Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Renewal Leave -- One Year Ago!

I sit here this morning thinking to myself — has it really been a year? Has it really been that long ago? One year ago today, I was on the last day of my Renewal Leave. To be honest — it seems a lot longer ago than a year. Tomorrow, I will spend the rest of the money from the Lilly Grant, I will use it to pay for the family trip to Israel this Christmas.

As I sit at home this morning, after taking a week of vacation time (not doing the honey do list that Nancy has for me . . .) I wanted to take a few minutes and ponder how my life is different following the Renewal Leave.

First, I don’t think I take myself as seriously anymore. And that is a good thing. I can be so anal about things at times, but I think that I have gotten a lot better. For me, one example of that was the finance campaign that just concluded at the church. I really stayed on the outside and tried to help from there. Often I am writing the letters, etc, but I really did nothing other than help identify the theme that would be used. Even in my preaching during the campaign, I let the speakers deal with the money issues, and I tried to stick with the commitment issues. Big change for me.

On the flip side of that is that I am much less cautious about what I say. I preached about a month ago on the issue of Christianity being the "exclusive way to God." I suggested, and said quite clearly that I did not believe that Jesus said the words in John 14:6 (I am the way . . .no one comes to the father except through me.) I also invited anyone who had questions about it to come and talk with me. Well, the result was predictable. 2 people came and talked with me, One of those two left the church )but they had been on their way out for some time and I just provided them with a convenient excuse. The sad part is, they took two other couples with them who haven’t been willing to talk. I hope and pray that they find what they are looking for.

While speaking my mind is important, I know that I have to temper it with the audience that I am talking to. (Jeez – it is comments like that they make me feel like a shaman!) And that is what I hate about being in ministry. Too many people do not listen — they only hear what they are looking for (myself included!)

The second lesson, is to take better care of myself. I try to be much more intentional about taking days off, and saying NO to some things. Still a work in progress, however.

A third lesson is to enjoy the things that bring me pleasure, and that I am good at. I love teaching, (and I think that I am pretty good at it) and I have decided to make that a priority in my ministry. There are too many things that I am not good at, and that aren’t real important that I do that I can delegate to others. And I know that I delegate a lot more today than I did a year ago.

Finally, I have come to realize that I don’t have it all figured out — and that is OK. My hunch is anyone who says that they do, are full of baloney! I am a fellow traveler on this journey of life, enjoying the love of God and family and friends. And that is really the fourth lesson — RELATIONSHIPS is what life is all about. And I have come to learn, that I cannot have a relationship with God (or Jesus) without being in a relationship with others. And that is the greatest gift in life!

Thanks Lilly and thanks Ridge Church — what a blessing the Renewal Leave was. And YES, I will apply again when I am eligible, and regardless of whether I get another grant, I will take a Renewal leave again!


Anonymous said...

I agree that we can't have a relationship with God unless we have relationships with others. I think Jesus' life shows us how to be in relationship with others. My relationships with others have been reflected in my relationship with my church. When I'm feeling alone, I don't go to church. When I've had enough of feeling alone, I go to church and find a community of people who share similar values, waiting for me to join them. For me, church is about that community.

Janneal Gifford said...

Pastor Steve,
It pains me that someone would leave Ridge simply because her belief system was challenged. Your honesty, sincerity, and worldview are EXACTLY why I am a member of the Ridge family. Everyone does like hearing her own thoughts and ideas reflected through others, and you and Jeff have spoken directly to my heart without neglecting my intellect from day one. Your ministry has given me the space, or room, that I needed to allow my faith to flourish and grow. Thank you for being a guide along my family's journey.