October 30, 2015
Free Magazine Subscriptions
Magazines intrigue me. I enjoy perusing the display in various stores. Some of the publications provoke no interest in me. But the covers of some magazines urge me to look inside. I tend to glance through several, but usually decide that the ones with fifty percent of their pages devoted to advertisements are not the ones for me. I understand the need to pay for the glossy pages of content, but when it is difficult to find that glossy content among the pages of glossy ads then I put it down. Magazines, after all, tend to be expensive, and so I try to choose well which ones I am willing to buy.
However, when my airline miles with various carriers are about to expire (I don’t fly often enough for them to accumulate very quickly), I take advantage of trading in the miles for magazine subscriptions. You may have had similar offers. So, with this proposed exchange of miles for magazines, I can sometimes try out magazines that I wouldn’t be willing to pay for, but about which I am curious to read more of their content.
That being said, I usually use the miles for magazines that I think might help me in some way. I did try a golf magazine once, but since I usually play no more than four or five rounds a year, it didn’t help very much. So, I try out magazines like Fast Company, Inc., and Entrepreneur. I mentioned Fast Company in last week’s blog, and I do find the articles to usually be quite interesting. But I choose magazines such as these because they tend to talk about the ways in which people are being creative and the ways in which they are solving problems.
Creativity is important to me, and it is vital for a church that desires to really be alive. In addition, churches need to seek after and discover new ways of being the church in today’s world. Some seminary programs are recognizing this and providing training in entrepreneurship. They are discerning that the methods and vision that entrepreneurs have can become a model for new ways of being the church.
I know that some magazine articles, even in the magazines I mentioned, are going to be interesting and nothing more. But if I discover even one article that provides insight for personal growth and creativity, or offers thoughts that can be applied to my work in the church, then it is time and money well spent. And trading in those expiring airline miles has been profitable indeed.
October 23, 2015
In a current issue of Fast Company magazine (November 2015) there is a section of articles about people who are especially productive in their lives and work. It is an interesting read.
Being productive often relates to having a bigger impact in the lives of others, a bigger impact on the world. Productivity in business relates to increased sales and profits. Productivity is part of what makes the economy work well.
Being productive in a smaller church can be something entirely different. It is not necessarily time-efficient, but it is very productive, to spend three hours with someone in a hospital waiting room while a loved one has surgery. That is part of what a pastor, and laypersons, in a smaller church do. The personal encounter is indeed a productive experience.
In a smaller church, time spent with two or three children has the potential to bring about great opportunities for growth for those children, and productivity is then not necessarily measured by numbers but by personal impact.
Churches and pastors can benefit from insights and wisdom about time management, overcoming procrastination and having a clear vision of what one is doing. At the same time, especially in smaller churches, one can never forget that it is about individual people, and that productivity is measured in unusual and grace-filled ways.
October 16, 2015
Life is Fragile
In a discussion group that I lead at my church, we recently used a series of sayings called, “Maui Rules,” to get our conversation going. One of the sayings is, “The best things in life aren’t things.”
As I reflected upon the simple, yet profound truth of that saying, it also occurred to me that we usually do a very good job in taking care of our things, but that often we do less well with the truly best things. We handle breakable things with care, we treat our cars often as though they are more precious than anything, we warn children to be careful so that they don’t break things, and so on. And yet, how much care do we take with the precious things that aren’t things? How quickly do we attempt to mend a relationship that has been fractured? Do we respond to the needs of a friend as quickly as we call the warranty company when something breaks? Do we handle people, feelings and emotions with gentle care?
Life is fragile. I am reminded of that daily.
Sometimes we get caught up in the steady flow of life. Sometimes we get caught up with taking care of ourselves. Let us never forget though to slow down enough to take care of the things that aren’t things.
October 9, 2015
A Journey to the Dentist
I have been fortunate to have not spent too much time in doctor’s offices, or in the hospital (having my tonsils removed when I was about seven, and getting ice cream as a reward has been it so far). That is not to say that I don’t like doctors. I go for regular check-ups and I appreciate their care. And I am certainly familiar with hospitals since I have spent many hours visiting church members and being with family members who have been patients as well.
But dentists now, I have probably sent quite a few of them on Hawaiian vacations. I can’t even say how many hours I have spent in dentist chairs, but I have had so much dental work done that I don’t usually need long explanations about whatever treatment I am there to have done. I have been through most procedures multiple times.
My point, however, is not to provide you with my medical history, but to say that we fully take advantage of the medical care provided by doctors, dentists, nurses and other professionals when the need arises, as well as for preventive care. But when our spirit is hurting, where do we turn?
We may turn to God, in prayer or meditation. For me, that is always critical. But it isn’t like we can go into an office and sit down with God face to face and lay everything out about our hurting spirit. Sometimes that does happen face to face with a psychologist or psychiatrist of course. But I would also suggest that going and being with a church community is an excellent place to turn to when we are hurting in spirit.
I do know that many people have been hurt by churches, rejected or turned away by the people in churches. I have seen that happen to people I love, and it is awful. There are churches out there that have poor theology, that have people who are narrow-minded, and that are inhospitable. But there are also churches that are welcoming, open and gracious. There are churches with people to whom you can entrust your hurting spirit. There is an abundance of compassion and caring out there.
But just like you want to get to know your doctor before you settle in and are comfortable telling that doctor anything, it helps to seek out a community of faith and to develop friendships so that you know you can entrust your spirit to them. People in churches should be welcoming and compassionate even if they are meeting you for the first time, but they can likely be more helpful and supportive if they know you some, if they have developed a relationship with you. And I do know such places exist, because I worship and play and serve among a people just like that.
October 2, 2015
Overcoming the Stigma
Tomorrow morning I will be walking in a fundraising walk. There is nothing unusual about that. A whole host of people do that every week somewhere. But this particular walk is for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This is a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
When I first started walking for NAMI, I knew very little about the organization. I had a friend and a church member who knew of the organization, and who had been touched by their services, and so I committed to joining the walk, as much to support them as the organization. But then when we announced that a few of us were walking, I learned that two other church members had also taken advantage of the services offered by NAMI. In each of these cases, the church members had sought support because a family member was struggling with mental illness. I was so glad that services were available, and that members had sought help from NAMI.
As I have walked for several years now, I have always seen signs that proclaim something like, “End the Stigma” or “No More Stigma.” Mental illness is one of many things in society that have a stigma attached to them. Such labeling deters people from seeking help, from admitting that something is going on that is best dealt with in an open way and with the help and support of others.
It is easy to feel that we are the only one who has ever dealt with a particular issue. It is common to feel alone and isolated. But whether it is mental illness or some other struggle or challenge, there is always someone else who has walked that pathway. And once we know that we are no longer alone, once we realize that others have struggled with similar challenges, then healing can begin, a journey toward wholeness can begin.
So if you know someone who is struggling with mental illness, don’t let the stigma deter you from talking with that person and helping them to find a support network. NAMI is a great organization that is available to help. And, if you know someone who is struggling in another way, let them know that they too are not alone, that there is always someone who has walked that way before. Then walk with them yourself to find that person who can offer support, guidance, and the hope that we all seek in such times.
Welcome to my website. I hope you will discover a connection to the life of small churches, and the richness that the arts can bring to these churches.