“You’re done”

I think most of us hope and believe at the end of all things we will hear “well done My good and faithful servant.”

But what if we’re in for is hearing the words “You’re done.”

In other words, you ran a race, you crossed the line, but there’s not much else to say.

“You’re done.”

We flatter ourselves – wait, let me reframe this: I flatter myself that the words Paul hoped to hear could possibly also be applied to me. I’m done with flattery.

I’m in a dark place. It feels like I’m done. A lot has been removed or taken away. College ministry – gone. The Core – gone. Teaching on Sunday – gone. My career – gone (see last post). I try to discern what God is doing.

What if what he’s doing is just taking things away because my faithfulness wasn’t enough? My efforts weren’t enough? My gifting wasn’t enough? I am not enough?

“You’re done.”

My time may be running out. What I’ve “accomplished” in my life may already be written down. This is it. And it wasn’t all that impressive. More fear than boldness. More dithering than duty. More safety-nets than faith.

I don’t know. And I don’t know why these dark thoughts are overtaking me. Maybe it’s because it’s what I would banish myself to if I were God.

It’s a good thing I’m not God.

In the meantime, I’m going to be stewing on this for awhile. Sitting in the ashes of my own inadequacy. Knowing I’ve never been enough, never will be enough, and am barely able to support the dreams that my family has, at this point. It’s like I’ve run out of usefulness but I don’t have the resources to be actually done yet. I have to keep motoring on, on three wheels.

Hoping the Lord either knocks some sense and grace into my head or helps me face up to this and take some better steps in the short time I have left to actually do anything useful.

I’m a mess.

Revelation

There is no “morning bus ride” because of the pandemic, but I can still post (it has been awhile).

It was a hard week.  Hard because I had a revelation this week and I’m still digesting it. On the bright side, I survived another round of layoffs at work. The thought of even complaining or lamenting at all during this time when I am relatively healthy and employed is almost obscene. There is so much bright side.

But on the perhaps also bright but right now it looks dark side, I also had a revelation. It was spurred by the fact that, while surviving the layoff, I was also removed from a leadership position at work. I was made an “individual contributor”. When I asked why, the response was terse and to the point. As a leader I have difficulty bringing things to completion.

So, my career is over. I am starting a new career at the same company as an individual contributor. I’ve always been a good individual contributor so there is reason for hope. I love doing the technical, individual work. I will not miss the management side of things. I’ll be keeping my head down, trying to add value, and trying to put myself in a position to survive the next round of layoffs. But the old career is over, and I was unsuccessful.

Now, for the revelation. I think this is from God. I believe God has been shouting this at me for several decades now.

I am not a leader.

I am a teacher. I am even a shepherd. But I am not a leader. I am never going to lead anyone to success. I am never going to “grow a ministry”. I am never going to be highly respect-able.

I am not a leader.

So, what now? A few things I hope to start doing.

  1. Quit bellyaching
  2. Be a teacher (albeit, I can’t really even do that right now in the pandemic, but those days will come again).
  3. Be a shepherd if ever given the opportunity to do that again.
  4. Quit fretting about respect. I am deeply loved. That should be enough. There has always been that elusive desire to be loved *and* respected. That desire needs to die. Everything isn’t about me.
  5. Be a very good follower, be a very good contributor, and hopefully (God willing) I’ll get a chance to show I can do those things for an extended period of time.
  6. If I can’t, and I don’t survive the next round of layoffs, or I lose my job for another reason, God is still there. God loves me. He knows my family needs provision. Keep the faith.
  7. Side note: regarding seminary – I have been on a break for the past few 8 week modules. I need to determine when to start up again. But I also need to determine *why* to start up again. I don’t think I will ever be a pastor, and I believe that I probably shouldn’t be a pastor (since pastors are leaders and I’m not a leader). Need to begin earnestly praying through this.
  8. Learn what it means to serve.

I may start posting more here again. Just writing this out helped. Today is a new day. Very thankful to still be employed.

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Pray for peace people everywhere

In 2003 I was online and blogging my support for the Iraqi invasion. I thought it would be a lot easier than it turned out to be, that a lot less people on both sides would die, and I had absolutely zero expectation that America’s various wars on terror would still be going on seventeen years later.

In 2004 one of my friends died in Iraq, in the Battle of Faluja.

We now find ourselves in an escalating situation with Iran.

I don’t have confidence anymore in my ability to predict what is going to happen, and I am far more cynical, world-weary, de-partied, and regretful than I was seventeen years ago.

Lord, have mercy. Bring peace.

Come soon Lord Jesus. We have proven over and over again that we can’t fix our problems or ourselves. The innocent die and the guilty live.

Only You can fix us and fix this.

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I need joy

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:7–11 ESV)

So many things are going on. So many of them are good. Actually, biblically speaking, all of them are good (because I think that’s how all things work out in the end). I’m blessed to be able to do ministry at the local community college, to be working at an interesting (albeit stressful) job that provides a good, regular paycheck, to be married to a wonderful (and getting younger-looking and fitter every year, somehow) woman, to have four children, five grandchildren. I belong to a great church, have great friends, I get to teach at church, I am attending seminary, and I have so many etceteras to add to all that.

But I need joy. This need has become acute.

I need joy. This is not a circumstantial problem: there is so much in my life that offers joy. I have no excuse. This is a me-problem. I find it hard to receive joy, to give up anxiety, to live in the moment. A thought hit me the other day: failure dogs my steps. I think about failing all the time. Failing at my job, failing in ministry – and by that I don’t mean disqualifying myself somehow, but just flat failing. Not being good enough. I fear failure in providing for my family, Failing socially. Failing spiritually. Failing physically (because this old body is starting to break down a bit). I ran-walked a half marathon a week ago and I still feel this way.

So, it’s been established. I’m kind of a mess. None of what I wrote above makes rational sense. On paper, I’m doing very well. My internal landscape is darker, though.

Failure dogs my steps.

Yet Jesus writes “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” I think that ultimately what’s going on in me stems from a seeming inability to really believe Jesus loves me. Yet he writes here that He loves me in the same way God loves Him. How does God love Jesus, the sinless Son with whom He is well pleased? Beyond my comprehension.

Jesus loves me.

There’s great joy in believing that. May I learn to believe it without effort.

The result of believing it, I think, is deeper obedience to Jesus. There is a beautiful feedback loop here: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

As I obey, I abide, which leads to more obedience and more abiding. Which leads to joy. Fullness of joy!

Weight

I tend towards depression and anxiety, naturally. Not clinical levels of it, but enough to keep me awake at night sometimes. I’m not proud of this – I know with surety that it is a time-waster and a joy-stealer. And it doesn’t do a thing to help a person resolve the issue that is causing the depression and anxiety.

I’ve recently been hit with multiple circumstances that involve me waiting on other people to do what they need to do. This has stretched me and I’ve failed those tests of kindness multiple times.

So many people deal with so much more than I do in my relatively easy, comfortable life. But this is weighing on me today.

I don’t know how to end this post.

One-lane bridge

“At the one-lane bridge I leave the giants stranded at the riverside. Race back to the farm . . .” – Rush, Red Barchetta

I’ve loved that song since the first time I heard it. Heck, my tagline is a lyric from that song.

I love it because it tracks very well with a constant struggle in me; the quest for simplicity and for the solidity of tangible, non-digital life. Odd and ironic that I’m blogging about this, no?

I feel like God has put that longing in me; a longing for single mindedness and focus, to understand priorities from His point of view. It’s a  longing to work toward what’s truly important. That way lies joy.

I’m miles away. “I spin around with screeching tires…”

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:31‭-‬33 ESV

Heading in to work

Heading in to work. Had a good weekend.

In particular, I immensely enjoyed another Moot with the Thinklings. It was a great night with those guys. I do fear that I spent too much time during it bemoaning the state of our politics and also bashing away at neo-Calvinism.

I have been wondering how much emotions are tied into my stances. I’ve been, in a way, granting myself more license to be angry at what is going on. In other words – and perhaps this is a function of age – I have shortened my approach to the “this has gone on long enough and needs to end now” phase of discourse.

Approaching decisions and stances driven by emotions is not the best way to go. It produces too much heat, not enough light. But emotions have their God-given role. I’m working out the balance.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32 ESV

“Slow to anger” doesn’t mean you never get angry. But the runway is long, and the transition between the “on the ground” phase and “wheels up” on your anger should not be abrupt and catastrophic but smooth and controlled.

It seems we live in such an angry culture. I don’t know if it’s just that social media amplifies the angriest voices; I hope it’s not as bad as it seems.

I certainly don’t want to be a part of perpetuating destructive anger. There is too much good and necessary and gracious work to be done.

As I said, I’m heading in to work. In more ways than one.

Two steps back

I lost it yesterday.

Two things set me off. One was Donald Trump’s moral equivalence and open admiration for Kim Jong Un. The other was the SBC allowing Mike Pence to turn the convention into a Trump rally.

Unfortunately, I allowed these two newsbits to turn me into a person I don’t want to be. I said some things I shouldn’t have to people who deserve better.

I’ve done my best to make amends.

I’ll be glad when the painful work of sanctification is complete.

Wait

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalms 27:14 ESV

Waiting is hard. I’m dealing with some things at work that have really taken their toll on me. It shouldn’t be that way, but seems I always find myself here, awaiting strength, courage and rescue.

This exhortation and promise is repeated lots of places in Scripture. Be strong, be courageous, and wait. It is hard to know how to do all three at once. In this formula you have two traits that only exhibit themselves, seemingly, in action: strength and courage. Then there’s “wait”.

I’m not particularly good at waiting, though most of the time I don’t have a choice.

Lord, make me a good waiter.