Saturday, March 3, 2012

Best Laid Plans

Every now and again, I am reminded of how terrible I am at making plans.  I put forth a lot of thought and effort into planning so things go just right, yet I still find myself wondering why things aren't going according to plan.  How has all my work gone awry?

Well, I find a lot of the time this happens because I don't include enough people in the process of making the plans.  When I get to the point where I lay out the plan, there usually ends up being a conflict I didn't foresee.  Even in the times when a lot of people are included, we each tend to work on our own part of the plan and not see how it fits with the other parts until later on in the process.  I'm not entirely sure why this happens.  Maybe pride or an attempt at expressing individuality?  Whatever it is, it can certainly be frustrating.

Obviously, we can't involve everyone in the process of every plan we make.  We can, however, involve a number of people who work collaboratively throughout a project instead of towards the middle or end.  To quote one of my favorite sources of nuggets of wisdom: "Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers, they succeed." -Proverbs 15:22

Not only is the planning process so much easier when I don't try to take all of the burden on myself, but I find that the plans tend to work out much better when they are made by more than just me.  I hope that I can keep this in mind as I continue to grow both as a person of faith and as a priest.  As much as I may like to think of myself as being capable of performing any task set before me, I think that, the more I mature, the more I realize how incapable I am of doing things on my own.  Asking for help and advice is not a sign of weakness or incompetence.  Instead, it is a sign of growth (previous and continued).  To assume that we do not need help is to assume that we are already perfect.  I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to make that claim.

Friday, March 2, 2012


I always enjoy when I get a chance to spend time with my family.  Invariably, there is lots of laughter to be had.  I've already posted about laughter, so I won't go into that again.  What I will say, however, is that there is something about my family dynamic that just makes laughter so much more likely to happen.  Perhaps it lies somewhere in the fact that we all like to tell stories (usually about absurd occurrences we have come across).

Another reason I enjoy spending time with my family is that there's simply something to be said about the sense of familiarity that makes one feel at ease.  It comes as no surprise to me that the words "family" and "familiar" are so closely related (pun intended).

The more I think about how great it is to spend time with my family, the more I realize how often we use familial language outside of our biological families.  How often have you heard people say someone is like mother or father to them?  How many times have you heard people referred to as our brothers and sisters, especially in church settings.  So many churches identify themselves as families.  I cannot help but think how interesting this all is.

I consider myself extremely blessed to have a family that I truly enjoy being with.  This is sadly not the case for many people.  While the idea of church being a family works out pretty well for me, I can see how it might cause others to shy away.  If a person's concept of family is negative, however, why would they want to experience that part of their life elsewhere?  The easy route is to say that the church could be a surrogate family, taking over where the biological family failed, but I think there's a better solution.

Based on my experience, churches really can be like families, dysfunctions and all.  As loving and happy as churches can be, there are also the stress and struggles to are a part of lives being lived closely together.  Inevitably, there will be conflict.  This is where I find the grace found in 1 Corinthians 12 when it speaks of one body and many members.

Though there may be conflict, though we may not always get along, though we may struggle in "loving" each other all the time, we can remind ourselves that we are all part of the body of Christ.  Just as when we get aches and pains in our physical bodies, so too can we have aches and pains in the body of Christ.  In the end, we do not reject parts of ourselves, but find ways to be restored to the fullness of health.  Let us find a way to be fully restored as a church and as a family.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


One of the questions I get asked a lot is, "How do you figure out what you are going to say in your sermons?"  In short, the answer is that I don't know.  Somehow, I just do.  I have had many sermons that I have agonized over until (almost literally) the last possible minute before finally finding the right words to say.  What am I going to say about this text?  If I say this, will it sound like I'm just repeating myself every time I preach?  These are just some of the questions I ask myself when preparing a sermon.

I have already made a post on the apprehension I have when it comes to preaching.  What I didn't mention in that post, however, is something that I have realized to be a truth for me now that I am preaching almost every Sunday.  I am concerned that, when I struggle with a sermon, I'll be tempted to fall back on rewording a previous sermon to fit with that day's texts.  Eventually, my sermons will just be me saying the same things over and over again.  So far, I think I have been able to avoid this problem (I hope so, at least), but I cannot escape this new apprehension.  As I stated in my other post about this, I think apprehension is a good thing.  Having this concern helps me to consider whether I am taking the "easy way out" with any given sermon or using the resources that are available to me to help bring across an important message.

This brings me back to the question that started this post.  When preparing a sermon, I have many resources that I go to.  First and foremost, I call upon my education.  I spent three years in seminary and took classes on how to write and deliver sermons.  This helps me realize that I have some credentials in this area.  By virtue of my education, I also have many different commentaries that I can look through to find out more information about a specific text.  Additionally, I check multiple resources online (from preaching websites to other blogs).  Of course, I call upon my own experience and find ways in which my life intersects with the text in this process as well.  Finally, I try to leave myself open to hearing God so that God's voice can be heard through me.

I'm still not entirely sure how I've gotten to a point where people still tell me that me saying 'x' in a sermon helped them deal with something they were going through.  I just trust that, as long as I'm genuinely putting the effort into it, God is finding a way to use my voice.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What If?

Have you ever played the "What If?" game?  That's when you wonder "what if" something had been different about some past event.  This is similar to but distinct from "If Only".  The main difference between these two games is that "If Only" usually turns into blaming someone (often oneself) for an event either happening or not happening.  "If only I had been there sooner...If only she hadn't gone to work late today..."  This tends to be an unhealthy way of dealing with grief.  When we do this, we start wallowing and prevent ourselves from moving on. 

Instead of focusing on the event in "What If?", we move on to see what else could be different.  This can help in problem solving and figuring out how to prevent an event from happening in the future.  If we are not careful, however, "What If?" can turn into "If Only" very quick.  The goal is to look at changing something about an event and then to move on and determine what would happen.  My favorite use for "What If?" in this situation is for it to be a mental exercise.  This method was furthered into a game called "Counter-Factuals" in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

I bring this up because, from time to time, I will play "What If?" with the Bible.  What if Abraham refused God's command to use Isaac as a sacrifice?  What if Jesus stopped Judas from betraying him?  What if someone put out the fire in the burning bush?   Sometimes, by asking myself, "What if things were different," I can get a better grasp on why they aren't.  I invite you to take some time to ask yourself "What If?"  See if it helps you gain some clarity on an issue you are dealing with.  Just be careful to stick with "What If?" and don't give in to "If Only".

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Here we are, less than one week into the season of Lent, and I have already missed a post.  I have failed in my mission to post something to this blog every Monday through Saturday during Lent.  What choice is left for me except to accept that I will never be good at blogging and just give up and move on to something else in my life?  To try to keep going at this point is pointless.

If this sounds ridiculous to you, congratulations.  That would be a very ridiculous attitude to take in this circumstance.  Interestingly enough, I have noticed this attitude a lot when it comes to not meeting expectations.  How many times have you heard people say things like, "I tried dieting, but I accidentally broke it a couple weeks in.  Guess I'm just not capable of dieting," or, "I missed my workout today.  This is proof that I just can't do it."  I know I've been guilty of those before.  Why is it that we sometimes admit defeat after messing up just once?

Failure is a part of life.  We will not succeed at everything we do. We will not get everything right on the first try.  Why do we have such high expectations of ourselves that we seem to forget this?  I believe Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  Or perhaps it was Benjamin Franklin who said, "I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong."  Regardless of who said what, the message is quite clear.  Whenever we "fail", we should not simply give up.  Instead, we should learn from our mistakes and use that information to help us succeed in the future.

This is just another reason why I love the wording of the Baptismal Covenant portion of the baptism service in the Book of Common Prayer.  In this covenant, we make a series of vows.  One of these vows is to "persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord." -BCP p. 304 (emphasis mine).  We do not say that we will repent and return "if" we fall into sin.  We say that we will "whenever" we fall into sin.  This lets us know that, not only will we fall into sin (or fail in our duties to God), but also that we will fall into sin multiple times over the course of our lifetime.  Better yet, when we are asked to make this vow, we respond with, "I will, with God's help."   Here, we acknowledge that, even in our acceptance that we will fail from time to time, we will need to call on God to help us accept our faults.

With that said, I apologize to all of you who follow this blog regularly.  I have failed in what I had said I would do.  What will not happen, however, is me giving up on this blog.  I intend to keep going with the hope that I will not miss any more days.