Tag Archives: gratitude

Keep Throwing Darts

I recently saw a clip of Will Farrell’s commencement speech at USC. Google it. It’s great. And somewhere in it, he mentions his goals post-graduation, and how one of his most proud accomplishments is that he never stopped trying. He just kept throwing darts at the dartboard, hoping one would eventually stick. I respect that.

I’m in the middle of a job hunt right now. As our family has trekked across America, truly learned to appreciate a new set of cultural norms in Washington State, and bought more rain-ready clothing than I’d ever previously seen, let alone owned, we kinda want to stay around. But there’s a nagging passion that for me, for us, is inescapable. Ministry.

Last fall, when my buddy passed away unexpectedly, his dad called me and asked me to fly home. He called me their pastor. Some of you reading this consider me your pastor. Or maybe I’m the only pastor you know, or the only one you willfully talk to. Or I’m one of the many pastors you know. Or maybe you have no idea who I am and you accidentally stumbled onto my blog because you like darts… and you are so disappointed right now. My apologies. But to someone, to a few people for certain, I’m their pastor. And that absolutely lights my fire. I’m Parker and Elliott’s dad, and that gets me up and going every day. I’m Grace’s husband, and that stills my heart when I’m hurting and lifts my heart higher, even on great days. And to God, I got picked to teach and love people, and that gives me a purpose for all of this extroverted energy inside of me. But to those who think of me as someone trusted enough to call Pastor… well, that keeps me throwing darts. The idea that someone would listen to me, seek me out for advice, in triumphs, in sadness, or in doubt, or trust me to teach them about the role of Christians in the world and how following Christ gets us to those right places… that’s just humbling. Thrilling. Horrifying. Humbling. 

The prophet Jeremiah contemplated quitting. His path was hard, on a scale that I cannot fully comprehend. He was against a nation that liked the comfort of their brand of disobedience, and despised being told they were wrong. And sometimes, I can’t tell if I’m Jeremiah, fighting to keep the fire burning in my own ministry because I cannot stop if I wanted to [ref. Jeremiah 20:9], or if I’m the defiant Israel, shaking my fists at the idea that I might not be on the right path, because ministry is hard, finding work is obnoxious, and the idea of moving my family again weighs so heavy on my heart. 

Centered-Set & Preaching

Somewhere around 40-50 years ago, a man named Paul Hiebert theorized that missiology had truly become a study of two methods of expressing Christianity, based on two ideas of how Christians become Christians: Bounded-Set and Center-Set. Basically, you’re taking Set Theory from Applied Mathematics, and laying it over how we view missions, belief, and the requirements for belonging to Christianity. Dumbed way down, you are a Christian either because you meet certain criteria [Bounded Set] or you’re a Christian because you are moving toward Jesus [Centered Set]. Admittedly, I don’t think it’s so cut and dry. If anything, I’m probably a Centered-Set guy that recognizes that some boundaries (profession of faith, exclusive belief in Christ, etc.) must exist, but not nearly as many as we often try to lay on top of faith. 

So the goal has always been to get people moving Christward. In my relationships, teaching, training, counseling, the aim has always been to point in the direction of Jesus, and draw the necessary connection between Him and us. So when I got the chance to preach at First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma last Sunday, my goal was to point all of us toward Jesus. And I had a blast. I love all of the stuff that comes with preaching. The over-studying, gathering too much material, tying to fit a message into a time constraint that allows people to eat all three meals on a Sunday, and the nervous tension between doing what I love and fearing that I’m not that good at it… love it! And no one walked out mid-sermon, thank God, but the pastor hasn’t told me yet if anyone emailed about that awful preaching on Mother’s Day. If you want to hear it, bless your heart, and you can find it on the website (linked already) or the church’s app.

And now, sermon behind me, job applications and copious resume dissemination in front me, I’m throwing darts hoping that one sticks. 

So Thanks…

If you’re reading this, I appreciate you. Maybe you disagree. You might be opposed to faith, to me as a pastor, or still disappointed that this isn’t a blog on dart-throwing. But you’re here, allowing me to point, whether you agree or not. Thank you.

To that faithful group of folks that claim me as a pastor. As their pastor. I keep you closer to my heart than you will ever know. To the Ted’s crew, lifelong Durham friends, some family, everyone at Clements, and people from Cornerstone, Guess Road, Patterson Park, and Lakeview – you keep me hopeful that I’m not done, there is still a word to be said and people willing to hear it, and I might still be a man for the job.
So until the darts run out or one lands, I’ll just keep throwing. Grateful. 

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Gratitude

I’ve spent the last 15 months or more in some form of spiritual depression. I don’t know how else to describe it. My spirit had been extremely hard-pressed through a series of mistakes, missteps, attacks & ministry disasters. I stepped away from the pulpit, moved my wife & son back home, & avoided anything that resembled engaged ministry. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have lead worship or sought any accountability if I simply didn’t enjoy singing & love the men that God has placed in my life to hold me up, lift me up & beat me up. [It takes all three for righteous accountability… especially if God gives you me for a dance partner.]

So a tip of the cap to Ridgecrest Bapt.’s Exalt Team for pressing me to sing along with them a couple of times last year. It helped me clean out some clogged spiritual arteries. I believe the words we sang, & needed to let them out at the top of lungs. A nod also must go to my pastor at New Horizon Church, Dave Bowman. He pursued me, grounded my emotions, & patiently helped me sort through the garbled mess of personal responsibility, unfortunate circumstance, issues of disobedience, & the byproducts of divorcing that season of ministry. I could not have walked through this without that consistency. And above all other people & ministries, my heart & spirit have been protected & propelled by my sweet wife, Grace. She knows how important she is to me, but if two people read this, one of you is bound to berate me for not extolling her virtues & my gratitude, so here goes: she has been patient, compassionate, & wise. She has delicately balanced fighting for me & fighting against my wayward tendencies. She has frankly, had to lead. That admission is gut-wrenching & awful, but it is true nonetheless. I’ve taken that mantle back, & again she has humbly relented, & the state of our marriage & family is as strong as it has ever been. She deserves so much credit for her faithfulness, patience, & unwavering love for me & our union in Christ. My wife is awesome. I love her.

And now, through a series of unexpected, blessed events, I am being reminded of the ‘joy set before me’. Church excites me again, & I think that God has given our family a really cool, thoughtful church to worship at & engage in community with. The group of men that I meet with on Wednesday mornings are honest, faithful men who encourage me back toward my passion for life-on-life discipleship & accountability. And working at Chick-Fil-A in Durham [Roxboro Rd. site] is going to be great. They have a faithful, focused business model & I have loved meeting with Matt & Tony [GM & Owner], hearing their heart for people, Durham, obedience & the development of themselves & their employees.

I spent an hour this past week visiting my Aunt Marie. She had just had surgery to remove a brain tumor & is recovering at Duke. Groggy, exhausted, & certainly uncomfortable, she was so welcoming & warm when I walked in. And I was struck by the one phrase that she kept repeating. ‘I’m just so grateful.’ She would pause, smile at me, readjust to try to find some additional comfort on that awful plastic bed, & say ‘I’m just so grateful.’

It was inspiring. She mentioned her family, her health of all things, her granddaughter, my parents & sister, her nurse that was rubbing her feet with lotion, the doctors… she went on & on about all things gratitude-worthy. She either couldn’t or didn’t want to verbalize much of anything else. And I loved it. The only other thing she brought up was the one thing that is apparently required to discuss in any conversation with me: Parker, my son. I’m used ot it now, & he is a pretty great kid.

But the thought that has gripped me this week is this: do I express gratitude to & for the things that I am most grateful? Think about it. And expressions aren’t required to be verbal. Churchgoers can volunteer, serve, & sacrificially give gratitude. Husbands can hug & kiss their wives & kids, knock out some chores, & go on a date. Sons can clean. Employees can do that little extra that goes unpromoted but ever-appreciated.

Admittedly, however, I’m wildly verbal. And I have thoroughly enjoyed expressing gratitude this week. Give it a try. Let me know how it works out for you. And don’t look for responses. Act in gratitude towards those that you’re grateful for. And let that be all the reaction that you need.

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