Bill Walsh on Excellence

I love this…insert whatever your craft might be in place of football…

“I hate to see bad football. I hate to see a team play bad football, even on a single play–in practice, in a game, anywhere. Bad football makes me ill in the same way, I suppose, a symphony conductor hates to hear an orchestra mangle Bach or Beethoven. There’s a reverence for the art. For me, it can be described as a reverence for football as it could be played–the exquisite beauty of what can occur at its uppermost level. I think top performers in all professions have that same deep respect–even reverence–for their work.”

Bill Wash, The Score Takes Care of Itself

It’s Been A Year

A year ago I dropped Amy and the kids (one of whom was only 4 weeks old) off at the airport. I then turned around and began packing up a yellow Penske truck with all our worldly belongings.

Some sweet friends helped with the packing and the cleaning.

Then there was a pipe to smoke, a meal to eat, a few final goodbyes, and then off to the airport again to pick Dad up and start the drive west.

And so, here we are. A year in California. Almost a year in Oakland.

I’ve been through 3 major transitions in the last 10 years. First, Salinas to Durango. Then Durango to Boston (with the added bonus of bachelor to married man). And then Boston to Oakland.

Each transition involves a loss and a gain.

An embracing and a letting go.

Over the past year, I’ve actually really struggled to know what those things were as I’ve processed this experience and this transition.

It may turn out that as another year comes and goes I discover that what I thought I was embracing and letting go of where not really the thing.

But, this is the best I can say at this point in time, a year out.

Letting go? The thing I was a part of had an aura around it. It was cool. It was new and fresh and moldable and had good graphic design and your pulse moved a little faster when you heard about what we were up to.

There were questions and debates and creative thinking and good books were read and discussed and argued over and the envelope was pushed.

Not so much in the new thing. Now there’s more of a weekliness, a grind, a steady pace, and a walking with brokenness in broken places.

Bottom line: it’s not as cool.

But, the embracing.

The embracing of being wanted, instead if simply needed. Of transformation, not just creation.

Embracing being embraced.

Embracing all the strange and unexpected steps that led to this particular moment in this particular place.

The point is not which is better. The point is living into the moment and opportunity that is present right here, right now.

I’ve never been good at that, so the opportunity to learn how to do this is a gift.

To embrace.

Trust In the Slow Work

I have a list somewhere of posts waiting to be written, but my list has been sorely neglected in recent times.

In part, this is due to the glorious fact that life is very full right now.
Not overly busy or hectic, but full.

My productivity in the everyday world of work and family has left little margin for musings in the digital realm.

The other part of this writer’s block, though, is due to grief.
There’s been some stuff to grieve on our end.
Personal stuff like grandpa and transitions and the hard work of letting go.

But there’s also been a lot to grieve on a larger scale as well.
Shootings and division in the church (globally) and all sorts of variations of darkness.

I don’t often know how to respond to many of these things in my own daily life, let alone in this space.

So, I’ve sabbaticaled from blogging and really from engaging on-line in anything other than the Warriors and our family adventures. Like Job I felt the need to “proceed no further.”

Which has been quite refreshing actually.

I think the great, evil, seduction of the digital age, and of blogging in particular, is you craft something and you put it out there and there’s an implicit hope/desire/belief in an immediate response.

Whether examining my own life, and my own failings, or lamenting the unceasing darkness pervading our world, I am easily seduced by this immediacy. By action and results.

Things should change. Now!

The Jesuit philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”

To do this, I think, means being connected
(not in the online sense, but in the everyday sense),
to actual work in the real world.

I feel the pressure and the pull, especially as a church leader, to do or say something incredible.

Chardin reminds me that incredible things happen when I eat dinner with my family.
And discipline my kids.
And read the Scriptures on a daily basis.
And listen to and pray with and for hurting people.
And slog through the difficult work of creating a different kind of community.

In the last week or two I’ve seen some pretty amazing glimpses of light,
cracking through these dark times,
and it’s those beautiful,
flickering beams of light that help me keep trusting in the slow work.

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. 

On Being a Pro and Writing Stuff Down

A good friend who used to be on staff with us, recently transitioned into the “workforce.” He shaved, got some nice, professional clothes, and went to work at a job where if he screws up it will cost his company money and clients and (God forbid) worse.

I love my job, and I love being able to wear flip-flops and shorts to work, but if there is one thing that bothers me about ministry it is that a lot of people don’t treat it like “regular work”, for lack of a better term.

I saw this tweeted the other day:

“Be professional. Arrive on time. Actually be early. And be organized.

I offer up a wholehearted AMEN to that tweet. (Turns out the source is one of Brad’s articles, which you can read here, and it is very good).

I don’t know a lot of people who treat ministry with the professional mindset. In fact, there is almost an anti-professionalism that permeates a lot of Christian leadership. There are some good reasons for this. No one wants to be cold, distant, or a dictator.

What’s interesting to me is that many other non-traditional professions seem to revel in professionalism. I see this a lot in the writing/blogging world. You can read any number of posts and articles on the beauty of discipline, structure, and professionalism.

Why haven’t more ministry leaders adopted this mindset?

Some like to argue against my point by throwing the “in the world, not of the world” mantra back. And while I do think there are some ways in which we should think about ministry in different categories than the world (money comes immediately to mind), there are other ways (like being a pro) that should be held at an even higher standard than the regular workforce.

The other day our staff team was working on crafting content for our small groups this fall. We are going to talk about parables, and the parable of the Shrewd Manager came up in the conversation. It is a weird parable, and one that many people (myself included) struggle to understand.

In Luke 16:8 Jesus says:The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”

I think this has direct application to ministry and work and professionalism.

We, in vocational ministry, should be just as shrewd (read: professional) in our work and craft as those who are in other vocational callings.

In addition to Brad’s list (I especially like 4, 5, 6, and 14, although I will print out the whole list and put it in my planner today), I would suggest 3 simple things to improve your professionalism:

  1. Write Stuff Down: in our technological world there are so many ways to store and keep track of things. I find that people who rely too heavily on the digital world tend to be more scatterbrained, forget more meetings, and lose things more often than those who write things down. This is not scientific data, but there’s something about putting pen to paper that, in my experience, seems to improve memory, demonstrate care, and produce results (like showing up, and showing up on time).
  2. Prepare: write stuff down before you go to a meeting, or a one on one. Prepare for those moments the way you would prepare for a talk in front of 50 people. And write stuff down afterwards so you don’t forget! (There’s a theme here).
  3. Act Like You Care: this means that sometimes you wear a shirt with a collar. Sometimes you call AND leave a voice mail (instead of texting). Sometimes you choose your words carefully (and you don’t use certain words you might use in other contexts). Sometimes you over follow-up. I could go on.

I am one of the more informal people you will ever meet, but I have found (sometimes from painful experience) that I want to err on the side of being a pro. It demonstrates care, it demonstrates a strong ethic of work, and it enhances (rather than diminishes) the legitimacy of what I do as a pastor.

Practice your craft, be a pro, and get a pen so you can write some stuff down!

Mark Sayers Being Awesome…

“The difficulty for those of us who are called into leadership in this era, in a society of the spectacle riddled with passive spectatorship and intermittent distraction, is made increasingly difficult.

“The society of the spectacle creates passivity among its citizens, a reluctance to initiate, to lead. Instead we are encouraged to view, to consume. We fear committing, worrying that by doing so we will reduce our freedom, cut ourselves off from the myriad of choices that constantly entice us.

“Reducing your options is particularly difficult for people raised in the society of the spectacle. By stepping into leadership, you refuse to stay within the narrow parameters of contemporary culture and you decide to accept the price of your decision: you choose only one option, and thus negate the seemingly endless possibilities culture appears to offer.

“Leaders…respond to God choosing them. Thus, the first responsive step of leadership is of utmost importance. It is an act of rebellion against the society of the spectacle–it is to relinquish a life of many options so that you can receive God’s one option.”

– Mark Sayers, Facing Leviathan

Simon Sinek on Work-Life Balance

“This is what work-life balance means. It has nothing to do with the hours we work or the stress we suffer. It has to do with where we feel safe. If we feel safe at home, but we don’t feel safe at work, then we will suffer what we perceive to be a work-life imbalance. If we have strong relationships at home and at work, if we feel like we belong, if we feel protected in both…we do things for each other, look out for each other and sacrifice for each other…we have a feeling of comfort and confidence at work that reduces the overall stress we feel because we do not feel our well-being is threatened.”

From Leaders Eat Last