Alone, Down, Sabbath, and Growth

Time is such an interesting thing – it is for some an enemy and for others it is a friend.  Gordon MacDonlad  in his book Building Below the Waterline writes about time and Spiritual Leaders.  He specifically writes about the down time of leaders which is of utmost importance because for spiritual leaders work and demands upon us  seem to expand to fit all the time that we possess.

This then causes MacDonald to ask this question: What are some of the necessary nonwork times each of us needs? MacDonald talks about four different times and I thought we would take time to look at these four from pages 88 – 92.

Alone-Time

MacDonald writes about how he regularly builds into his life time to be alone whether it is a day alone to walk, sit, or paddle a canoe on a wilderness river.  He writes about how important it is for him to have alone time.  He writes, In the alone times, my mind and inner spirit become once again a fountain of ideas and possibilities.   I am able to catalog the issues with which I am personally struggling, whether they are matters of faith, job, or relationship.

He also adds that family time actually fits into his alone-time.  He considers time alone with his wife to talk and share as part of this time.  He considers meal time with his family as well as part of that alone-time because he knew that he could be alone with his family at meal time.

For me personally – I need my alone time where it is just me and my thoughts.  For me I get this a couple of places.  One is at my study at the church – most of the time I am the only one in the church and it leaves me alone and with my thoughts and God.  I relish this time especially during hard weeks and I can get away to the study to reflect on the struggles and on God.  When it comes to family – I have time each morning before I go to the study that I sit and talk and share with my wife – I cherish this time.  I also love the fact that we eat at the dinner table each night as a family – we talk share and laugh while we eat.

Downtime

Downtimes are those times that come after we have put a high energy out or an intense period of ministry and interacting with people by incessant conversations, decision-making, and advice giving.  He also mentions that we all have season where we have carried people along spiritually and then those things are not there anymore and our minds and spirits need a break.  Downtimes are those times when we feel down and drained and need a break.  He writes that these times come and we need to make sure we schedule pauses in life after them because they are essential for the mind and emotions as a pause is for a person who engages in heavy physical labor.

Anyone who has been in ministry any period of time knows of the downtimes.  For me – this is why I take Monday’s off and rest.  After stressful weekends of ministry I need the rest.  I will also after a period of long ministry without really a break that I will schedule several days where I just get away from ministry by hunting or fishing or going to a movie with my wife.

Sabbath-Time

MacDonald write about this:  Sunday is no Sabbath for a Pastor, or for many in the lay leadership of large congregations….it is a time that amny of us in ministry grow more serious about the genius of the Sabbath experience.  I see Sabbath-time as a more deliberately planned piece of time for silence, reflection, spiritual discovery, and the joyful recounting of past achievements and activities.  Sabbath- time is definitely not a time for catching up on household chores, exhausting recreation, or parties.  Sabbath-time is retreat, withdrawal.  In it, one worships, meditates, and seeks a filled inner spirit.  At its conclusion, one is refreshed.

This for me is the weakest of these areas.  I would say my trip to the Stick conference was a Sabbath-time for me but beyond this I have not had one in quite some time.  I know I need it but fail to schedule it and in it I fail to be as refreshed as I should be.

Growth-time

Growth-time as MacDonald describes it a time when he exercises his body and it is also a time when he exercises his mind.  He tries to learn about new things by reading about them and gain new information.  He also talks about gaining a new hobby in his mid-life and for him it is photography, another friend of his it is bird watching, and another it is antique clock repair.  He writes about growth-time also meaning taking on challenges that stretch one’s imagination.

This is an area where I do some reading on areas that are outside of the norm for me.  I cannot say that I am at a point where I need to take up a new hobby as I love the ones I have and my son and daughter at this point keep me quite active.

So these are the time areas that MacDonlad see as important and quite frankly I see these nonwork times as vitally important in the lives of ministers especially but really for all of us.

What do you think about these four times and which one do you do the best at and which one do you need the most work on?

This post is a part of the blogging on  the book Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald with two of the best bloggers out there – Bill Grandi from  Cycleguy’s Spin and Michael Perkins from The Handwritten .  We are sharing each Wednesday our thoughts from 2 chapters,  which means you will be able to see how God will l speak to us as individuals and then you if you read all three blogs you will see how God then weaves what we write all together.  I pray your are encouraged by the blogs.

Trust and Leadership

This week in the thoughts on Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald are in the realm of trust.

On page 71 of his book MacDonald writes this:

One of my theories has been that a leader really does not begin to enjoy leadership “bite” or “traction” that is necessary to get things done until he or she has been leading for about five years.  Therefore, the fifth year and beyond are years where trust is all important because novelty and newness no longer exists.  As my father used to remind me, people will follow you for a while because they picked you.  But they’ll follow you over the long term because they have learned to trust you.

I have been at the church I am at for about 2 and a half years.  I know that there are some who follow me because I am still relatively new and because they have picked me to lead them but I still wonder about the idea of fully trusting me.  Now how do I build trust with them?

MacDonald lists off seven ways he has observed through the years (pages 71, 72):

  1. Trust builds with consistency – consistency of message, of vision, and of the management of people.
  2. Trust builds with dependability – If you make a promise, do you keep it?
  3. Trust builds with openness – In trustworthy people there is an absence of slickness, slogans, and strategies that do not offer the full message.
  4. Trust builds with reputation for hard work – There is a sense that the pastor is on top of the job of congregational leadership
  5. Trust builds with a belief that the pastor has an impartial pastoral eye for everyone – Treating everyone from the rich to the children to the poor with the same recognition.
  6. Trust builds with longevity – The Pastor hangs in for an extended period of time building relationships through ministry (funerals, weddings, baptisms, etc.)
  7. Trust builds with an ever-deepening spirit – Congregations want to feel that their pastor fixes his or her eyes on Jesus.
    Trust is one of those things in life and ministry that makes such a huge difference.  MacDonald I think hits on it with these seven things I believe.

What are your thoughts on trust?  Why do you trust the leader or leaders of your church?  How do you build trust and what would you add to this list of seven that MacDonald has?

This post is a part of the blogging on  the book Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald with two of the best bloggers out there – Bill Grandi from  Cycleguy’s Spin and Michael Perkins from The Handwritten .  We are sharing each Wednesday our thoughts from 2 chapters,  which means you will be able to see how God will l speak to us as individuals and then you if you read all three blogs you will see how God then weaves what we write all together.  I pray your are encouraged by the blogs.

Becoming Who I Want to be

Journaling is really helping me and so I need to write something more about it.

As a matter of fact, MacDonald in Building Below The Waterline spends a whole other chapter on journaling and he writes that it was so valuable to him that he wanted to write more about it and so do I. 

There was a great discussion on journaling last week and in the book as I said MacDonald goes back to and he does so because it has had such a profound positive impact in his life and to me I want to come back to it for the very same reason.

I love that MacDonald calls journaling a dialogue with the soul because for me,  I have so found this to be true. He in this section writes a list of journal possibilities that I have found  to be very helpful and so I need to share them with you.  Here he write that when journaling is done regularly that several things become possible:

Once feelings, fears, and dreams are named, they can be dealt with, prayed for, and surrendered to God.  They come under control, no longer existing in a way that pollutes the soul and mind. – page 40

In my near 40 days now – I have found that I am dealing with things and facing them head on like never before.

If I record and reflect on the experiences of each day, I add to my base of wisdom.  Things usually forgotten or lost in the unconscious now, like books on a library shelf, wait to be tapped when parallel moments arise in the future.  Now one has precedents to draw from. -  page 40,41

I am already finding great encouragement going back through and reading what I have written.

Memories of God’s great and gracious acts are preserved.  He talks of Israel building monuments (Exodus 17:14) and then writes; One day, I realized that my journal writing was a memorial to God’s sufficiency. – page 41

Again – in the last month I have gone through some tough situations and I am able to look back and see what God is doing in my life – a powerful reminder.

I chart areas where I need to grow and mature.  As I look at journals form thirty years ago, I have realized I have struggled with the same knot of issues throughout the years.  He then writes, I would not have spotted many of these issues if I would not have written about them day after day. – Page 41

I have not written near long enough for this but I can see the truth in it.

A journal brings dreams alive.  Ideas have flooded my mind over the years, I have written about them.  Putting them into words helped me to discern the foolish ideas and develop the good ones. Many things I’ve done in the last few years had origins I can find in earlier journals. – page 41

Again I have not been doing this long enough for this but I look forward to the day when I can trace a great idea back to when and where God brought it to mind.

Journaling as I said last week is helping me to become the man I desire and the one I see Jesus desiring me to be and it is invaluable in my life.

Let me ask you – what is the one thing that has helped you to grow the most spiritually in the last year and would you suggest others to do it and why?

This post is a part of the blogging on  the book Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald with two of the best bloggers out there – Bill Grandi from  Cycleguy’s Spin and Michael Perkins from The Handwritten .  We are sharing each Wednesday our thoughts from 2 chapters,  which means you will be able to see how God will l speak to us as individuals and then you if you read all three blogs you will see how God then weaves what we write all together.  I pray your are encouraged by the blogs

How do I become who I want to be?

Are you a person who journals?

Let me answer my own question.  For the first 42+ years of my life I was not that person at all.  My wife – she journals – not consistently but when she does, she really seems to get a lot our of it.  I know others who journal daily and they have always seemed to get so much out of it.  I have tried it on a few occasions but would write one entry and that would be it.  I just did not like it nor did I see the benefits in doing it.  That was until literally 30 days ago.

What happened 30 days ago, you ask.  Well you see 30 days ago I read a chapter from the book Building below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald.  There is a section in the book that is called What I want to be when I grow up.  In this section MacDonald talks about when he asked himself  the question, What kind of man do I want to be?  His response was that he wanted to be a man of growth and grace.  Now understand that he asked himself this question during his mid-life. 

He also wrestled with the question of What kind of old man do I want to be?  He says the most interesting thing about this:

If you don’t plan for the kind of man (or woman) you want to be at eighty (God willing) and begin building it when you are forty or fifty, it’s not likely to happen.

He write that this is thought then drove him to write a personal mission.  His personal mission is what helps him to live by initiation and not reaction.  I know that I want to live that way  – by initiation and not reaction.  Then he writes about how  he wrote about how he has his personal mission statement on the second  page of his journal and he reads it everyday.  He says he reads it everyday because it describes what he wants to be everyday.

He also has sub-missions or areas that he wants and needs discipline in and these areas are: Physical, Relational, Intellectual,Financial, vocational. Spiritual, and Recreational.  He has these areas because he thinks God wants him to do something in them and they also represent dreams in specific areas.  He has fine tuned these sub-mission over the years and leaves them open ended.  He does this so that he always has the ability to move forward in these areas.

When I read it all this it had me really desiring to work on areas of my life and  grow.  Then I read what he wrote about journaling and I found what he wrote here to really got me thinking about how it has helped him for over 40 years. It really made an impact on me and because of this  I then was moved to do it by God to journal and this time I had a plan on how to do it. 

My plan that I am following is that I am using an online journal ( Evernote.com).  I try to do the journal each morning as part of my morning devotions.  Part of the plan in this is to incorporate the journaling into several areas of my life to help me see growth. So in order to help me see growth I have four areas that I write in my journal each day and they are:

  1. Bible Reading – I put down the chapter I read and then write notes, thoughts, and favorite verses.  I also add in prayers from what I read as well.
  2. Prayer and Life List – I have a prayer list I go over and it also has my mission statement on it.  It has areas I want to grow in and areas I want to stop doing (A Stop doing list).  I write out a lot of personal prayers here after I read and pray through the list.
  3. What I am learning / what God is teaching me – pretty much I talk about life and what I am learning in various areas and also areas that I question what is happening.  This is where I write out about interactions with people or situations in life. 
  4. Things to do today – I list our all I want to accomplish each day.
  5.  

    I have found that journaling like this almost serves as an accountability partner for me and it really keeps me on track.   I can honestly say that  I have found this to be invaluable over the past 30 days now and it is something that I cannot now imagine not doing.  Doing this has helped me be more consistent in my devotional time with Christ.  I look forward to it most days and the days I do not are the ones where I have been really living in the flesh and I do not want to face it.  Let me say that this has honestly revolutionized my whole morning time with Christ.  It is helping me to become the husband, father, friend, and Pastor that I need to be.

    If you do not journal – try it for seven days.  If it does not work – stop but if it does – keep on going!

So let me ask you if you journal?  If you do, how long have you done it and how do you do it?  If you do not – what keeps you from doing it?

This post is a part of the blogging on  the book Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald with two of the best bloggers out there – Bill Grandi from  Cycleguy’s Spin and Michael Perkins from The Handwritten .  We are sharing each Wednesday our thoughts from 2 chapters,  which means you will be able to see how God will l speak to us as individuals and then you if you read all three blogs you will see how God then weaves what we write all together.  I pray your are encouraged by the blogs.

Building Below the Waterline…A Spiritual Center?

I am blessed to be sharing about the book Building Below the Waterline by Gordon MacDonald with two of the best bloggers out there – Bill Grandi from  Cycleguy’s Spin and Michael Perkins from The Handwritten .  We will be sharing each Wednesday our thoughts from 2 chapters,  which means you will be able to see how God will l speak to us as individuals and then you if you read all three blogs you will see how God then weaves what we write all together.  I pray your are encouraged by the blogs.

Let me say from the outset that this book has really helped me to make some positive changes in my life and ministry.  Please if you are a pastor or a leader  in a church go out and buy this book and read it cover to cover.  My honest evaluation is that this book should be required seminary reading because it will help those coming into fulltime Christian service.

The book is broken into two parts – Part one: The Inner Life of a Leader and Part two:The Outer life of a leader.  Each part has sections, they are not marked as chapters, and some are short like two pages and others a little long and might be ten pages.  I will for lack of a better word use the word chapter for these sections.  Now let me get into the book.

Both Chapters today are great reading but let me start this series here by talking about Finding Your Center.

Leadership is no easy task in life and I think that the pressures of leading in ministry are magnified even more.  This brings into question what does a Christian leader look like?  Well, MacDonald writes about the Four Traits of a Christian Leader and these four come after he shares that the Lord’s anointing is the starting point.  The four traits he shares are: a leader to communicate vision, a Christian Leader is sensitive to people, a leader must posses the ability to asses situations, and a keen self-knowledge. It is in that last trait that MacDonald develops some really good thoughts about finding your center.

MacDonald writes “If we don’t know ourselves and what shaped us, neutralizes us, and what our limits are, we invite disaster.  May men and women in leadership positions are insecure.  Some struggle with large unresolved areas from the past.  Unless the past can be resolved, it often becomes the Achilles’ heel in leadership”  (Page 7)

He continue a little further down the page, “ The resolution to know oneself begins through daily self-examination against God’s righteousness and the discovery of sinful motives.  Second it’s going back in your past to ask: What has formed me?  What am I looking at in life?  What didn’t I get that I needed.” (Emphasis his – page 7)

From this he then goes into the value of a mentor in helping to deal with this because they will ask the tough questions which is a strong idea and extremely beneficial in my view but it is hard to come by a mentor like that in life.

He writes about leaders and a mentor, “Many leaders operate at a level where they can go for a long time without anybody calling them to account, and as a result, they get so busy helping other people that their perceptions drift.  A mentor  comes along, asks the hard questions, makes the stiff confrontation, and the leader suddenly realizes. How could I not have see this? (Emphasis his – Page 8 )

He ends the chapter talking about  Your Spiritual Center.  He  talks about how we can not make it as spiritual leaders living off our charisma  but we need “to pray, study Scripture, and read heavy doses of classical spiritual literature (page 9).”  He also writes that most leaders are not willing to carve out time in their day to maintain their spiritual center.

Let me ask you several questions:  Who has helped shape you to be the man or woman you are spiritually and what did they do to help you? Have you ever thought about being or considered yourself a mentor? Do you practice spiritual reflection?  How do you do it?  How much time do you take to work on your spiritual center each day?  What do you think of the quotes here by MacDonald?  Is he on track?