Monday, July 7, 2014

Life in Work.

I've spent the last decade in full time ministry to my family.  Last year, that ministry expanded as I joined the staff of The Ransom.  Both of these roles keep me working daily with my best friends, doing challenging work I love and watching God do remarkable things.  My heart, life, and schedule are full; grateful is an understatement.

As I've spent the last several months navigating new ministry territory, I've relied heavily on what the last 10 years have taught me.  Here are a few things I've learned along the way:

Be all in.

Jump off the cliff, make an irreversible choice, and own it.  If you haven't agreed completely that this role is worthy of everything you've got, it doesn't have all of you.  And until you're all in, you'll encounter an exhausting amount of resistance.  

Life offers constant competition for your most precious resources: your gifts, your time, and your full attention.  Many of these opportunities (or distractions) will be lesser things, which are easy to spot.  It gets difficult, though, when you encounter good things that aren't the best things.  

When you've made a rock solid choice, you know exactly where you are committed, and what (and who) will get the best of you.  Solidarity in purpose is essential.  Without it, things get hazy, cluttered, overwhelming.  When you have clarity in your core roles, you're free to say no when you need to, to see which opportunities will bring life, and which ones will slowly suck it away. 

When I'm consumed by all the good work I've been called to do, I'm not anxious or irritable that I'm too busy.  I'm free to enjoy the ride; I'm right where I need to be.

Choose it every day.

These roles are a very precious gift.  Receive them every day.  Regardless of the details of the day, of what your roles demand of you, welcome it all with open arms.  This is what you're here to do, and love is the driving force.

Expect mess and embrace it.  Don't get angry when things need your constant help and attention; that's why you're here, that's why giving all of your self is essential, why it matters so much.  Don't get exasperated when you need to repeat yourself or do things over and over; you're called to teach and disciple daily.

Meet every opportunity with gratitude.  Let the people you serve know that you not only love them but want them, and there is nowhere else you'd rather be.  If you don't feel that way, be honest about it.  Whatever you do, don't take it out on the ones you're here to love.  Take a step back and ask God for fresh perspective. 

Feed yourself.

Understand who you are, how you're wired, what you love.  Incorporate these things into your daily rhythm and pursue them.  Know how you're best fueled.  This is fundamental to long-term health, especially when you're pouring yourself out to others.  

This practice is important, not only because it fuels me, but because it equips me to better love my people, and protects me from harboring resentment against them.  When people need my energy, time, and focus, I have these things to give; I'm not at the end of my rope.  I'm filled up and ready.  My acts of service flow from a place of love and health.  I'm not angry they interrupted me, that they seem so needy and demanding.  I'm thrilled to do what I'm here to do, I'm not afraid I'll fall apart.

I'm fueled by solitude and beauty, so I make it a priority to get some every day.  I know I am healthy and living well when my productive, achieving abilities are complemented by daily times of Sabbath rest, good food for my body, and for my brain.  I'm doing well when I'm carving out time for nature, art, photography, music; for books and words, for creating meals to share with the people I love.  

Regardless of how busy I am, when the beauty of life regularly stops me in my tracks just at the wonder of it, I know I'm healthy and taken care of.  If my journal isn't full, my heart is probably sick.  If it's been a while since I've stopped to just be- alone or with the people I care about- that's a red flag, and it's time to hit pause.  

These things don't come easily, remember, because the stuff of lesser things competes.  Feeding ourselves is an essential discipline.

Sleep when the baby sleeps.

Living a life of service is unpredictable.  People happen.  Need happens, and it doesn't care what time it is.  Set healthy boundaries around your time to protect what matters most to you, because ministry isn't simple and can't be packaged in neat boxes.  Your days will be full. Much of what you do will not be planned. Embrace that.  

But sometimes, you'll get an unexpected break.  It will probably catch you off guard.  And while the baby sleeps, sleep; or, do the thing you need to do.

If a meeting gets cancelled and your afternoon is free, discipline yourself to know how best to use that time.  Don't immediately jump into a project that will fill your afternoon with busy work, but don't waste your time being idle either.

When life gives you a break, stop for 10-20 minutes to do something that restores you.  Everything will be waiting for you when you get back, and you'll return filled and ready.  Then get your butt in your seat and get something done while you can.

It's everything and nothing.

I know that my influence has everything and nothing to do with the perceived success or failure of my ministry.  I will give everything, lavish time and energy and the best of myself into my family, into the places I'm called to serve- and how I do so matters very much.

I'm pursuing God, and I want him to use me.  Amazingly, he does.  I care very deeply about how things get done, that they're done with excellence and heart.  I'm invested, I'm showing up.  No detail insignificant, I want to be effective in every role I'm called to fill. 

My influence is profound, and the impact is eternal.  But I know all these things are completely disconnected from the will of the people I serve, from their individual choices and experiences that shape them, from the myriad random details of life that I cannot control or predict.  I will serve wholeheartedly.  The results are completely out of my hands.  This is all a work of the Holy Spirit; the God I surrender to is in complete control.  This means I can pour out my life in absolute freedom.

When things outside my control are not going well, it's not on me.  I'm not responsible for saving the world.  I won't fall apart.  This isn't where my identity is found.

If things are going well, it's not on me.  I'm free from any sense of pride or self-congratulation, and released to enjoy the things God is doing around me, through me.  I can simply agree that it is wonderful, and tell God again how good he is, how amazed I am, how grateful I am to be here to see it.  

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