Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seven Symptoms of the Burnout You Can Avoid

Warnings I ignored.

This post has sat in my computer's memory for days. I do not want to post it. The circumstances it describes are bleak, and thankfully long past for me. However, If I am able to frighten anyone into shifting gears and avoiding what I've experienced, it will be worth it.

Please, this is not a request for sympathy. It is a pathetic admission of an ego gone amuck. Five years ago I believed I had to be the answer to every problem my congregation, my family and my friends experienced. I had what some refer to as a "Messiah Complex." I am seeking to learn to trust in Christ's strength.

In the winter of 2005 and 2006 I was sprinting toward a health crisis which drastically altered my life. In February of 2006, the crash had begun, and by March it was a full-blown catastrophe.

Seven Symptoms of the Burnout I Experienced

1. Intensifying headaches were first symptom I ignored. Everyone has an occasional headache. But during the three years prior to my burnout, mine became more severe and more regular.

2.That winter my fatigue was pronounced. I felt weary and dragged myself through the days. And, unlike the the sleepy days and sleepless nights which accompanied my depression as the burnout kicked-in, I could sleep all night and still need naps throughout the day. I was always tired.

3. Another symptom I missed was the increased caffeine. In order to battle against my body's cries for rest, I self-medicated with coffee, shots of espresso and handfuls of chocolate chips.

4. I began giving myself strange new high-energy pep talks. Once, after finishing an eight mile run, in the middle of a forest I tensed my entire body and shouted a long "Yes!" I began noticing these strange self-urgings-on--more and more--as if I was pleading with myself to be strong and to keep going.

5. I began to lose my appetite for healthy food, and would re-stoke my energy fires with chocolate or yet another espresso. I alternated between forgetting to eat, and gorging on junk food.

6. The darkest part of the journey was when I began to experience the symptom I would later call "cotton head"--a sensation of intense dizziness and feeling faint. The first of these episodes happened in the middle of a sermon. I was teaching and enjoying the morning when it seemed that someone, somehow had pulled my power cord from the wall. It was so sudden, I almost fell to the floor. After sitting for a moment, I finished the message and spent an afternoon in the ER (which would be followed by months of being CAT-scanned and x-rayed and blood-tested and MRI'd).

7. In the two weeks following this first experience of cotton head, I lost twenty pounds and realized I could no longer walk twenty feet without stopping to rest and check my balance. I was experiencing blood sugar swings that would suddenly drop me to a 60 count and put me on my back. My doctor diagnosed stress. Two counselors spoke of a "major depression." A natural healer diagnosed stress induced adrenal burnout. I simply wanted to lay down and go to sleep and not wake up or face anyone anymore...and I am normally one of the most outgoing people you could meet.

Into the Darkness and Back
It was at this time that I sadly realized I had arrived in what became the dark and horrifying tunnel of depression.

Since that time, now five years ago, I have learned a great deal. My life is brighter and I'm less harsh with myself.

So in my next post, I will list symptoms of my recovery. It will be brighter and hopeful. This has been far too dark of a recollection for me. Please feel free to repost it, or to share it with anyone you think might benefit.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quilters of my congregation: Servants Making a Difference

Years ago, a group of women from our congregation began gathering monthly and making quilts. Stitch after stitch, they push needles through fabric and batting until another of their masterpieces is complete and ready for service. Their meetings are loving and intentional: a labor of love.

I'll usually wander through the room where they spread out their tasks--each worker at their own table and own quilt. Some specialize in various parts of the process. They all do their part. They make baby quilts, bunk bed quilts, and occasionally, queen sized quilts.

And I have been present when it is time to box their work. Before they ship them off to some needy destination, they gather and lay their servant hands on the soft material. They pray for the hurting and broken and orphan who will sleep peacefully beneath their blanketing love. Many of these treasures leave our building with fresh tears sanctifying their journey.

Over time the quilting group has grown, as has the list of destinations for their offerings. The globe is dotted with thousands of their deposits. Homes, hospitals, clinics and orphanages are supplied. Children and hurting people from dozens of nations on every continent have received gifts of love from our women. Grateful people receive nightly comfort directly from their hands.

I'm thinking about how works of love--done consistently over years and decades--add up to massive blessing. I'm also thinking of the thousands of prayer blessings that have been carried around the planet by travelers with extra room in their baggage. After a while it seems intentional loving obedience adds up to blessing we are not capable of measuring.

And I'm praying that in my living and serving, I will be able to send out consistent blessings in ways that are beyond my ability to measure. Maybe someday we will be able to see and understand the gift of a single loving act of obedience. Either way, I believe there will be a day when several women from our congregation will hear a "Well done," from the One they have served all of these years.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Runaway Pastor on

My novel, The Runaway Pastor is available online at amazon.

If you have read The Runaway Pastor, I invite you to write a review at the amazon site. It is very helpful to receive these reviews. Although those posted at amazon to date have been very favorable, feel free to register other opinions.

If you are interested in autographed copies, you can contact me at .

Peace to you.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jesus the Gardener: And those who follow

Last night I raced the sunset to a patch of dirt behind our church's community center. I took along this year's first offerings to the soil. Forty minutes later, with light mostly faded, I sprinkled some water across the patch of onion sets I'd planted.

I rose to my feet with satisfaction, and stretched my back and relished the cool patch of mud on the right knee of my blue jeans. I planned the planting of more onions and some snow peas today. The garden season is underway.

Jesus the Gardener
Jesus told a lot of garden stories. He emphasized the importance of the soil to the seed--how it cooperates with sun and rain to work the miracle of growth and reproduction.

I daydreamed while muddying my hands. I thought of scattering more seed in this world--seeds of hope and good news and world change. I despaired at how difficult we make the spreading of God's reign. We create such tedious and cumbersome systems that we sometimes despair of trying.

I like Jesus' idea. He simply scattered seeds as a way of life. He issued "Follow me's," and moved on. He challenged men and women to take his good news wherever they lived.

And that news spread like wildfire. From house to house, town to town and nation to nation they dashed about scattering seeds of hope and life. That challenge seems so much more grand than ours today. We ask people to "believe." Jesus asked them to join a movement.

This reminds me of a friend's favorite quote. "It's a lot easier to get people to join an elephant hunt, than a mouse hunt." I can still hear him say it.

Church Gone Viral
I've planted a few kingdom seeds over time. It's exciting to start a holy fire and watch it grow. I'm not finished with such dreams. Christians are easily bored when not finding ways and places to scatter seeds.

I've mostly tended gardens others have planted--watering and reaping as time and harvest demand. There is joy in this. But I long to share the joy of planting with those with whom I minister. I want to help them get their hands and knees in the mud, and then watch to see what the soil brings.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Nicodemus in us

From his carefully administrated club meeting, Nicodemus left and went exploring. He knew the verdict of the experts. He was on their panel. And their judgement was: Jesus is a troublemaker and needed to be gotten rid of.

The Nicodemus in you and me.
But Nicodemus' heart was not satisfied with their answers. On the one hand, the Pharisees believed Jesus had some tie-in with God. He was, after all, doing miracles and giving profound teaching. But on the other hand, he had really ticked them off by wrecking havoc in the temple courts.

Maybe it was that passion. Maybe it was seeing fire in Jesus' eyes that sent Nicodemus where he should not go. Maybe he wanted fire, and was tired of administration.

Can you relate to Nicodemus? Have you ever grown tired of running your part of the church: your class, your board committee, your group, your task, your tithe? Have you ever wished you were working with fire, rather than having a job to do? I think that is just what Nicodemus was feeling.

Nicodemus didn't however, go down the mountain looking for a fire somewhere else. He didn't raise a stink about his Pharisee teacher or the High Priest/CEO of the Sanhedrin. He didn't gossip about the lack of passion in his committee. He went to the source of the fire he'd seen. The one with the whip and the flashing eyes.

Harsh Words for a Religious Leader
But Jesus makes it kind of tough for Nic. He doesn't take it easy on him and cut him slack. He doesn't teach him with simple words. He speaks poetry to him. Allegory. Analogy. He gives him a brief, yet vitally sincere responses.

"Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God."

And when that doesn't work, he adds, "Unless you are born of God's Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God."

And in these two short statements--he tells the general superintendent, the Bishop, the guy on the Senate committee...he tells him two things:

"You can't see God's work.
you don't know how to be a part of it."

I think the truth of these next words must have weighed heavily on Jesus. "You are on God's elite teaching team....How will God ever communicate his ways to the world, if even you don't understand them?"

Could John 3:16 be only the consolation prize?
(I know I'll get some guff over this.)
Finally Jesus speaks our favorite of his words. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes on him, will have eternal life. For God didn't send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."

These words, it seems to me, are the grand consolation prize. "Sure, if people believe in me, if they look to me in faith, they will live forever."

But that isn't the point! "Nicodemus, I'm looking for kingdom people. I'm looking for people born of the spirit and living in his power. I'm looking for radical apostles who will go into the world and change it by the power of God's Spirit and for the purposes of God's will".

What Would the World Look Like If???
Now, as I write this I'm thinking, the Kingdom (or reign) of God is God's plan to set the world right. To end hunger and hatred. To pull people together beyond all prejudices, to make the rich care about the starving, and the do-nothing system manipulator care about doing his part to care for himself and others. I just believe that Jesus came to prepare a people who would change the way things are done in the world.

But when his people--or at least those of us who borrow his name--stay busy doing stuff to build and enhance the status of our empires, everything turns to waste. Since the motives are selfish and not Jesus-ish, then they turn sour...sour enough to make those who have tasted his power want to puke.

I'm afraid most Christians watch dark headlines with a sinister interest in world-doom, rather than making headlines creating God's Kingdom come.

World Changers Settling for Heaven Only.
It's almost like Jesus is saying: Nicodemus, it is in your DNA to be a world-changer, and you are stuck in your religious thinking! I'm afraid the best I'll be able to offer you and most religious people is eternal life in Heaven, because of course, God didn't send me to condemn the world. But what I need you to be is a wrecking ball to religion, and the very hand of God to bring change to this needy and lost world."

Ready to go exploring?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Choosing fear or trust: approaching life with hope

The sun has come up and a new day has begun. Yesterday's cold rain is nothing but a few puddles along the side of the road. Today's sky is full of bright hope.

Yesterday's work is past and today's is underway. Some of yesterday's questions are answered by today's arrival, and some are as hidden as tomorrow's sunrise.

Hard Lessons
I'm still learning midsts these years of my life. This is one of the lessons I garnered from our time living in Italy last fall: Life is to be approached from an attitude of trust, not fear. These options constantly present themselves. Will I rest in God's provision for my life, or assume that I must handle the stress on my own? That choice makes all the difference. For in those moments, we can choose to approach life with hope.

Far too often, I've approached these challenges as reasons for fear, rather than trust. Like a child who sees the physician as a person to dread...
--I've approached sources of pain as a challenge to my value, rather than a grace of healing.
--I've interpreted failures as explanations of my valuelessness.
--Challenges were not opportunities, but insults!
--Conflict was seen as condemnation, rather than communication.

Trusting or fearing?
Some days--such as that raincloud-covered-yesterday--shade the light of the sun so that I cannot see these opportunities to trust and grow and heal. And on other mornings, when spring's first-birdsong-filled-sunshine is winning the day, I feel like I get it...that perhaps I finally understand.

I guess life's lessons are applied only by intense effort. It's one thing to learn new truth, and another to practice that truth.

Perhaps you might join me in re-assessing how you approach hard things and difficult times? And maybe this beautiful spring season is a good time to begin.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who is Jesus: Who gets to answer this question in our day?

This is the first time I've used this site to solicit sermon insights. Yours are welcomed!

I'm working on a sermon for this weekend. Nicodemus comes to Jesus observing that Jesus must be from God, for no one could do the stuff Jesus is doing if God weren't with him.

I'm thinking of the many ways that people come to explore the person of Jesus today. How would they begin their exploration? To whom would they turn?

I'm also wondering about the responses people get to their questions about Jesus.

Any comments?

Monday, March 14, 2011

I dare you to pray!

I dare you to pray! I dare you to become new!

I invite you to quiet your mind right now and pray.

Who says you can't reclaim the next two minutes of your life--take them back for yourself and your Rescuer--and...
...Seek Jesus as your highest Treasure.

...Say a thanks.

...Speak a praise.

...Whisper an "I love you" to your maker.

...Be still and know God's presence in and around you.

...Ask for help and safety for our neighbors in Japan whom you've never met.

...Plead for peace in the Middle East.

...Desire a renewed awareness of God's Spirit in your life.

Take two minutes to pray five times a day, and you are ten minutes into a new way of living!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Running low on winter fuel

I thought we had plenty of wood for heating this winter. I assumed we'd have three or four ricks of firewood to carry over to next fall and winter.* But we are running low on winter fuel.

As the winter goes away, the cool nights remain. And the high efficiency wood stove, which heats our home, is still burning an armload or so each day. Those armloads, and their purchase price and the stacking and the burning are the price paid to save money by not using a furnace. They are also the price you pay for smelling the fire and watching its dance throughout the long winter months.

And so tonight as we sit quietly in our cabin--Shelly knitting and me blogging ever so poorly--the stove ticks and envelopes us in its comforting warmth. And as the flames flicker behind the glass on the stove door, I think again that I just can't get enough of living in the woods, and near the land.

My garden books are sitting next to me asking for attention now. So instead of continuing this obligatory post in my thirty day challenge, I think I'll go to them, and leave you to better surfing and reading.

*For you city slickers, a "rick" is two foot long logs, or shorter, stacked four feet high, and eight feet long. At least that's the Brown County, Indiana definition. It is also a half of a cord.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

It's Saturday: Your pastor has you on their mind, and Satan in their face

It is Saturday. I trust you have prayed for your pastor today, whoever he or she is.

The Need
Tomorrow I'll teach about Jesus being tested in the wilderness. Jesus was tried. He was tempted. This time was not easy for him. This was not a test he had studied for and could just breeze through. It required that he fast, pray and know scripture. Jesus struggled.

If you believe, as I do, that their is a devil who is the enemy of your soul, then what do you think that devil is to those responsible for dozens, hundreds or thousands of souls? He hates pastors, and tests and tries them.

This post is just to remind you that your pastor has probably struggled today. Whoever they are, whatever they spent their day doing, today they had you on their minds and Satan in their face. Today, no matter how they visibly spent their day, they struggled in prayer.

The Opportunity
And so, just as does every Saturday, today offers you a chance to go to prayer for your pastor. Struggle a bit for them. They are struggling for you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Praying for the World and Playing with Mr. Potato Head

I often wonder how to pray for the world on a day like today.

I woke with my granddaughter's face against mine, my wife having brought her in to surprise me. After coming downstairs, I got news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, while playing Mr. Potato Head. I followed the news with concern off and on during the morning, and again this evening. In between I raked leaves in our yard, went to a meeting, scheduled another, then had coffee and ran errands with my wife.

The World Moves On
I remember the day of my father's death, and those which followed. As I traveled the streets of our town, I wondered why the traffic lights were switching from green to red? Why were people out and about? Why did the TV work, and radio broadcasts continue?

Didn't anyone else realize the world had come to an end?

Today felt similar. I knew in my head and heart that in Libya, there is a terrible price being paid by freedom fighters, and in Saudi Arabia protesters are being thwarted by police. I knew that in Japan untold devastation had been unleashed by nature, and Hawaii and other islands, as well as the west coasts of the Americas, could only watch and wait.

But I was playing Mr. Potato Head with my Granddaughter.

World Citizens in the Age of Satellite Communications
What does it look like to love our neighbors? How do we know when to grieve, and when to carry-on? When is my neighbor deserving of my stopping to pray for them?

In these days when the news of disaster outpaces a five-hundred-mile-per-hour wave sprinting across the ocean, it is sometimes hard to know when to act; and when to act as if nothing has happened.

Loving the World While Living in It
So today I prayed for the world. I prayed for those who face trials and suffering, and for the dying. I prayed for those who care for them. I prayed for the church--its leaders and people. I prayed my family members and theirs. I prayed for those I minister to, and those whom I have in the past. In fact this list is only beginning.

And I didn't labor over all of these people. I didn't have to define exactly how the water needed to recede, or when the shaking should stop or just how the people should flee. I spoke the names of people or locations while in the presence of my God. Then, I trusted the Mighty One with the rest.

And these prayers did not require my entire day. I simply stepped aside from people and activity in the morning, at noon and this evening and read (yes read) my prayers, scriptures and Psalms. I'll do so again at bedtime. Maybe an hour for the day. But a rhythm I can settle into and find life within.

I'm thankful to my spiritual director: Sister Mildred. She is the one who put my nose to the grindstone of prayer. She is the one who required me to have "an order." Due to her direction, I found a prayer book that fits my tradition, and now I "pray the hours."

And I pray for the world, while I continue to live in it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ash Wednesday: The surprising difficulty

Last night was one of surprising difficulty.

Death Vigils
There have been times in my life, because I am a pastor, that I have been pushed way beyond my comfort level. I'm not worthy the honor of these hallowed moments. Such as being with dear friends as one hears how many months they have left to live. Or with parents watching their child die after an accident. Or praying with dozens of people as they lived their last hour.

The Words Weren't What Tripped Me
As I prepared for my first real Ash Wednesday--that is to say, one where I imposed ashes to foreheads--I thought about and prayed for many aspects of the service. I prepared the ash and olive oil mixture. Our team planned the songs, scripture readings and the order of service. I got a bowl to hold the ashes, and decided where and how I would impose them.

I found the words which are to be spoken while smearing the mixture on foreheads in the shape of a cross. "Dust you are--And to dust you will return." I wrote them in large letters on a piece of card stock, and placed it at the altar where I'd be able to read it if I got lost.

It Was the People I Love, and To Whom I Spoke Them
The problem first showed up when I told my children about the words: "Dust you are--And to dust you will return." The phrase stuck in my throat. It choked tears from my soul. How would I be able to mark them with the black muddy smudge, and tell them they would die?

And so the service came, and I looked into more than a hundred and twenty sets of eyes and told them they were going to die. I wept while telling these dear friends this hard truth. I sobbed when marking and speaking impending death to my children. I watched mothers eyeing me sadly, as I spoke to their young children--mothers who understood they could do nothing to change the reality of which I spoke. And I knelt, as a friend marked my head, and told me that I would be dust again someday.

I have lived and benefitted from the season of lent many times. I have never begun in such a low place. This is appropriate.

It amazed me that so many people thanked us for doing this service. So many spoke of the power of the symbol and the words. Several even said "Thank-you" to me through their tears, as they left the altar.

And I realized in a deeper sense than ever: I am a shepherd of mortals. I am a pastor of souls who are eternal. And they want nothing less of me, than that I would speak the truth to them. Even when it makes me shudder.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Pilgrimage to the Cross Begins

Last night passed into this day midst a driving rain. The fast is on, and nature weeps with us. Our weeping, let us remember, provides to us what is most lacking. Just as the rains offer our summer-fall parched earth restoration of the life it needs.

Today we begin the pilgrimage to the cross and beyond. No mere Easter-clothes-shopping for those who choose this journey. These are days of repentance. These are days of asking for Christ's reign in our hearts, rather than our own.

O, how reluctantly we release the rule of "our" kingdom.

Humbling, Stunning Introduction
Tonight, I will bow before my fellow journeyers and pray. I will hear the words spoken to me: "Dust you are. And to dust you will return." Then I will speak them to my dearest friends in the world.

I don't like those words. They threaten me. I want to continue believing my flesh is immortal. But it is not.

I need this season of humility. I need this painful grace. Today I stand in the place I do each year...I don't understand well the gift of these days. But if my history is reliable, I will hurt and miss conveniences along a path into new life and strength. I will reach Good Friday, ready to admit my complicity in Jesus' dying.

We Do This Together
In ancient times, when armies were approaching Jerusalem, or when locusts had stolen their crops; when the young people of Israel had been taken captive to foreign lands, and God's people found themselves living as pagans--slaves to their own passions and refusing justice to the poor; a trumpet would sound, and the people would gather. They would declare a fast. They would sprinkle ashes on their heads to publicly testify to their need of repentance, and their desire for God's rescue and reign.

Surely today, where we live and where we lack God's evident presence, surely we can agree we need rescue! We do not approach Calvary alone, we come together and confess, fast and plead with God for his intervention in our living. We pray for our native countries. But first we pray for his church--his people everywhere!

We need renewal.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why Lenten Fasts? The problem of "Fat Everyday"

Dark are our thoughts about self-denial. Disappointing oneself on purpose? Why would one deny themselves of what is theirs to take and enjoy?

Pleasing Yourself: The Lie
Where I live, there are billboards with pictures of food. On my TV there are reality shows about destroying others in order to get what you can get; and movies featuring violence against neighbor and desire after one who is not your own. Everywhere there are voices of greed, lust, divisiveness and complaint.

And then midst every moment of every day, news broadcasts are airing our failures. Reporters-turned-editorialists wag fingers at those who have bought into the lie that says, "Deny yourself no pleasure, no profit, no revenge."

Because of our wealth, we are losing our morals; we have lost our once lofty expectations of ourselves...and of one another.

Fat Tuesday or Fat Everyday?
In older times, Lenten self-denial was not necessarily one's own choice. In some places, the religious culture dictated that you would fast--sometimes severely--for forty long days. Remember, these were times when luxuries like sugar, or cakes or chocolate were rare in most lives.

The natural response was to have one last splurge before the dark days of pleasure-lacking. Eventually, the day before lent (which begins with Ash Wednesday) became known as Fat Tuesday. On that day, people took license to eat, drink and be merry without restraint.

In our days, for many of us, there is never a time when we can't afford luxuries for ourselves. Fat Tuesday has become "Fat Everyday." We never lack. And we are honestly offended when someone suggests that a forty day period of self-denial might be good for us. A day without dessert? Surely not!

Fear of Empty Places
And as a result, we have become shallow. Profoundly so. We deeply fear ourselves. That is why we must have noise, people, hustle and bustle happening around us. We fear the void around us when we disconnect from our luxuries. The silence is deafening. The empty stomach makes us sick. The loneliness feels final!

Why Lenten Fasts? Because they help us listen. They draw us to the holy. They force our attention on our selfish places. I plead with you, and myself this day. Do not fear.

Don't fear self-denial. Don't fear the desert. Don't fear the vast universe where we live. Don't fear the God who will meet you, if you will only listen for a while.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Lenten Re-read of the Year

As we approach the beginning of the season of Lent, I want to link an article which still speaks volumes to me. Please read the article linked here. It truly speaks to me, and I believe it will you.

Peace to you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dealing with Failure

In mid February, just as I was facing three of the busiest weeks of my winter, I made a crazy promise to myself. I decided to write something here for thirty straight days. And I began.

There were a few decent posts. There were several days when there was little inspiration, but I wrote anyway. It was an exercise I'd been encouraged to try, and so having made the promise, and I kept going.

A few days ago, I passed the halfway point, and having overcome a few fairly formidable obstacles to get there, I was pretty sure I'd make it. That was until I didn't.

The Weekend
On Thursday, I drove five hours north and began an intensive three days. We finished the first night just before midnight. But I managed to get the post out during dinner hour.

Friday was a twenty hour work day. We finished at two AM Saturday Morning. However, during a brief break in the afternoon, I tapped in a couple of short paragraphs, and fulfilled my duty...poorly.

Good place for a question. Is a thirty day writing exercise truly beneficial if you are writing drivel? Not sure. But write I did. Thus, through Friday the string was intact.

Yesterday morning, after four hours of sleep, I moved with passion into the final, and most important morning of the event I was working. A lifetime of commitment to ministry, trumped a thirty day commitment to write.

Doing ministry over the weekend became my sole, and my soul focus. Fifty hours after arriving at the event site, I got in my car and headed for home. And then I began to refocus on today's ministry.

As I drove home through a heavy snow, I prayed and talked through my Sunday message and some logistics of the today's service with my wife. I made a few phone calls, and even pulled the car into an internet hot spot where my wife could email a file to someone standing by at the church.

When I got home, I took a turn at vacuuming the last of some water from the basement floor, then schlepped my bag upstairs, pulled out my prayer book and finished the day. Sleep hit me like a long longed-for embrace and the night flew by in sweet rest.

Saturday had passed, and no post was sent, nor was one thought of.

And today, my thirty day goal is toast. My writing is most likely the same as it was in mid-February when I began this journey. But the calling I promised myself to when I was a teenaged boy is still intact.

When we fail at something in life, what should we do you? Quit? Claim that we indeed are failures? I don't think so. When failures come in life, they are not final, unless you choose to quit.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weary Wonders

My eyes are a bit heavy. My heart is light.

Nine gifted and enthusiastic couples have poured their hearts into worship planning, group exercises, interviews, counseling appointments, simulated planting situations and entrusting themselves to God's future. These are incredibly talented and experienced families ready to go and work for a dime on the dollar of their marketable value.

And now we are 3 & 1/2 hours into our team assessment. And halfway done. And it is 11:30 PM. Lovin' it!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ministry Leaders and Seekers

This morning, Shelly and I packed our bag and drove five hours north. Beginning in an hour, I will meet with nine couples who are considering a very significant change of direction in their lives of service. My job, along with five other assessors, is to help them discern what is best and what is next.

This is a weighty responsibility and I would be grateful for your prayers.

The Team
It was so exciting to be in the room as my fellow assessors arrived. Most of us are acquainted and have worked together before in various ways. This is a group committed to the nine couples whom we will serve over the next forty-eight hours. The passion and enthusiasm in the room was catching.

From previous experience, over the next couple of days I can expect to witness laughter, tears, frustration, joy and about everything in between. In the years ahead, I can expect to hear of kingdom breakthroughs made by those with whom we will begin working tonight.

Church Leadership
There are few groups I've had the privilege of being with who are more enthusiastic than a group of pastors and church leaders. I'm encouraged already. And we've only had our orientation meeting.

In a sense, whenever we gather, all of us are looking for direction and encouragement. And when we gather in our Lord's presence, as has already begun next to this frozen lake in Southern Michigan, such help is always available.

Peace to you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Some Thoughts from The Runaway Pastor

Thirty Day Posting Challenged May Be Challenged
I'm a bit past the halfway point of posting on my blog for thirty days straight. Tomorrow I am traveling to MIchigan to participate in a New Church Specialties Church Planter's Assessment Center. Say that five times, fast.

I'm not sure whether we will have internet at that location. I know I won't have much time to write. However, a commitment is a commitment! So I will write daily and post if able. If I'm without service, I'll upload my posts when I arrive back home Saturday evening.

Infrequent Advertisement
Here are some ways you can help me at this blog:
1.) If you have not already, you can sign on as a "follower."
2.) You can sign-up to the "feed" services which will send you an email anytime a new post is put up on The Runaway Pastor.
3.) You can comment here, at the blog, rather than on facebook or via email. (I love to hear your comments any place to record them, but it just creates more of a community if you post comments here.)
4.) You can click a response at the bottom of each post. This is simple, but shows some more interest in the site.
5.) When there is a post that you especially like or think is important, you can always click on the "Share this on Facebook," button toward the top on the right side. And, if you are a Twit/Tweeter, you can "Tweet this" in the same location.

Surprising Following
Although I don't check the following as often as I used to, this blog is growing in its readership. There are regular hits from more than twenty countries. Following a recent post with international implications, I had over one hundred and seventy-five "hits" from a single country in Europe.

Thank you for coming by here, and for letting your friends know when I say something you think they'd like. Of course, I receive no remuneration for this writing. It is simply a place I can practice, or at least make some cyber-noise. And now and then, I mention my novel.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Today's Slavery, Sex Trafficking and You

"Once a young teen is bought and paid for, they are drugged and made addicts. Then, they can be forced to do as their owner wants. Pictures of their sister or parents from back home are used to threaten them. 'You smile and act like you enjoy it all, or we can get to your family.'"

Last week I had the chance to spend an hour with a friend who as a public official works against human trafficking--read: SLAVERY--in the USA. I was appalled.

Slavery in Our Times and Our Cities
"A girl can be bought for ninety bucks," he said to me. He was being glib to emphasize how common the practice. I thought he meant that a "john" can rent a girl for that. He meant that slave owners can buy girls for that, and rent them three to five thousand times per year until they are "used up." And then they are "granted their freedom, the kind of freedom known to an addict with no way to survive anywhere but on the streets."

Yes, after they are purchased, they are made dependent on drugs, and then forced into the sex the tens of thousands they are enslaved right now, here in North America. How?

Prostitution Texas Style
One means of exploitation is prostitution. I was told of Cantinas in Texas where 12-18 year-old girls are "rented" ten to fifteen times per night. "They are beaten if they don't make a thousand dollars each day."

At the bar, a beer is $3. But if you buy a beer for one of the girls, a beer is $14. And once you buy 3 or more, you have earned some time with her. You see, prostitution is illegal in Texas. But buying beer for an underaged date, is evidently doable.

By now I was sick to my stomach.

Pornography is legal. Prostitution is not. "So," my friend asked, "define prostitution for me."

"Sex for money," I answered.

"Right! However," he said, "if your owner gets paid for pictures of you in the act, or if you spend time with a 'john' with live cameras on the internet for money, it's just pornography. And pornography is what drives customers to the human sex trafficking salesmen! Brain wave scans of people who are high on drugs are identical to those of people watching pornography. It is an addiction. As long as pornography is permitted, these children will be bought/sold/exploited."

Middle Class Neighborhood Cells
And then the story got even uglier. "Do you know how easy it is to hide a few teenage girls in a middle class home?" he asked. "The girls are set up in a basement room with a computer and a camera. The door locks from the outside of the room. They chat with "johns" for money. Their owners feed them, buy them drugs and sexy clothes. The teenage girls do their acting for survival."

Human Trafficking
"When you can buy a 12-15 year-old for $90 bucks, you can make a lot of money off of them. And three years later, when they are used-up, you just emancipate them. And that is what slavery is all about...profits for the slaveowner."

My wife has been involved with human trafficking prevention at her workplace for a year or so now. I've appreciated it, but not understood it this well. I hope this painful post will make you more aware of a deplorable and inhumane practice.

And if you have a secret pornography addiction, remember you are exploiting real people. Your habit is not without its victims. And, you are more than likely complicit with human slave trading.