Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lesson in Leadership from a Bike Trip

Last week five Anchorage area clergy (Jon Disburg, Jim Doepken, Ron Myers, Tom Holslag, and myself) pedaled 25 miles on a gorgeous sunny day. I wanted to emphasize fitness and enjoy a day outside with colleagues. It didn't take long for me to compare this event to our journey with Christ. For most of the ride I was at the rear which was what I preferred. I was not interested in averaging 12 miles per hour which was our pace after the first 30 minutes.

As I meandered the twists of the coastal trail and entered into a time of prayer I discovered that I could not ride quickly. What is it about the spiritual life that it blends well with all things slow? I knew the group would eventually stop and wait for me. At one point I wondered if they would wait when I was stopped on the trail by a mother moose and her calf. There was nothing to do but wait with other travelers until they would let us pass.

After a much needed lunch break we headed back to Anchor Park. Once again I was at the back of the pack and out of sight from the group. Maybe they were trying to ditch me! Here is the leadership lesson I gleaned. If you are leading others it is a good idea to stop or slow down and look back to see if your followers are still following you! I did not know the way back to Anchor Park and was left to my own devices to figure it out. I wasn't worried or bothered but it would have been nice to have someone who knew the path to tell me which way to go.

In our churches do our leaders ever think to stop and look back? Maybe the role of a straggler is a reminder from God to the group to slow down the pace. Maybe someone needs to be paired with those riding at a slower pace. Maybe the leaders are moving too fast. Who said, "We don't get there until we all get there?"

Here's hoping you all are engaging in the art of asking good questions as we ride on the path of discipleship. Thanks to Jon, Jim, Ron, and Tom for a great experience and a couple of important lessons.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beauty in the Rocky Places

I haven't been able to play much golf this summer. Last week I played my first time at an Anchorage course with my sons. It was a gorgeous day and a course full of golfers. At one point the marshal drove by and told us to speed up. Immediately afterwards I spotted a large rock outcropping with some wildflowers growing. Should I ignore the urge I felt to stop and appreciate the beauty? Or should I listen to the marshal and keep going?

Here's the answer.

Are you experiencing some rocky times in your life? Is it hard to see the beauty growing in difficult soil? May God help us to slow down to really look at the amazing beauty even when we are tempted to see only the rocks, even when we are told to speed up through life.

P.S. I am reading a new book by Bob Farr called Renovate Or Die. My plan for August is to share parts of it with you in this blog. I think it will challenge and stimulate us all.

Grace Always,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hospitality Opportunity Missed

I have served as one of your three UM representatives on the board of Alaska Children's Services for about ten years now. It is an amazing agency with 200 employees dedicated to the mission of helping troubled children and youth find healing and wholeness. We welcome Denis McCarville as our new CEO after Jim Maley's retirement.

Every July 9 which is Alaska Flag Day we host a party at our Jesse Lee campus. For 20 years the price for admission has been $5 for unlimited food, ice cream, party booths, and live music. At the end of the event I was talking with another board member and I was lamenting the fact that I did not invite several of my neighbors to the party. The family next door has two young kids and no church family. The couple across the street moved here from Japan and doesn't know many people. Why didn't I invite them?

You know where I am going. We do the same thing when it comes to inviting our neighbors to church. We don't think about it until afterwards. The good news is that we can change to a culture of invitation. We can remind one another Sunday after Sunday that it is our privilege and responsibility to invite others to the Lord's table. We can create an environment of radical hospitality in our churches so we are thinking more and more about who we can invite to church.

We can do better. I can do better. In fact right now I am going to write a note in my calendar next June to remind me to invite my neighbors to the ACS Flag Day party. Until then I hope to be a better neighbor and witness for Christ to them.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Emotional Preparedness

Have you given thought to how you would respond to a crisis in your life?  I am thinking about an event that might upset your inner peace that comes with knowing Christ as Lord and Savior.  This past weekend something happened to me.

I was with my Aaron, my son-in-law, and his father riding mini bikes on a trail near Willow.  I had strapped a new can of pepper spray to the bike.  Suddenly, there was an explosion in my face with immediate burning in my eyes, nose, and mouth.  I find it interesting the very first thoughts that enter peoples' minds when something like this happens.  My first thought was that maybe someone had planted an IED on the trail!  Ridiculous, I know.  Then with the burning eyes I realized it was the pepper spray.  I dropped the bike and blindly stumbled around trying to figure out what to do.  Earl was the first to arrive and said I was acting as if drunk.  I tried to talk to explain what had happened but the chemical was restricting my mouth.  I stumbled to a river and practically jumped in seeking relief from the searing pain.

I was able to get some sight out of one eye to ride back to our cabin where I got some first aid.  Eventually I recovered and have no side effects, although I may use it to explain any future memory lapses!

It was a test, a small one, for me.  I can say that my inner peace was not touched during this episode.  There was no panic or deep fear to that place in my life I have given to God.  I may not have similar results when the stakes are much greater than chemicals splashed in my face.  I do not know if one can fully prepare emotionally or spiritually for future crises.  But I do want to thank God that the peace that passes all understanding was present in my life even when presented with a small test.

Grace Always,