It takes time

A couple of themes have converged in my life fairly recently.

Charlene and I have been married over 18 years now. I'm not surprised when I talk to other couples who are going through marriage difficulties, because we've been through our share. Maybe more than our share. But I also have a lot of hope because we now have a great marriage. I can't take any credit for it, but I never imagined that marriage would be so enjoyable at this stage. But it's taken time.

I've been at Richview over ten years now, but it's only really felt like home for the past two or so years. For the first eight years, it wasn't all bad, but it was a struggle. Don't get me wrong: we have a long way to go, and there's lots of work to do. But it's taken time to get to the point at which it feels we have some traction and that we're moving (slowly) in the right direction.

I sometimes thought about how easy it would have been to give up during the hard times. I'm glad I didn't. It just takes time.

Omitting the Needless

The Elements of Style famously includes this advice: "Omit needless words."

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

As Strunk and White say, this principle applies to more than writing. It applies to gadgets like the iPod. It can apply to life as well.

Maybe this is the point of Lent. Maybe Lent is about omitting needless activities and indulgences so we can get to what's central. I don't know what that looks like for you, but for me it means deactivating my Facebook account and spending less time on social media and blogs. I'm also going to be reading Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (mentioned by Trevin Wax today).

Lent isn't about giving things up as much as it is making what is left behind count. It's about making extra time to focus on what matters most.

Jack Miller once wondered how to pray for missionary friends. His prayer is my prayer for Lent:

What I finally came to as I walked and prayed for you is the old, old story of getting the gospel clear in your own hearts and minds, making it clear to others, and doing it with only one motive - the glory of Christ. Getting the glory of Christ before your eyes and keeping it there is the greatest work of the Spirit that I can imagine. And there is no greater peace, especially in times of treadmill-like activity, than doing it all for the glory of the Lord Jesus. Think much of the Savior's suffering for you on that dreadful cross, think much of your sin that provoked such suffering, and then enter by faith into the love that took away your sin and guilt, and then give your work your best. Give it your heart out of gratitude for a tender, seeking, and patient Savior. Make ever common task shine with the radiance of Christ. Then every event becomes a shiny glory moment to be cherished... (The Heart of a Servant Leader)

Stetzer on Missional Practice

Blind Beggar has a great interview with Ed Stetzer over at Missional Tribe. Stetzer says:

The problem with the so-called "missional conversation" is that it too often stops at conversation. We have lots of professional and armchair missiologists, but very few practitioners. I do think there is a tide turning; however, time will tell if it involves actual commitment to applying missional thinking or if it is merely a new coat of paint on to what is perceived as the next technique for church programming or growth.

And to pastors/leaders who would like to move people toward missional living:

You must live it yourself. It cannot be a theoretical technique you're trying on. Pastor by teaching but also by being an example. Secondly, be prayerful and patient. Don't take a sharp 90 degree turn. Cast a vision through your example and through consistent teaching over time and providing opportunities for missional service. Don't push; lead. There's lots of other things, but the last I'd mention is to network and seek counsel with other churches and leaders. See what's worked for others and what hasn't, get encouragement and advice, and develop cooperation between congregations.


Simeon Trust workshop in Toronto

I admit to being a skeptic about conferences. I've been to quite a few of them. They always promise a lot, but they don't always deliver.

That's why I'm hesitant to push conferences, or even to attend many of them. Last year, though, I attended a Simeon Trust workshop in Georgetown. It came at a bad time (Easter week) but it was still worth the investment of time.

This year Richview is hosting the same workshop, with different speakers and a different section of Scripture. If you preach and are anywhere near Toronto, I'd encourage you to attend. It takes place March 25-27. You can find out more information on the Simeon Trust website or by reading this brochure (PDF).