Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In the moment.

I just thought this was a great article. John Ortberg is awesome. From CT Online:

Redeemed Time, Lightened BurdensOur work is transformed by the way we approach it.by John Ortberg

"Redeem the time," Paul says, "for the days are evil."

Or maybe it's me.

I have been thinking a lot about two of Jesus' agricultural metaphors regarding ministry over the past few years.

First, "Put your hand to the plow and don't look back." And I have been doing that in my ministry. I have had an extremely strong conviction that I am to follow my calling in the place where I am and not waste energy thinking about other possibilities. I'm convinced I will grow in ways I would not otherwise if I put my hand to the plow and don't look back.

Second, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." This one has been harder. I have faced difficult staff transitions and change navigation and new multi-site planting and fund-raising and often felt in over my head. I have often felt myself preoccupied and weighted down, and yet I feel as deeply called to what I'm doing as I ever have.

How do I put my hand to the plow but live with the easy yoke?

Several weeks ago my wife pulled me into the bedroom, closed the door, and said there were a few things she wanted to talk about. She said she was kind of afraid to bring them up. She had a list.

I was not happy that she had a list.

She began: "When our marriage is at its best, we are sharing it together. We share division of labor stuff. We partner together around the house;”our kids see this. We each know and care about details in each other's life and work. To be honest: it feels like that's been slipping. It feels like you have been becoming so preoccupied by all the things you have to do, by all the demands you think are on your shoulders, I'm kind of missing the you I most want."

Then she reminded me of a moment when we were dating. It was our second date. We went to "Dancing Waters," a little fountain outside Disneyland where the water jumps up and they shine colored lights on it. She chose because it was free, and I had no money.

At one point we were in the lobby in the Disneyland hotel. I was waiting for her to come out of the rest room. When she returned I said real loud: "I can't believe you kept me waiting here for two hours."

Her immediate comeback: "I wouldn't have to keep you waiting if you didn't insist on having your mother living with us all these years so I have to wait on her hand and foot..."

The whole lobby is listening now. It was better than Dancing Waters.

My immediate thought was: I like this girl...

Nanc reminded me of that moment.

She said: "When you are fully present like that, light, breezy, spontaneous, fun, ready to listen, alive to joy;I love that man. I need that man. I haven't seen that man around much lately."

It took me a couple days to process this talk, because pouting is more or less my spiritual gift, and I had to get that out of my system first.

But I thought about the kind of life she was describing. I know that life.

It's like I've been waiting for circumstances to change so I can live that kind of life.

I'm not waiting any more.

I started praying. God, I need some help. Ideas started to come. I need some wisdom, some accountability; and I watched God start to bring some of that into my life. I knew I needed either a therapist, a spiritual director, or an executive coach. And I finally landed on the best choice and started moving forward.

Mostly, though, it's a kind of inner adventure. The process looked like this:

I know the kind of life she's describing.

I want that life. It's painful to not live it.

I have been waiting for external circumstances to change, under the illusion that will usher me in to that kind of life.

I'm not helping anyone when I get weighted down. I will actually lead better when I do it with "lightness of being." It's how I was wired up.

And then, this thought: I can do this. I can set aside the weight of unfinished tasks and unsolved problems when I come home. I can be fully present and alive even though everything around me is not settled down. Each moment I can choose this; I can ask God's help with it.

And it's been like a mini-revival. I find myself thinking, when problems arise, bring it on. Each problem is, among other things, an opportunity to exercise this muscle, to make it stronger. And if I forget in one moment, I can begin again with God the next.

I've been struck by how this can be done by anyone, anywhere.

I was on a shuttle bus at the airport. And I noticed the driver for the car rental company. That can be a stressful, thankless task.

But this guy was a delight. He would be scanning curbside, looking for whoever needed a ride. He told those of us in the shuttle: "I'm always looking; looking for eyes; sometimes people are running late; I want to get them. Hup, there's another one!"

We were cheering him on when he'd pick up another customer. He would hop out and grab people's luggage before they could lift it. He was like the Michael Phelps of shuttle drivers. Then he'd say: "Well, we're off. I'm going to get you to your cars as soon as I can."

He created such a little community of joy on that bus, people didn't want to get off. We wanted to ride to the terminal a second time just to be treated that way.

I realized I have my own little bus to drive. And I want to drive it like him.

I want to live with my hand on the plow.

I want to live under the easy yoke.

I want to redeem the time.

John Ortberg is editor at large of Leadership and pastor of Menlo Park (California) Presbyterian Church.
To respond to this article, write to Newsletter@LeadershipJournal.net.
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.Click here for reprint information on Leadership Journal.September 22, 2008

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