by filling in that little box on the right side of your screen and clicking “subscribe.”

you can email me by filling this little form out.

confession: i’m an ichthus out of water

[this post has not been edited for anything. it’s 12:30am and my brain is in gear. thus, a collection of thoughts.]

“i’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints; the sinners are much more fun.” —billy joel in “only the good die young”

this week i started a new job. in a new town. in a new world.

my old world was full-time vocational ministry. a paid preacher. a professional Christian.

in my old world i talked about the necessity; nay, the command to be missional followers of Jesus…to live a life of intentionally engaging and being in relationship with those who do not yet follow Christ. of being in their world. of loving and earning the right to hear and be heard.

apparently, if i was a professional Christian…i wasn’t a very good one.

because for the life of me, i cannot recall a single, significant friendship i have had in the last 5 years with someone outside of the faith.

shame on me.

and now i find myself in a new world. a world where i sell iPhones and take collegiate courses and am surrounded by people who do not know my Lord.

and i’m not really sure what to do.

oh, i know the right answers (paid professionals always know the right answers).

talk with them. be engaged. hear their story. share a drink. serve them. meet their needs. be alert. love them. extend the grace that cannot be resisted.

but…how? what does this look like at work? in the classroom? in my neighborhood? i don’t know, because i’ve never done it. i’ve only talked about it.

i’m excited and terrified in this new world. you know those “Jesus fish” you see on the back of vehicles? (it’s call an “ichthus”). i feel like an ichthus out of water. i am firmly outside the confines of my safe and sanitized Christian world.

and it seems to be a good thing.

it seems to be where Jesus spent most of his time.

3 rules to keep trouble (and effectiveness) away

Jesus’ mouth got him into all kinds of trouble.

consider luke 4:22:

“And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”

but something changes just a few verses later, in luke 4:28:

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.”

what happened?

well, Jesus opened his mouth and said stuff. and in doing so, He broke three essential rules for those who don’t want to get in trouble for what they say. follow these rules to keep yourself out of trouble because of what you say.

// don’t say anything meaningful. //
Jesus had just said He was the fulfillment of a long-promised prophecy. He is the One promised to free the captives and give sight to the blind and set the oppressed free. folks loved that. they loved it so much, in fact, that they immediately desired for Him to heal some people. they missed His point.

when you say meaningful things, people will miss the point.

and there is misunderstanding. and that leads to trouble. so, it’s easier if you just don’t say anything meaningful.

// don’t tell the truth. //
Jesus goes on to say a bunch of stuff about how God’s people had historically missed what God was doing, so He spoke to and used the hated gentiles.

this was infuriating to those good jewish folks listening to him in the synagogue.

and it was the truth. the problem with the truth is that it gets us into trouble. we could save ourselves a lot of headaches if we just avoided telling the truth.

// don’t say too much. //
Jesus should have stopped when He was ahead. He should have stopped when the people were marveling at His words.

but, nope…He had to keep going. He had to couple the grace He had spoken with truth. He had to push the envelope, seize the teachable moment, make His point. geez.

Jesus said too much. and He offended His audience and got Himself into trouble.

and so there you have it:

three rules to follow in order to avoid any trouble…
and effectiveness
…your mouth may cause.

long or short? some thoughts on the length of our sermons

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i will start by saying i don’t have a good answer. but several times over the course of the last few weeks, i have been thinking about my teaching and the length of my sermons. here are a few of my thoughts:

for short sermons:

  • the record of the most famous sermon ever, the one on the mount, can be read out loud in less than 15 minutes.
  • peggy noonan (ronald reagan’s speechwriter) says that no speech should last longer than 20 minutes. she implies that if you can’t say what you need to say in 20 minutes or less, you aren’t ready to say it. (ht: mark taylor)
  • the gettysburg address was about 3 minutes long.
  • many folks think we have been conditioned to be still for 13 minute segments, thanks to the sitcom. we’ll be engaged for 13 minutes and then we need a break to use the potty and get a snack.
  • seth godin tells us few will ever complain if something runs short.

for long sermons:

  • the apostle paul apparently preached longer sermons. in acts 20, he preaches into the night and into the next day. (of course, poor eutychus fell asleep and out of a window while paul preached…so maybe i shouldn’t hang my hat here.)
  • stand-up comedians can hold the attention of their audience for hours. and make no points. and turn a huge profit doing so. i don’t think attention span is our problem. i think engagement is.
  • mark driscoll (the lead pastor at mars hill church) and matt chandler (the lead pastor at the village church) both regularly teach for 50 minutes or more. and their churches run in the thousands.
  • even my own college students tell me they are fine with a longer sermon as long as it’s engaging and high quality. i regularly teach for 50+ minutes as well. (although, admittedly, i wonder if the length of my messages has been a roadblock for some students we have lost along the way).

so, what say you? how long do you preach? do you feel there is a “better” sermon length? what role does culture play in our sermon length? i’d love to hear your thoughts.

i feel crappy for feeling crappy // why is it hard to keep perspective?

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every once in awhile, this space is used to help me process and vocalize some of the thoughts running through my head. it makes me feel better to think out loud.

today is one of those days.

the attendance at our gatherings at the Christian Campus House right now are low. and that’s got me feeling…well, you guessed it…pretty low.

it’s frustrating. it’s disheartening. it’s confusing.

  • and it’s hard not to wonder if it’s me.
  • and it’s hard not to think we must be doing something wrong.
  • and it’s hard not to compare our ministry to other ministries on campus.
  • and it’s hard not to feel inferior.
  • and it’s hard to remember that we are more than the sum of our parts.
  • and it’s hard to keep perspective.
  • and it’s hard not to be jealous of what i see going on in other campus ministries.
  • and it’s hard to remember that Jesus changed the world with only 12. and even 1 of those guys bailed.

and i feel crappy for feeling crappy.

because there are some amazing things going on at the campus house.

  • most of our students are completing a 21 Days of Prayer challenge.
  • most of our students are headed to nashville this weekend for our spring break mission trip.
  • most of our students are connected to a communitas group.
  • most of our students are going to haiti in may to love on and serve the least of these.
  • there are five or six students connected to the campus house who are genuinely searching for Christ and the life he offers.
  • five international students are going to nashville with us. (the mission of the mission trip is to build relationships with, and invest in, international students in hopes of sharing the gospel.)
  • two students were baptized into Christ a few weeks ago.

but those aren’t the things i wake up thinking about on wednesday mornings.

why is it so hard to maintain a healthy perspective?
why am i so quick to remember numbers and not so quick to remember impact?
why can’t i transfer what i know in my head to what i know in my heart?

just keeping it real. what are you struggling with today?

for 2012: find your themes

c.s. lewis has said, “every life is comprised of a few themes.”

the founder of twitter, jack dorsey, gives a theme to each of his days. he says themes provide a general direction for each day, but are not over-structured to allow for interruptions and distractions. his themes are:

mondays: management and running the company.
tuesdays: product development.
wednesdays: marketing and communications.
thursdays: developers and partnerships.
fridays: enhancing company culture.
saturdays: recreation.
sundays: reflection and preparation.

(see an interview with dorsey below.)

i think, heading into 2012, this might be a valuable strategy to adopt. themes would serve as a guide for each day, and not a dictator. here are my general themes:

mondays: meetings with students and teaching preparation.
tuesdays: large group meeting preparation.
wednesdays: recreation and family-time (if working on the weekend) or soul care and “dates” with my children (if not working on the weekend).
thursdays: meetings with students.
fridays: ministry administration.
saturdays: recreation and family-time (unless working; see wednesday!)
sundays: worship and rest.

what theme days will you adopt in 2012?