Caught being a Dad

The road between our place and La Porte City is being reconstructed. It is actually being rerouted slightly, so the new construction work is occurring mostly alongside the existing roadway. And, new bridges are being constructed to cross the stream and the river.

We travel this stretch of road frequently. Usually multiple times per day. We have enjoyed watching as progress occurs over time.

My sons have each shown some interest in engineering, so whenever we pass by I try to point-out some aspect of the project that required engineering — and to illustrate over time that virtually every aspect of the project is pre-planned by an engineer.

One day we passed by during early evening.   It was after-hours and all of the equipment sat silent. As we approached I saw a small truck and a man with a long “measuring” device active in a lower area. I took the opportunity to point out that it appeared that the project engineer was there checking to make sure that everything was as it should be — verifying the work of the contractor.

My son – being seated on the closer side of the vehicle, and having opportunity to look more closely, simply replied “He’s fishing dad.”

I was caught.

Caught being a dad.   Caught trying to turn every opportunity into life inspiration

He saw me now as I was.

He saw that I tried.

He saw that I reached.

He saw that I cared.

He saw that I loved.

He thought it was funny.

I’m fine with that.

Let go, and Let God!

Originally written for the October 2009 Newsletter at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Waterloo,  IA  while serving as their Interim Music Director.

Our music program is well underway for this year.  I am so grateful for the many participants and volunteer leaders and helpers that make this extensive program possible.

Recently a choir member shared with me that they didn’t think they could do church music leadership, as they would be constantly worried about numbers – and how many would show-up each week — and whether that would be sufficient to meet the demands of the week.

I must admit, that in my early days of music leadership (longer ago than I’ll admit), this type of weekly worrying and stressing was common.  And, even today, it is difficult to avoid.  We are – after all – human, and we want the events and programs that we “lead” to be successful — or, at least appear to be.

But, God doesn’t ask us to “be successful.”  He simply asks us to serve.

When you consider your leadership role from this perspective, it changes completely.   Your objective and purpose is NOT a “successful program” by human evaluation.  But, rather, “humble service” by God’s evaluation.

Accordingly, as leaders within the church — whatever that might be — we need to focus NOT on the human perspectives of size, scope, and achievement.  But, instead focus on the heart of our service.

If we are truly humble servants – putting in our best effort to further the work of God and his church – setting aside our own agendas in the process – then what have we to worry about?  Humble submission carries with it the need to let go.  We need to have faith that God will achieve HIS objectives through our service.  He can do that – so long as our own ego doesn’t obstruct it.

So, in the areas of your leadership, ensure that your service is heartfelt, earnest, and empty of self.  Adopt an attitude of gratitude – in all things.

Then, let go and let God.  You’ll be amazed at what he can do when human egos and agendas are set aside.

American Greatness — still?

USA — we were not made great by our resentment of each other.

Our greatness was derived from our desire to prosper as others. We admired achievement, we upheld it, and each desired it and sought it for themselves.

It was the great dream of America – that each from their own toil – could be as they willed.

Freedom!

A guarantee of equal opportunity.   Not equal outcome.   But, that was the point really — success or not, you were making your own life.

We – collectively – embraced that each could excel and enjoy! And, we could do it together – alongside each other. Never did we think that we must first tear-down another that we might achieve. It never occurred to us. For we knew that such would simply deprive both.

We are a different country now. Resenting the success of our neighbor has become the standard of the day. It will ultimately deprive all.

God Loves Us!

Originally written for the November 2009 Church Newsletter for Westminster Presbyterian Church, Waterloo, IA while serving as their Interim Music Director.

Grace is an amazing thing!  Despite all of our shortcomings, God loves us.  He looks past our failings and sees our heart — pure or not — and then simply loves us.

Recently I had one of “those” mornings.  We were running late – as usual – and the kids had pushed me over the brink.  I was so upset with their behavior, and general disrespectful treatment of me as well as each other.  We spent the entire trip to school with me lecturing them on such things.

During that same day I spent the rest of the day regretting that we had “parted” on such a negative tone.  I love them SO much, and they must have felt terrible as they entered the school for the day.   By the time they returned home on the bus later that day, I was waiting and looking forward to seeing them again.  As they arrived home, all was forgiven — I was just so thrilled to have them home and back in my embrace.

God’s relationship with us is often characterized as that of a Parent/child relationship.  He loves us just as we love our children — but, much more so.  We live a life of frequent failures, and fail to live-up to our Christian (Christ-like) moniker on a regular basis.

Yet, he’s always there.  Anxious – waiting – desiring – anticipating our return, and relishing the opportunity of his embrace.

What grace!  Indeed, “Grace greater than all our sins!”

On the 15th of this month the choir and orchestra will be presenting a musical that celebrates this grace.  The simple fact that he loves us – despite where we came from; despite our actions of today or yesterday, and despite our ongoing history of shortcomings.  He loves us!  Hallelujah!

Come and celebrate with us on Nov. 15th.  Relish in God’s forgiveness, experience his grace-filled embrace, and lose yourself in his love.  We will be presenting this musical at a single 9:30am service, and then again at 6:00pm.  Bring your friends and family, and share the message.

Jesus loves me, this I know — for the Bible tells me so.

It’s true!

Make a Joyful Noise!

Originally written for the Septermber 2011 Newsletter of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Waterloo, IA as I embarked on a 2nd Interim period of service as their Choir Director.

When I was a young college graduate and began receiving invitations to lead music groups and programs — I experienced something that I believe is quite common with young people who are new to ministry.    I felt that the output of the program was a reflection of me and my ability, and that it should therefore attain a certain musical standard — so that it might properly reflect on me.

Music ministry is not a perfect environment for such things.   Ministry within the church is comprised of countless volunteers of various enthusiasm and skill.  Ministry within the church is  a “ya’ll come” type of program.    While some churches have engaged “audition” types of procedures, I’ve always felt that the musical celebration of God’s grace should not be reserved only to those “properly” equipped.

What – after all – is the measure of “proper” within the musical church?

God’s desire is that we praise him.   Such instruction does not carry a musical achievement criteria – but, it does carry a “do your best” obligation.

So, as musicians and musical leaders, it is our obligation to be responsible stewards of the resources that God entrusts to us.   We are to use the time and talents provided – be grateful for them – and do the best that we can with them.    Any artificial musical standard is only our own human desire to “prove” ourselves to others.   Our obligation is to humbly submit ourselves to His service – and then “let go and let God” (achieve his work through us).

Ultimately when human ambition and ego is removed from the formula – God can achieve great things.    If we – alternatively – set-out to achieve “great things,” we may receive worldly praise for our achievement, but find that our human desire for such recognition isolates us from the God we profess to adore.

Such humble submission is difficult – especially as a young, aspiring, and somewhat idealistic graduate.    But, as I have matured in this path, I have come to realize that once we embrace this attitude of humble service and submission — then, all the worldly pressure is off.   We need only to present ourselves as an available, responsible, and humble servant – and then let God achieve his work through us.   The ministry is his – not ours — and the joy of serving his purpose is immeasurable.

This fall we engage again in the Music Ministry of Westminster Presbyterian Church.  I invite each and every one of you to “humbly offer your talents in His service.”

This year we are blessed with a new Choir room, a budding and better-organized library (in the old Music office), and additional square footage (the old choir room) for the conduct and preparation of musical groups and events.   We are to be grateful and responsible stewards.  The “glory” be to God!

Come join the fun!   Come join the ministry!  Come Make a JOYFUL NOISE!   The Church is the place for your talents, and this church has a place for yours!!

The Adult choir will first meet for the season on August 31st.

What would that look like?

Often times what we believe to be the reality of ourselves — and what we actually do “on the ground” are very different things.

One of the accountability “checks” that I perform upon myself is to ask “What would that look like?”

If I wish to be a humble servant to my church and community — “What would that look like?”    If I was being watched in these endeavors by an outside observer — would that observer describe me as “a humble servant to his church and community?”    Or, would that observer describe me as self-absorbed and inattentive to others?    Or, maybe they would observe me as someone that arranges things and uses people for his own prominent position or elevation.

When I consider this question honestly (honesty with self is the most difficult sort) — I sometimes find that my posture and actions have betrayed my intent.  My human is showing.

Most everything we are asked to do as Christian Leaders in antithetical to our natural human inclination.  I would encourage the “What would that look like” question for anyone that wishes to challenge themselves to ever-greater inward honesty and clarity.