Some New Thoughts on Sabbath

I once had a ministry supervisor say to me: “Sabbath’s are encouraged, just don’t let your sabbath interfere with your work.”

When I came back at that comment with: “I think that’s actually the point of a sabbath: to interfere with and interrupt our work,” there was some back tracking, but the point was clear. You are here to work, don’t let anything get in the way of that!

Amy and I have tried to sabbath throughout our life together to varying degrees of success.
To be honest, we haven’t been that good at it.
We haven’t let sabbathing interfere with our work.

One of our commitments in this new chapter was to start practicing some good habits right out of the gate.

Monday is our sabbath. So, far we’ve done a good job of it. No work, ministry, or prep takes place on Mondays. Just family stuff.

Sometimes we go to Costco.
Sometimes we explore Oakland.
Sometimes we just stay home and make pancakes.
Sometimes we go to the park and then to a great family cafe for lunch (this is our favorite).

We don’t check much email (I don’t check my work email at all).
We don’t do too many chores.
We do try to have fun.
We are absolutely with each other.

I titled this post “new thoughts,” but really there are no new thoughts, just a better, more disciplined practice.

And it really is making a difference.

We all recover from Sunday.
It reorders and prioritizes the week.
It is renewing and refreshing and all the things sabbath is supposed to be.

I know this will grow more challenging and more disruptive as we move into future phases: Amy returning to work, the kids going to school, sports and activities, more ministry opportunities and pressures.

 But I’m also beginning to see that we can’t give this up. The day may have to change, but the day off never should.

My new thought on sabbath is that this is yet another area of life that requires discipline. And discipline is hard, but rewarding. We are reaping the benefits.

Please, friends, let sabbath interrupt your work.

It’s worth it.

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. 

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?

Take A Vacation

We went camping this weekend. This was M’s first time in the woods over night. She did great.

We ate bacon:

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We jumped off stumps:

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We tried hot chocolate for the first time:

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We practiced the spiritual discipline of looking at a body of water while pondering the deeper truths of life:

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At about 7 pm on Saturday evening, M was asleep, Amy and I were reading good books, all was peaceful in our campsite, and I was beginning to compose a post in my mind about the importance of sabbathing, of getting away, even just for a day, of decompressing. I was feeling it. Space, relaxation, the ability to breath deeply. All had been missing from recent weeks and months.

And then our neighbors came back. They were loud. They used “mother-effer” as a singular, jack-hammer adjective. They had extremely negative things to say about everything and everyone they had encountered during the day.

About an hour and a half later the fireworks started. This is not good writing as I lead into a description of an all-time-camping-neighbors-go-crazy-on-each-other-epic-throwdown fight. This was the 4th of July weekend and there were literal fireworks going off for over an hour. It sounded like war.

M slept through it. Her parents not so much.

And then the snoring. Snoring that could raise the dead. I have never heard anything like this before in my life.

M slept through it. Her parents not so much.

Sunday morning was glorious even though it started at about 5:30 am or whenever the sun rose. I guess this was our revenge. M fell off the table bench and started screaming. We were cooking bacon at 6:30 am. You’re welcome, everyone else in camp!

Sabbath’s are great (although, more difficult with small children), and I am all for them. In fact, I would guess somewhere around twenty percent of the posts on this blog have to do with rest.

But sometimes, you need a vacation.

I enjoyed our quick getaway. I regret that we don’t do this more often. But even twenty-four hours leaves a lot at the mercy of neighbors and weather (we lost one day of this trip to a tropical storm because Boston’s the weirdest) and fireworks.

Make sure you take a vacation.

Tired and Hopeful

Well, another semester, another year, is wrapping up, which means time to look back and to look forward (and to start blogging again).

I’m usually pretty tired at the end of a semester, which means I’m also a little more grumpy/cynical than normal. This is the natural outcome of another year watching people make the same mistakes over and over again (even though your advice and guidance is so golden). Of another meeting where someone is on their phone the whole time. Of another person late for the millionth time. Another cancel. Another flake.

That’s life. That’s ministry. And at the end of a semester it sure feels like it has added up into a huge mound of “why-can’t-people-get-their-stuff-together.”

But despite that I can’t remember a year ending and feeling this good about life.

Fundraising has gone well, with the usual unbelievable stories that go along with it.

I am so proud of our students. This year has been packed with great stories, life change, and a very clear front-row-seat to God moving.

I love our little community in Roslindale. Having multiple friends right down the street has been life-giving.

Our family is amazing. Amy is an incredible mother, and Marina is a joy to be around (those things are very strongly correlated).

And I have a lot of hope that there are some very cool things coming up just around the bend. The future is bright. Praise the Lord.

Loving Salinas

breadbox2I knew this year’s spring break trip would be a different experience for me than past trips. I was the primary organizer and connection for this trip, and then there was the small fact that we were bringing students to our hometown.

I knew the responsibilities would look different, and certainly the texture of the trip would feel different as well.

However, I was not prepared for how all of this would affect me emotionally. Turns out the week was a profoundly moving experience.

I challenged our students at the beginning of the week to take up three postures: that of a learner, a servant, and a teammate. They more than rose to the occasion.

As learners they asked good questions, got to know many of the people doing great work in Salinas, and demonstrated a ton of respect to our partners.

As servants they did any and every task that was asked of them, always with a happy heart.

As teammates they looked out for each other and got to know each other better by participating in meaningful activity together.

Three things really moved me about the way this group took up these challenges. First, the Mexican culture permeates Salinas, especially on the east side where we did most of our work. Mexican heritage is part of Amy’s story, and now our story, and even for a gringo like me, there’s been a lot of wrestling over the years with the divisions in our home community.

I’ll never forget spending summers working in the fields with the county and watching people treat my partner, Teo, with an incredible amount of disrespect, until they found out he actually was my boss. The harsh truth is that Mexican-Americans, and Mexican immigrants, don’t always get much respect in Salinas, but our students treated everyone they encountered with a great deal of respect, which meant a lot to me (and to the people we worked alongside during the week).

Second, when I was teaching in the Salinas school district (2002-2006) I grew to love the kids growing up on the east side. To watch our students love on and care for this next generation of Salinas youth brought me to tears on a daily basis.

Third, our students also loved our families really well. It was kind of surreal to sit in my mother-in-law’s backyard, and in my parent’s garage, with 20 people from Boston. Talk about world’s colliding. But, it was also beautiful to allow our family to extend hospitality to the student’s we’ve been investing in for the past couple years and then to see our students reciprocate with more great questions, and conversations, and thank you’s, and smiles.

So, thank you Boston friends for loving Salinas well, and for all that means for me and my family.

SpringBreak2014

We are back in the homeland preparing for the arrival of 17 students and 3 more staff (plus the 4 of us who are already here). I always love and look forward to Spring Break trips (for more on why, click here). But, this year is very special, because bringing students to Salinas, Monterey, and San Francisco is personal, and strangely intimate. But, I can’t wait to share the goodness with them. And there are a lot of people here who are stoked to meet them and bless them in so many ways. 3 more days!

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1 Year!

Hard to believe our beautiful daughter is now a 1-year-old toddler, but here we are! Thank you, Marina Grace, for bringing so much joy and fun to our lives.

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Cynicism, Losers, Families and Social Justice, Russell Brand, and Money #mysteriouslinks

  1. Cynicism is antithetical to the practice of Christianity
  2. An unambitious loser still has a happy life
  3. If you care about social justice you care about families; and if you care about families, you care about social justice
  4. Russell Brand teaches the media how to do its job
  5. I don’t need that much money to be happy