theilluminationdilemma

stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. [exploring the endless connections between faith in Jesus and everything else]

What I Get To Do

One of the weirder parts of our transition to California is that while we had at least three opportunities to share about what we were going to do in a public setting, we never got the chance to actually do it.*

So, I thought I’d take a post to share a little bit about what I/we get to do here in Oakland.

Broadly:

I get to help our new church build a culture of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly in our neighborhood and city.
I get to pastor and shepherd and teach.
I get to learn and serve alongside a diverse group of people. I mean crazy diverse. In every possible way. Google employees and homeless folks, old and young, parents and kids and single folks, and on and it goes.

Specifically:

Amy and I are facilitating/teaching a class for 8 engaged/recently married couples and we are having a blast preparing for and interacting with this group.
I’ve been able to preach three times already.
I’m getting to build needed systems and structures.
I’m meeting with and coaching small group leaders.
I’m helping coach our Pais interns.
I get to have conversations with people who have serious questions about God.
I get to disciple.
I get to lead.

And:

I get to be home 5 or 6 times a week to help put our kids to bed.
I get to ride my bike to work every day.
I get a sabbath.
I get to live in the most diverse city in the country, wear shorts most of the time, and hug Buster Posey (ok, that last part is a lie, but IT COULD HAPPEN).

I don’t have words to express the gratitude I feel on a daily basis.

Thank you Jesus.

*I’ve written about some personal lesson I’ve learned about transitions, but I hope to write a post soon on the leadership lessons I learned during this season. 

Jen Hatmaker on Transitions

“Leaving is hard, even when a great adventure awaits you.

We knew were leaving. To go where? We didn’t have the first inkling. That was somewhere out there, yet to be determined. What lay in front of us was the telling, the transition, leaving the platform. After seven years, there was no doubt: This would be tough.

I hardly know what to say except that this season was terribly hard. I wish I had some of those weeks back to rethink this conversation or better word that piece of correspondence. We navigated with pure intentions and a fierce desire to do this well.

But things like leaving, new ideas, and perception–further complicated by no details about where we were going–made for a difficult transition. No one wanted the particulars more than us, but part of our task was going without knowing. Those were hard, difficult days. Sometimes following God is the worst. I can say with some confidence: if you go wherever God says and when, expect to be misunderstood.

And go anyway.

-Jen Hatmaker Interrupted

Donald Miller on Parenting

“It’s funny what happens to you when part of your heart gets born inside somebody else.

God doesn’t give us crying, pooping children because he wants to advance our careers. He gives them to us for the same reason he confused language at the Tower of Babel, to create chaos and deter us from investing too much energy in the gluttonous idols of self-absorption.”

-from Scary Close

Something New

It feels way too early to write an excellent post on how to transition well into a new position. (I highly recommend my friend Ryan’s post here on his career transition). So, rather than write a presecriptive post, I’ll just share a few things I’ve done and maybe someday I’ll write a part II and tell you whether they were good ideas or not!

1. Learn

Ask a lot of questions and listen to people. Especially people who have been around your church/company/work environment for a long time.

Read The First 90 Days.

Read the by-laws…study the web page…learn the software…whatever it takes. LEARN.

2. Stay Focused

Maybe you took an entry level job and like Ryan you need to say yes to just about everything. But, if you were hired to do a job that has a specific job description, do whatever it takes to stay on that job-description. Be strategic.

This is a hard one because it can feel arrogant/lazy to say no to things, but if you are supposed to fix computers don’t sign up to bake cookies. Focus is better than busyness.

3. Work Hard

This is where Ryan’s post is extremely helpful. Hustle, get after it, throw yourself into your to-do list.

Show up, show up on time, do the work.

And have fun. You took a big risk, you landed somewhere, this is an opportunity, so take advantage of it.

Expect The Unexpected

Yesterday I wrote about how you know when it’s time to move on to the next thing. Today I want to share some thoughts on what happens once you make the decision and start the process. Here we go:

1. Expect the Unexpected.

When this all started, when God started stirring our hearts towards California, we thought about Santa Cruz. Then we thought about San Francisco, and San Jose, and Fullerton, and downtown Los Angeles. So of course we ended up in Oakland.

Partnerships I thought we had in the bag dissolved, but others emerged along the way. People offered me jobs that I thought I would never be qualified to do.

We zigged and zagged, rode the emotional roller coaster up and down, and in the end are exactly where we need to be. I’d love to say I was able to anticipate all of this, but that would be a lie. I saw none of this coming. And I love that, especially in retrospect. It wasn’t easy, but it’s turned out to be beautiful.

2. Prepare to be Disappointed.

This is very connected to point number one, because if you have specific expectations heading into a transition you will be disappointed by the unexpected twists and turns.

Transitions are hard and they do weird things to people (especially yourself).
Some of those weird things can be really disappointing and hurtful.

This doesn’t mean you stop being friends with people, and this doesn’t give you an excuse to throw a grenade at the bridge once you get to the other side, but you must ready yourself for the reality that some people are going to let you down.

They are not perfect and neither are you, so grace is needed for them and for yourself.

Disappointment is not necessarily bad.
Sometimes it’s just a way of making a correction.
Sometimes it means mourning the loss of a dream or a change in your expectations.
But, you can’t avoid it. So let it be a way to grow in grace.

3. Prepare to be Amazed.

When you head into a time of transition you head into the unknown, and it is in the unknown that God tends to reveal to us all sorts of new and incredible truths.

And if experiencing the grace and generosity and provision and peace of God in new ways is not amazing then you need to reevaluate some things about your life.

Stepping into the unknown is the essence of faith and if we don’t practice that regularly we will lose the awe and wonder we should have about this incredible God.

And, you don’t have to move across the country to do that.

Where are you transitioning? Where do you need to adjust your expectations? How will you pay attention to the God who promises to show us something new and amazing when we lean into these transitional moments?

The Pull and The Push

We recently went through several major life transitions: we added a family member (Cruz!), we moved from the east to the west coast, and I started a new job. We have seen a lot of change in a short amount of time. I don’t think we are completely through this time of transition, but I wanted to share a couple of insights we’ve gleaned along the way.

So, today: how do you know when it’s time to make a big move?

A former student asked me this in a coffee shop back in November when I told her we were moving. It’s a great question.
I answered by saying: “well, you just know.”
I said that somewhat in jest. She responded by saying: “that’s such a Steve Boutry thing to say,” which means I did actually leave a legacy!

Of course there’s more to it than that, but I begin with that story because I have learned to put more and more stock into my intuitive/gut-sense, and, honestly, sometimes you just know.

When you start to get that sense you should start to pay attention to what my brother-in-law calls the pull and the push.

The pull: there should be something drawing you into a better future. A compelling vision for what might lie ahead.

Wanderlust, boredom, and/or frustration with you current situation are warning lights that something might wrong, but they are not reasons to make a big change. Pay attention to them, process them with wise people, but don’t make a big move just to make a big move, or because you are ticked.

Sometimes, though, you begin to sense that a vision is forming, an idea is taking root. Opportunities start to knock. You begin to see a different future. That’s the pull! Lean into it.

The push: there will also be some things (people, circumstances, etc) that make it clear it’s time to go.

The push is tricky because not every irritating thing is “the push.” There may be some relational difficulties you need to work through. There are hard conversations to be had. Make every effort to be at peace with those around you. Sometimes, after working through some of these issues, you may find that you should stay!

But do not think that just because you have a vision (a pull) that you will sail on to the next thing unscathed. The push will leave a mark, and that mark might hurt, but sometimes we need that to get moving.

Navigating the pull and the push is an art, and deserve a post of their own, but the quality of your character in a time of transition is measured in handling the pull and push well.

You will never know with one hundred percent certainty that “now is the time.”
Trust your gut.
Pay attention to the pull.
Be ready for the push.
And make sure you have some wise guides around you to help navigate the waters.

And then jump with both feet in confidence and enjoy the ride!
More on the “ride” tomorrow.

Thank You

I’m hoping to get back in a rhythm here at the ID, posting on a weekly basis. Let’s begin 2015 reflecting on gratitude and the wisdom gleaned from toddlers.

M is in a stage where she says thank you for things she’s received from others. For example:

When putting on shoes from a cousin: “Thank you, Nina.”
When playing with a toy from a friend: “Thank you, Bella.”
When putting on clothes from a grandmother: “Thank you, G,” or “Thank you, Grammy.”

(This is helpful because it reminds us to write thank you notes to people.)

She reminds me often to be grateful. And to be specifically grateful.

Gratitude is never truly practiced in generalities.
Gratitude must be specific.

There are too many people to thank, at least in this space, for all the help we’ve received over the past two months as we’ve transitioned from one coast to another.

Boston friends and family.
Salinas friends and family.
Oakland friends and family.

A million thank yous. Specific thank yous. Thank yous for food and visits. For carrying heavy boxes and packing and unpacking trucks. Thank yous for hospitality. And for spending time with our kids. For filling our pantry and refrigerator. And for big checks. And for so much more.

Thank you.

We Are Moving To…

Oakland!

Here’s an excerpt of what I shared with our prayer team today:

“As you may know we celebrated the arrival of Cruz Isaac just over two weeks ago! He’s awesome and we are having a wonderful time learning about him, and what it means to be a family of 4.

The major transitions keep on coming, and so it with a sense of bitter sweetness that I share that this will be our last month on staff with Sojourn Collegiate Ministry.

Several months ago Amy and I began to talk and pray about our future. Those conversations led to a general feeling that it was time to head back to the West Coast. We had no clear idea what that meant, what we were going to do, or when it would happen. We only knew that it appeared God was starting to lead us back towards home.

Shortly after making that decision opportunities began to pop up, some of which seemed to make a lot of sense for our family.

Right before Thanksgiving we decided to accept an offer from Regeneration Church in Oakland, CA. Starting in January I will be their Associate Pastor (a new position for this church), helping lead the church’s efforts to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly as a community near downtown Oakland.

We are really excited to join this community and to start serving the city of Oakland. We feel like this is a strong fit for me, and for our family. I will get to use my gifts of leadership and teaching and still get to hang out with college students, but see my pastoral influence expand beyond generational ministry. There are also many opportunities for our family to lead a more integrated life, which is very exciting for us as our family grows.

We are so grateful for Sojourn and for the opportunity to serve and grow here.”

Stay tuned to the blog for more updates and stories about our transition. Thanks for reading, and for those of you who have donated money, who have prayed for us, or who have been part of our Sojourn chapter in any way, all we have is immense gratitude for helping us tell what we hope and pray has been a good story.

Check Your Mouth

I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on words at a church in California last weekend. Words have been on mind.

Which is partly why I find the following to be so fascinating:

Our two-year old daughter is growing more and more verbal with each passing day, but still struggles to fully express herself, the way that toddlers struggle with their emerging vocabularies. It can be frustrating at times. Super cute at others. And, incredible enlightening as well.

For example, whenever Marina is struggling with her attitude, or obedience, or just general human politeness we will ask her:

“Where are your manners?”

Or,

“Where is your happy heart?”

And she will point to her tongue and say: “Mouth.”

This, as I mentioned, is super cute. It is also deeply profound.

In fact, I think there is a proverb about this: [I actually enjoy the King James version here.]

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” [Pr. 4:23]

I also think Jesus had something to say about this:

“…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” [Luke 6:45]

Many times we are asked to examine our hearts. And this is a good and worthwhile practice. But, perhaps we also need to examine our words. Because our words reveal what is in our hearts.

So what are you talking about? What are you complaining about? What are you dwelling on? What subject can you never drop? What conversation do you always find yourself in? Are your words bringing life and joy and peace, or death and frustration?

Where is your happy heart? Check your mouth!

Summer Reading: 2 Disappointments and A Surprise

I’m behind on reporting on my summer reading list (and, honestly, behind on the reading itself), so I thought I’d kill three birds with one post.

First, two disappointments: Orphan Slave Son came highly recommended and for about half the book it more than lived up to the praise. In fact, I would say the sections on Orphans and Salves are awesome. They offer a helpful  and new (to me) framework for understanding some common misapplications of the teachings of Jesus. I found his insights helpful for my own life as well as for people I lead.

After that I had high, high hopes for the third act. But the section on Sonship fell flat in my opinion. Maybe Pasley did too good a job critiquing and re-thinking in the first two sections, maybe I just didn’t have the energy left to go through another round, maybe I need to read it again.

Overall the book is a good book, with a lot of helpful insights, I just couldn’t help but feel a bit let down after being brought to such heights earlier in the work.

2.5/5

——

DisUnity is a book that appeared on almost every ‘book of the year’ list I read. It was one of the first books on my summer list that I jumped into.

Again, this is not a bad book, nor is this intended to be a bad review, but with all the hype behind it, I couldn’t help but feel let down. It didn’t feel fresh, nor did it offer much beyond the classic “birds-of-a-feather” observation and some “hey-let’s-all-get-together” hopes.

[And, now for something a bit controversial. DisUnity was published by IVP press. Some of my favorite books have been published by IVP (including this one and this one and this one). But over the last three or four years I have found their offerings to be lacking.

It’s not a content issue. The ideas and titles and theses continue to speak to me. I keep buying their books!

I’m not entirely sure what the deal is (although I do have some ideas), but it seems like at least two things are true: On the one hand, I think IVP is doing a good job utilizing a wide range of voices. They are going after lesser known authors and giving them a voice. This is a good thing. But on the other hand I think the writing and the quality of the books suffers.]

Cleveland’s a great researcher and this is a HUGE topic that needs addressing. But, for all its promise the book doesn’t deliver to that level. She’s worth watching, and I’ll be interested to see what she has to say after some time goes by and she gets a bit more seasoning as a writer.

2.5/5

—–

Finally, a book that did deliver was Surprised by Scripture. It’s hard to imagine at this point being surprised (pun intended) by something NT Wright publishes (meaning you know you are going to be in good hands here).

This book tackles a number of contemporary issues (science and faith, women in ministry, the problem of evil, politics, etc). It might as well be a top-10-things-college-students-ask-about book. Wright is able to walk the incredibly difficult line of winsome and academic. You may not agree with all his conclusions, but he will make you think, he will challenge you, and he will give you some great tools to help answer people’s questions.

Highly recommended for anyone who finds themselves in apologetical conversations.

3.5/5

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