Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bucket Fillers

For the past several years my kids have had a encouragement program going in their classrooms called "Bucket Fillers".  The jest is when you encourage someone you "fill their bucket" with kindness and make them better.  When you are a jerk you are essentially poking holes into everyone's bucket.  For more info check out this truly scary kids song called Fill Your Bucket.

If you took the time to check that out, I completely recognize you wasted 2 minutes your life and it's all my fault.  If you made it past 2 minutes, seriously, what is wrong with you?  Oh wait, I probably drained your bucket just there.  I'm such a jerk!

Anyways, I listened to an older Bill Hybels talk this week on operating with a full bucket.  The quote that really hit me from it was:

The best thing you bring to the table every day as a leader is a full bucket.  Full of optimism, full of faith, full of a fresh Spirit from God, full of a grace filled demeanor, full with rock solid confidence in God.  

The main reason your full bucket is your best asset is you can only offer anyone no more than what you have.  I know when I read back through the list of the things a full bucket person has my first thoughts are, "yeah I would love to be around a lot of full people".

I then begin to look at myself and wonder, "at what level is my bucket at?"  Luckily in the talk Hybels prescribes a few practices to achieve and maintain a full bucket.  

1.  Start Your Day Away - He talks about how he would come into the office with leadership books and other to do's surrounding him crying out to be read.  He began to change his scenery, to get to a place where those things were out of view so his time with God could become less distracted.  Change of scenery is something I have done recently and I have to say I'm noticing that my time with God has been a lot richer.  

Hybels said it better than I could "when I get away to listen to God slowly, He speaks more frequently, and I surrender more fully".  This can be a really hard thing to do for some of us with work deadlines, child schedules, homework, housework, walking the dog, sports to watch, etc.  

But if I can only offer what I have I must take the time to change scenery and get away, not just yearly, or monthly, or weekly, but daily.  What good am I when I can offer a half full life into my relationships?  It makes me think of how I went through the drive through the other day and was handed a way less than full soda.  It's like, excuse me, do your job man, fill'er up.  When I go about my day on less than full how many disappointed people do I leave in my path?  

Starting my day away is something I must commit to, not just for my own benefit but so I will also have more to offer people along the way.

2.  Diet and Exercise Dictate Energy - It's pretty obvious that your physical health may be a limiting factor in how you feel personally and what you have to offer others.  Sometimes there are health issues you simply cannot control.  But we can control how much and what we choose to eat and how much we move.  So since I can control it, I need to just do it.

3.  Take Your Days Off - (Warning, it's about to get real up in here so if you can't handle authenticity, you may want to stop reading)  If I could go back to my 20-year-old self I would have tried to learn this lesson back then.  I've always known how to work.  At one point in college I had nine W2's to report at tax time.  I worked several jobs through college, many at the same time and this carried into adulthood and ministry as well.  I often avoided taking time off, feeling guilty or bad for doing so.  

When I was pregnant with our first child I was working a late night youth event, and played basketball with teenagers the night I went into labor.  I was also back to work 2 weeks after having my daughter.  This wasn't out of love for Jesus or students at all.  It was all in an effort to prove "I could do it all."  

I will say that being a woman in ministry, I did place a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself at the time.  At the time there were no "standards for maternity leave prescribed for women in ministry". (I'm so glad there is now).  I really did have the freedom to be "off" but I refused to do so.  I thought I was offering people what they needed by "being there".  I now confess that what I was really offering up was my dirty, nasty, smelly, stinky, PRIDE.  

It wasn't until our second child was born that Chris and I got away for our first real vacation as a couple.  As we drove up to Wisconsin in -17 degree weather we just laughed and joked together all the way there.  Halfway there I realized I was being the person Chris had fallen in love with eight years ago.  That was not the same person who had gotten in the car just two hours earlier.  I remember telling Chris, "I finally feel like me again."  He agreed that I was in a bad place, that I had changed, and he was gracious enough to forgive me and to keep forgiving me for this.  

As Hybels puts it "the work of God is destroying the work of God in me".  It wasn't God's fault.  It wasn't my church's fault.  It wasn't my lead pastor's fault.  It was MY own fault.  I had let pride and "proving myself" win over my relationship with Christ.  I would not have come to that realization if I wouldn't have finally agreed to take time off.  We're given days off by our organizations for a reason, so we don't drain ourselves to the point of empty.  Listen up! (especially moms) Drop the guilt because it's really a cover up for pride.  

4.  Surround Yourself with Bucket Fillers - This is perhaps my favorite.  Just like my kid's class there are bucket fillers and bucket drainers...everywhere.  You don't ignore a person just because they are a bucket drainer but you will need to keep some healthy distance from them in order to keep moving forward and have anything of value to offer others.  Who are the bucket fillers in your life?  Carve out time to be present with them.

The key questions when it comes to evaluating the state of your bucket are:  What do your friends, family, and coworkers experience from being around you these days?  A full bucket?  A leaky bucket?  An empty bucket?

If you are at full, spend time praising God for that, share it with others, do what you can to maintain it.

Maybe you're singing "There's a Hole in My Bucket Dear Liza" (ha, ha now you have that song in your head, cruel, I know, cruel).  Do like the song says "Well fix it, Dear Henry".  Use some of the steps mentioned to get you there.

If you are on empty take immediate action on those four things and if you are still empty then seek the help of a counselor because empty is no way to live.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Striving for Excellence vs. Settling for Average

"The antidote to an average church is to look at the hearts of the leaders." - Cally Parkinson
I've heard it said that the higher the level of the leader the greater responsibility that leader has for their own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  Leaders become more responsible because they generally only reproduce the person they are.  

If a leader is only half heartedly investing in their own soul care they can only expect to produce average results in the areas they lead.  This is true of my leadership as a wife, a parent, and a pastor.
In ministry, I'm stepping into a new role with greater responsibility and I need to take these responsibilities seriously for myself and to those I am leading.  I feel like I have been able to fuel my soul and passion for Christ fairly well up to this point.  

I have genuinely seen God transform my character to become more like Christ over the past two years specifically.  I'm not the same person I was two years ago.  I used to think "you deserve better".  Today I'm generally grateful.  I used to be jealous.  Today I'm generally happy for others accomplishments and blessings.   I used to not see others needs because I was too busy to stop and really care.  Today I notice quite a bit more, although I'm still working this one out, especially at home.  God is continuing to do a transforming work in my heart, mind, and character as I spend time with Him.  

Yet there's always room for improvement, right?  Especially if I desire excellence in the areas I get to lead.  I need to bring it up to a whole new level. I don't want just an average marriage, an average family, an average ministry.  There's too much at stake for me to settle for average.  

I agree that I absolutely cannot expect excellent results if I'm exhibiting an average spiritual life as a leader.  I've got to take some next steps towards excellence in spirit. 
Just yesterday I cut off all games on my phone and am shutting down my facebook in the next few weeks here.  These things are robbing family, friends, and God of my ability to be truly present.  If I continue like this, average is all I can expect.  That's not what I want.  So, I'm done.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When God Says...Shut Up

Shut Up was one of those "no-no" words in my house growing up.  Say it and you would be sure to get the look of death that said "oh no you didn't".  That look was all it took to never desire to say those words ever again.

But there've been a few times that God has had the audacity to speak those very words to me...probably because I left him no choice.

You see there are times when we know God is specifically calling us to start something or to stop something.  And we have all of our excuses to try to block out His voice.

"Start a new ministry" - I can't because I don't have the education, and I can't go back to school, and I can't afford it, and I can't sacrifice my family time, I can't because life is just too busy right now

"Stop being mad at a family member" - I can't because they hurt me too much, I can't because they aren't sorry, I can't because they don't even know what they did, I can't confront them because it will blow up in my face"

"Start inviting your neighbor to church" - I can't because they'll think I'm weird, I can't because we have nothing in common, I can't because we don't even talk"

It's been my experience that if I make excuses long enough, and hear God long enough he will eventually say "just shut up and do it".  Maybe God doesn't talk to you quite so boldly but that's just the kind of relationship that God and I have.  We say it like it is.  That get's me into trouble with others so I've generally learned to hold my tongue, but not with God.  I love that about Him.

One of the most recent "shut up" times with God was when I began reading the book "Leading from the Second Chair".  I came across this quote that rocked my leadership world.  "Building credibility and influence requires putting the prestige of your position aside and picking up the towel of service.  You must commit to serving your entire organization well, each and every day.  Then, and only then, will your peers, subordinates, and senior leader truly allow you to lead from the second chair."  

At the time I knew God was calling me to serve the church in a new way.  And I had all my excuses as to why I could not.  I can't because I'm an introvert.  I can't because no one will actually know what I do.  I can't because I like the spotlight too much.  I can't because it sounds like a lot of work.  I read the quote from the book over and over and over and asked God to give me the ability to say yes and to be excited about it.

I also came across this passage from Phillipians 2 during this time:

You should think in the same way Christ Jesus does.
     6 In his very nature he was God.
    But he did not think that being equal with God was something he should hold on to.
     7 Instead, he made himself nothing.
    He took on the very nature of a servant.
    He was made in human form.
     8 He appeared as a man.
    He came down to the lowest level.
    He obeyed God completely, even though it led to his death.
        In fact, he died on a cross.
In this moment God was saying, look at Jesus.  Do what He did, pick up the towel of service and shut up and serve.  So far, each time I've been willing to shut up with my excuses God has led me to become more like Jesus in humility, more free in who I was created to be, and more likeable because I'm just a better person as a result.  Now if only I could translate that into my home life as well as I do in ministry.  Teaser - that's the blog for next week I guess.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Just Serve

Yesterday it was officially announced that I will be serving as Campus Pastor at BridgeWay Community Church.  I'm really excited for this opportunity to serve the church.  Serve my lead pastor. And serve the community.  

To some this may seem like a sudden kind of thing.  But, for me it's actually been quite a journey.  Every step in this journey I've had one resoundingly clear calling from God.  It's been to "just serve"

I first felt called to ministry the summer before my Sr. year in college.  I was volunteering at a youth camp and after one of the services, everyone had left the building.  As I was walking out I felt God asking me to pray.  I didn't have anything specific to pray for.  So, I just sat down and I could sense God telling me "this is what I want for you".  Not very specific.  Right?  Just - "this".  For me "this" has always been to "just serve".

When I heard of a youth pastor position opening at Eureka Church of the Nazarene I felt compelled to apply.  I am so grateful that they offered me the position.  While there I learned how to serve and to lead.  My fourth year in ministry I attended a workshop where I was introduced to the concept of church planting.  

God again impressed upon me this call to "just serve".  I knew I was to help the church become the best it can be.  After a year of consideration (and probably more arguing with God than I'd like to admit) my husband Chris and I finally took God seriously.  We got connected to BridgeWay Community Church a year old church plant and began to "just serve".

The last 7 years have been full of all kinds of "just serve" moments as I've been able to serve and lead as Pastor of Family Life.  About two years ago Chris and I decided it was time to go through church planter assessment.  The only way to describe this experience is - intense.  The big reason we went through this assessment was we needed to have the question answered, "Are we supposed to plant a church or not?"  

Through that assessment I was able to discover that God has equipped me NOT to plant a church but to "just serve" - shocking right?  Since that is what God's been calling me to do all along. - DUH!

Basically I've found, owning my gifting and calling has allowed my leadership to flourish.  It has humbled me to become more like Christ and serve better.  It has pushed me to strive to learn and get better at everything I do.  It has fueled my passion for church health. And has given me more joy and energy in ministry than ever before.  

All along, I've never felt called to specifically be a youth pastor, a children's pastor, or pastor of family life.  Through this whole entire journey I've been called to "just serve" in whatever capacity I'm given.  

I'm excited about this transition and all of the challenges that come with it.  Most of all I'm excited to live out my calling in a new way and hope to ALWAYS "just serve" well with whatever opportunity I'm allowed in the church, as a wife, as a parent, as a friend.  Because that's what I'm truly called to do.