Back in Minnesota! Now A Question that Shapes Everything…

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Well, we arrived back in Minnesota on Monday night and are still getting unpacked. It’s weird since we’ve never been away that long. And when you return, you know that God did some stuff in you and you can’t help but feel different while lots here is the same. It can be like an out of body experience in some ways. But I’m sure we’ll adjust — I think the challenge is wanting to hold onto what you learned and how you grew and yet incorporate that into “real” life. That will be our pursuit for sure. We are already assessing how we can simplify life and it’s very freeing. I am a little nervous but also excited to be back teaching and preaching this weekend. I have definitely missed interacting with the great people at Grace! Well that’s my personal update and emotion — but here’s a spiritual question I’ve been wrestling a lot with that I think could be incredibly helpful for you…

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Sabbatical Reflections #10: Coming Home

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We are on the final leg of our sabbatical world tour (okay just 5 places in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina–mostly in Florida). We are currently visiting with Lisa’s parents in The Villages (about 2 hours north of where we were) and beginning the trek home to MN. We will leave Saturday morning and begin the several day process of traveling close to 30 hours! It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience and our girls are at the perfect age for this experience. More than anything else our family bonded like never before and I believe it will continue paying dividends for years to come. I, of course, didn’t have all the time I was hoping to devote to writing the book, studying for upcoming sermons and just being with the Lord – but I think I had exactly the kind of time God wanted me to have! I don’t regret any of it and feel like I grew significantly as a person, a dad, a leader and a pastor. But whether it’s truly growth won’t be seen until we’re back.

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Sabbatical Reflections #9: Noisy Souls

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The past few days have been enjoyable – learning a lot but also becoming more and more aware of how short our remaining time is. It sounds weird for me to say that, because we’ve had so much time here – this is such a unique situation because it’s much longer than a vacation would ever be but we didn’t “move” here… we are returning. So we’ve long passed “vacation mode” but I don’t know what “mode” we’re in right now — but the thought on all of us is: “we’re going back soon!” It’s particularly weird for me, because I tend to be a “driver” yet one of the main purposes of this sabbatical is for me to NOT drive, but to rest, refresh, recalibrate. And so while there are a few things I was personally hoping to “accomplish” I am trying hard to not put that pressure on myself, but if you’re a driver, you know how hard that can be. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been resting a lot, enjoying the family and making my schedule as it comes, I think it’s the calendar that makes me a little anxious as I look at a few “unrealized” goals and limited time. That will lead us in nicely to what I want to talk with you about today. But before I get there a quick family update…

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Sabbatical Reflections #8: Keep It Simple

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So we’ve passed the halfway point in the sabbatical which is creating several emotions in us. There’s an excitement to go back, to see friends, get back to “normal” life and serve God at church. To be honest there’s a little “panic” – how are we going to do this? how do we re-engage after we’ve become so used to this way of life? And then there’s a little reflecting and planning and it’s this third response that I want to talk with you a little about. Where we’re at today is beginning to think about returning to life and asking, what can and do we want to do and be differently as a result of this dedicated time on sabbatical?

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Sabbatical Reflections #7: Deposits & Withdrawals

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This is completely fascinating to have time to actually focus on who I am as a person, a pastor and leader. Last week was full of meetings with several pastors, an old mentor/friend from NJ (who’s 84!) and a counselor. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, praying and enjoying the family. God has given Lisa and I 3 really amazing girls and I am truly grateful! It’s nice to attend church, to worship and to sit under the teaching of God’s Word. This is actually our first full week in one place! We’ve always been driving up to South Carolina, Atlanta, Orlando etc – I am guessing that all together so far we have spent over 52 hours in the car!! My kids have been amazing, but it’s been A LOT! I am grateful to have this full week to establish some rhythms and keep growing. I definitely have been developing rhythms on the other weeks, but this is a full week to experiment with it. Ok, onto to today’s learnings…

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Sabbatical Reflections #6: Letting God

So it’s really been these past few days that I’m really starting to get into it here on sabbatical. What I mean is when you are involved in a fast paced, full on, integrated type role like a lead pastor, it takes a little while to decompress and get out of the normal “mode”. Add to that some great meetings with area pastors, biblical counselor, old friends etc and now you’ve got some movement happening. More on that in a second. But on the “what have you been doing topic” – our family and I drove up to South Carolina to attend a party for my sister’s wedding, visited Passion City Church in Atlanta and saw some old friends who now live in Atlanta. It was great to see lots of family I haven’t seen in many years, obviously awesome to spend time with my parents and then a great church and great friends capped off a great long weekend. It was a ton of driving though (21 hours total! – ugh!) So we got back Monday night here in Venice, FL and I’ve been meeting with folks each day since I’m back. No work on my book this week yet, oh well.

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Sabbatical Reflections #5

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So today, I’m thinking and praying for the church. I actually sat on the beach this morning reflecting on God’s faithfulness as each wave came in. It’s amazing how nature points to God’s character continually. We all need to reflect on the natural beauty around us more, whether it be the sun reflecting off a new fallen snow, or the ocean waves forming differently yet continually.

Back to the church — having visited a few churches down here and stepping away from my normal duties as a leader and communicator at the church – I’ve had this question – what are we trying to do? I mean at the end of the day, what’s the purpose of the church? I think if we’re not careful we could allow it to become events we attend or a weekly service we show up at and miss what God is hoping to do through His church. It’s about our growth, it’s about connecting with people and it’s about creating an environment where people can come to know Jesus. All of this to bring God glory and live out the values of His kingdom. The services and events are very important but they are merely tools, environments where the real work happens. God transforms hearts as we humbly receive His Word. And His Word comes from the public teaching but also through the casual conversations, the growth group discussions and the hallway prayer times. It is incredibly challenging to trust God and to live according to His Word in the midst of the culture we find ourselves in. The church is needed more than ever before in history – but it’s effectiveness and impact is really more dependent on the hearts, mindset and humility of the people who comprise it.

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Sabbatical Reflections #4

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We are finally getting settled into our “Florida house” and beginning our sabbatical “rhythm”. I enjoyed some great time with the Lord this morning and part of that was spent praying for you! Last week, we took our family up to Orlando for a quick mini-vacation at Universal Studios. It was so much fun and so good for our family to have some of that bounding time. And it’s that experience that I’d like to offer some reflection today…

Universal Studios is all about the movies and it’s about creating experiences and building a “show”. As someone who also is involved in public communication and building experiences, I was very interested in observe what they did and how they did it. (I know, I can’t turn it off, can I?!) What was fascinating to me was to see people building fake experiences without heart. Don’t get me wrong, they were done with excellence, humor and utilized technology, video, sight, sound, smell, temperature etc to craft something amazing. They had audience involvement and had worked hard to perfect their craft. My kids were engaged and excited to be a part of it all, as was Lisa and I. So I have nothing but positive to share on that level. But it showed me the difference between entertainment and engagement. Maybe “engagement” isn’t the right word, but they weren’t trying to take us anywhere, there was no goal beyond our simple enjoyment.

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Sabbatical Reflections #3

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So I went to a different church this past Sunday. It’s always weird when you’re a pastor to go to a different church, mainly because it’s hard to turn off “evaluation mode”. You tend to look at everything through the lenses of “what can I learn/ what could we do differently because of this? Etc” and “what I would do differently if I were in charge?” The downside is sometimes you don’t get to hear from God, it’s not that God isn’t speaking, but I sometimes I miss it because of that “evaluation mode”. I am grateful that didn’t happen this week. Sure there were a few things I learned and a few things I would do differently but I was able to hear from God and get something out of the sermon. It was about leadership and particularly leadership at home.

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Sabbatical Reflections #2

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Well after about 30 hours in the car we are finally here in Florida. The weather is in the high 60’s-low 70’s and the pace is little slower. This past Friday I had my first chance to get some time by myself. I am realizing how much my pace has gotten a little ahead of me and left some things undone. I spent a lot of Friday developing a new system of organization and beginning the long process of going through the pile of things that have accumulated over the last few years. And I learned something – we live in an age where it’s not about needing information it’s about organizing information and making sense of it. We don’t lack for information, in fact we have much more information than we could ever digest! Our challenge is learning to discern what information we need to pay attention to. Many of us never do this and so we pay attention to what is in front of us or what is placed in front of us. The problem with this is we don’t typically choose what to pay attention to – it’s chosen for us. We are bombarded with information on the internet trying to get our attention. Advertisers are paid big bucks to find ways to gain our audience. How do we do know what is good for us and what isn’t? How do we know which information actually is looking out for our best and what information is someone trying to sell us?

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