Tag Archives: Texans

The beginning of renewal: A clean mirror and good light

I watched my Twitter feed as the news was disseminated – Gary Kubiak was fired as the head coach of the Houston Texans National Football League team. The team had fallen off the cliff. They were on an 11-game losing streak in a 16 game season – that’s not good. The players seemed overmatched and unable to do what was needed to be done to make the team successful. Was it all the fault of the head coach? No, but it was his responsibility.

The head coach isn’t the one throwing the ball, catching the ball, kicking the ball or tackling the runners. The players have some culpability in this losing streak. But the head coach is the one called upon to make the team successful. In this case, one or two wins might have made the difference – they didn’t have to be cleaning mirror croppedperfect, just better. And as the head coach I have no doubt Gary Kubiak knew that. He saw this moment coming. At least he did if he had a clean mirror and some good light.

What I mean is that an understanding of who we are, what flaws we have and what strengths we have, should be seeable. They may not be obvious but they should be able to be seen. What it takes is a clean mirror and some good light.

Think about how you can look at your own appearance and gauge your health and strength by looking in the mirror. If the mirror is dirty the picture you get won’t be true. You may see flaws where none exist. You may not see beauty that does exist. And vice-versa. The same is true about the lighting. Good light offers a truer picture. Bad lighting may cause me to assume all is good when there are problems to be addressed.

Serving as a pastor for the last 17 years has been a rare privilege and honor. And I expect to continue on for another 17 or so (at least in full-time officially appointed ministry). I have also found that serving as pastor is weighty and is a test of faith in many ways. As a pastor I tend to carry the hope of other people’s spiritual growth. I long to see the church – the bride of Jesus Christ – grow in life and love. I struggle with the reality of other people’s expectations – some reasonable, others not so much. I also struggle with my own sense of failure and, at times, misguided pursuit of tangible success. I realize that self-examination is essential for determining a way forward. And it seems to me it is a different kind of process than when I worked as an accountant.

I say all that to say this – the sabbatical I will take beginning January 1, 2014 is all about making sure I have a clean mirror and good light. This is a time when God has called me to step back from the daily work of pastoring – to move things out of the way – and look in the mirror. This will be a time of deep spiritual introspection and time dedicated to knowing and listening to God – shining good light on my heart and soul and mind. I want to have an honest assessment of who I am. I want to know my flaws in honest ways so that I can faithfully allow the strength of God to be made known in my weakness. I also want to know what God sees as my strength and what that means for living into this next 17 years of ministry.

In short, I want to be certain I am benefitting the Kingdom of God in positive ways and leading the people of God in helpful ways. For me this means taking intentional time. I covet your prayers. A clean mirror and good light can show many things. How I address those things – both positive and negative – will impact the work I do. I expect (and have been told by God through another person) that this time will be a struggle. At the moment I do not know what that means, but I believe it will be for my good and the good of God’s Kingdom. At least I pray that will be the case.

Next week I will most likely post my final blog for this year. Whether or not I pick this up again on the other side of my sabbatical remains to be seen.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

Make no goals, have no regrets…

Okay, the title is not really the subject of the blog. It’s more like my confession. There are times when I don’t want to set goals for myself or my ministry or the church in general. As a matter of fact, that would be my default position. It’s something I have to fight against. But, in my mind, this is what seems to be true. If you make no goals then you have no regrets for not reaching said goals. And yet I also know that if you set no goals, you also have nothing by which to evaluate your efforts, except, well, your effort.

I can give you a rather painful example right now. You see, I am a Houston Texans fan. The Texans have lost 3 of their last 4 regular season games. This means they do not get a week off, and if they advance in the playoffs they don’t get to play at home more than once. They had a goal of securing home field advantage but they didn’t make it. Did they put in a good effort? At times. They showed flashes of potential. But, in the end, they did not reach their goal. They can still win the Super Bowl at this point, so ultimately they can achieve a higher goal. But, when evaluating their performance this incremental goal is a measure of how they are doing as a team. Effort is good, but it doesn’t always equate to success.

Goals are helpful and even necessary. That’s the lesson I am learning. Well, it’s a truth I have known but at times avoided.

So, now what? Well, in 2013 I want to set some goals – personal goals, ministry goals and church goals (that final one happens in conversation with church leadership). I can’t tell you what those goals are right now. It will take a bit of reflection and prayer to understand what my goals should be, in light of who God calls me to be and what God calls me to do.

The main point is, I do plan to set some goals – that’s my first goal. And the reason I know it needs to be done is because I regret (yep, there it is) not having set more measurable goals for 2012.

Of course, it took my wife’s review of this blog to point out that I DID accomplish some things this year. I saw a significant change in my weight. My eating habits have changed for the better. I have begun to challenge myself to develop even more as a leader and pastor. I have engaged some people in an intentional effort to help them grow as disciples and to allow them to help me do the same.

The reason I began writing this post is that I just wish I had been more proactive in setting some goals. I think that intentional effort can help keep me focused.

So, I guess the title of this post is not actually correct – make no goals and you may still have regrets. Make no goals and you have may not have a good way to evaluate your performance. And, by not having a good way to evaluate your performance you can miss out on the good things you were able to accomplish.

So, how about you? Do you plan to set some goals for 2013? Have you? Did you set some in 2012, and if so, how did you do? If you didn’t set goals, did you do some good things?

May the year ahead be one of strong effort and one where goals are met and even exceeded.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

Sitting in the Good Seats

I was blessed a couple of weeks ago when someone asked me if I would be interested in using their tickets for the Houston Texans first pre-season football game at Reliant Stadium. My hope is that my answer to such questions can always be “YES!” And, this time, thankfully, it was.

My daughter Rebecca and I went to the game together and had a great time. These seats were on the third row up on the goal line on the end where the Texans come out for the game. We were right there to see the inflatable bull and we could feel the heat from the pyro-technic flame throwers that signaled the Texans’ entry. It was AWESOME! It allowed us to see things more clearly and to be part of the excitement in ways many don’t get to experience. Again, I was blessed.

As I met with some folks to talk about our upcoming Small Group Leader Training session I began to realize how blessed we are as Christian leaders to “sit in the good seats”. Now, let me say, leadership is not given because people are special or better. Leadership is conferred by the Holy Spirit of God. Through the church we seek to discern whom God is calling to serve as leaders. And, through the church we seek to build up those leaders through prayer and training so they are in the best position to serve their calling. Those who are called have the great privilege of sitting in the good seats and seeing the action like many others may never get to do.

What do I mean by that? Well, if we take hold of the authority and power God gives us as we lead others, we have the chance to encourage and nurture the work of God already happening in the people. Leaders in the church have the privileged perspective of watching the lives of others whom they lead. If we pay attention we will see things – like the stirring of the Spirit in the hearts of new Christians. We get to see people catching fire and taking hold of the truth of God in their lives. We get to reach out and help them answer a call they may not yet realize is there. We get to see the spiritual struggles happening in the hearts of the people around us and we get to reach out to them and say:

I can tell God is working in you right now in some way. It may be to help you overcome a struggle or it may be God is calling you to take a new step of faith. Whatever it is, know that I am praying for you and that I would be glad to help you work through this. If I can be of help or pray in a particular way, let me know.

What an amazing privilege it is to sit in that seat and to see into the hearts of the people we serve and to reach out to them in gentle and loving ways.

Such things only happen when we ourselves give ourselves to the Spirit’s leading. It is only when we realize we serve under the authority of the Spirit that we can see the hearts of others and respond. To live under that authority is to realize not just the responsibility we have but also the POWER. To serve under the authority of the Spirit is to be given the authority to act in the lives of others.

If I had been offered the seats to the game and I accepted the tickets I could then go to the game and stand in the food area and watch the game. I would be there and I would be the one given the privilege of sitting in the good seats. But, if I don’t go sit in the seat I don’t have the greater experience of the game. As leaders in the Church, if we take hold of the call to lead and teach others but we don’t fully live into that role and fully accept and act on the authority given to us, then we will not have the greater experience of watching the Spirit at work up close and personal.

So, have you been called to lead?
Are you simply doing the job or are you stepping into a calling?
Are you seeking to teach a lesson, or are you seeking to be used by the Spirit of God to build up others?
Do you take the authority to act in bold ways to encourage and pray over others in your charge?

Leading others in the Church is done not because others believe you can do a good job (though they do), it is done because God has called you and God wants to use you to lead others further along the path – to lead others to their own “good seats” in the Kingdom.

Let’s go offer others a chance to see the game like we do.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike