Team Player

Five things I have learned about being a good team player are:

1. You can’t expect others to do what you are unwilling to do yourself. Servant leadership is costly and takes time to establish.

2. Good behaviors are caught more than taught. Don’t talk about teamwork, just do it. Everyday. Every time. Without exception or excuse.

3. Shaming someone into teamwork never works. But if you make working together fun people will want to join in.

4. If you go the extra mile without expecting a return – most people will go out of their way to return the favor. But if you expect a return you rarely get it.

5. Praising the contributions of your team members, even the weakest ones, is the most important thing you can do to promote teamwork. If nurtured correctly your ‘weaker’ coworkers can become invaluable contributors.

Schedules

For years I followed a predictable schedule. I got up every morning at the same time, read my bible, and got ready for work. My morning commute was followed by a full day of work. I would return home, eat dinner, relax and then go to bed. The next day I would repeat the process. I even woke up at the same time on the weekends.

Two years ago that all changed. My hours at work grew longer. My leisure hours were reduced. My commute became longer due to an increase in traffic.  I overbooked and overcomitted my time at work, home and church. My joy and productivity decreased in every area of my life.

I knew something had to change. But it felt impossible. There were to many people who depended on me. There were things I did not feel I could delegate to others. Looking back I realize how foolish this sounds.

God does not need me to accomplish the work of ministry. He can use anyone or no one. I am the one who needs him to work through me. I am blessed to be present when he is at work.

Outwardly, I appeared to be doing fine. I worked with hurting people and continued to care for them. I did not realize my effectiveness was diminishing.

But I was headed toward burnout. I woke up one day depressed, angry and exhausted. I didn’t recognize myself. I honestly didn’t like myself either.

I knew what the problem was. In the midst of caring for others I had forgotten to take time to care for myself. I had forgotten to take time to replenish my soul.

I called out to God and found that he had not moved. He was not angry. He did not scold me about my self sufficient, self inflicted, and ego induced condition. Instead he offered me grace and invited me to experience his rest.

I have taken some practical steps to ensure this happens.

I am scheduling my quiet time earlier in the day. I have blocked out time for physical exercise. When presented with a new ministry opportunity I am asking for time to prayerfully consider whether this is the best use of my time and abilities.

Love and Unity

John 13:35 is a very familiar passage.  It is often paraphrased as “they will know we are Christians by our love.”

Here is the actual quote from the NIV Translation: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It is especially interesting in what it does not say. It does not say:

1. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you live a righteous life.

2. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you build great worship centers, hospitals, orphanages or educational facilities.

3. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you oppose evil.

4. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you support one political party over the other. 

5. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you remove and separate yourself from anyone who doesn’t believe exactly what you believe.

Unfortunately, we sometimes act as if the five statements above are actually correct.  But they are not. 

Why does Jesus place such an emphasis on love and unity among Christians?

1. Because it is an irrefutable evidence of his life impacting ours.

2. Because it is impossible to do it in our own strength.

Story

Everyone has a favorite story. 

For some it’s a picture book or a fairy tale from their childhood.

Or a classic novel or a thriller that you stay up late to see how it ends.

For others their favorite story is a part of their history. A story of how their mom and dad met. Or the dark and stormy night that they were born.

People can find drama and distraction or inspiration and meaning in stories. 

Stories are powerful because of the connection they form between the storyteller and the reader or listener.

 Stories can make us laugh or cry. They can provoke us to action or deep introspection.

Each of us are interested in our own story.  We have invested everything we have into the telling of this story.

Yet God is even more invested in our story than we are. He knows our potential. He knows the role that we were crafted for. 

Good and Bad

I have seen good, decent people do bad things that defy belief. I have also seen bad people do acts of mercy,  charity and kindness. And I am equally surprised. Such is the mystery of life.

I have seen this same dichotomy in my own life.  The same tongue that can praise the Lord can destroy someone else in an instant with a careless and thoughtless word. 

Every day I am confronted with this conflicted human nature.

Every day I am reminded of why I need him to be Lord of my life.

Don’t Tell Me How It Ends

There are two kinds of people in the world.  Those who read ahead for spoilers and who will do anything to avoid spoilers.

I had a friend who would record the late afternoon football game while he was at church leading the music.  He would beg people not to share the result.  He would go home and spend three hours experiencing a game that was live to him, but was already over in real time.

My friend  also knew not to look at the back of the room for those who arrived late.  A high five or ducked heads could tell him the result. 

I have friends who are voracious readers who will read the last page of a novel before buying it.  They want to see if the investment of time is worth it. 

I will not read the last page of a novel first.

However,  I have made one exception for one book. 

I have to warn you that what will follow below is a spoiler.

This is your last chance to stop.

No more warnings.

I have read the last page of the Bible and ….

God wins.

Hopefully none of you are surprised by the result. 

I have also read the Bible from beginning to end and it is a wonderful read. Well worth the effort. 

We don’t know how to pray

We’ve been praying for rain in Texas for quite a while because of drought conditions.

Water restrictions have been in place for a couple of years.

Our lakes water levels are at record lows. 

They had predicted drought conditions for at least two more years. This led us to pray even harder for it to rain. 

And God brought us rain.  Then he brought us even more rain. Even more rain is coming.  This has gone on for weeks with no end in sight. 

I have noticed that our initial gratitude for the answered prayer for rain has quickly turned into complaining. Now it’s to wet.

Now we are constantly mowing the wet fast-growing grass and longing for the sunshine.

Thank goodness we serve a mighty God who is in control and not subject to our whims. 

Sometimes I really don’t know how to pray.  Especially when it involves rain.