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The websites I go to for mindless fun and time wasting:

  • Fark. I laugh out loud every time I go there.
  • McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Especially the lists.
  • Local news electrified with crossword puzzle fun. Jiggsaw puzzle, too, if you don’t have as much time to waste.
  • Amazon. Typically ends with me having a long list of items in my “Items to buy later” shopping cart.
  • Hulu. They let me watch full 30 Rock episodes for free.
  • Wikipedia. If it’s on the internet, you know it’s true.

This is from a post I made on the Catalyst blog, but I kind of liked it so I’m using it here, too. Sorry to the one guy who might read them both.

Leadership is about, well, leading. You read this blog and listen to these speakers and read these books because you’re a leader, and other people are following you so it’s important that you form yourself into a shining example for them.

One temptation of leadership is to be out in front, ahead of the curve, anticipating what’s coming next and preparing yourself and your people for it. In the upcoming GroupZine, Margaret Feinberg writes in defense of following. She describes a jogging experience with some college friends: “As soon as our sneakers touched the track, one of my friends went zipping off. A long-distance runner at heart, I took a much slower, steady approach. I was lapped within the first few minutes. Like an undesirable birthday spanking, the lapping didn’t seem to have an end.”

After struggling through the run, Margaret was reminded of the echo of Jesus’ words to Peter: You follow me.

Maybe you’re out in front. Maybe you’re fighting with all your energy not to be lapped by someone. Maybe you’re watching other ministries or organizations take off at ramming speed, thinking your pace might not be good enough to keep up with them.

But maybe God is calling out that same command to you. You follow me. Maybe what God really wants from you is a slower pace, one in which you watch and learn from Him, allowing Him to be your guide rather than the men and women around you. You follow me.

I finally got around to listening to the special edition Catalyst Podcast with Mike Huckabee (just a couple of weeks late) and there’s some good stuff in there. I was particularly struck by his statements on failure. He said that if you’ve succeeded at everything you’ve ever done, you have set goals that are embarrassingly low.

I have, essentially, succeeded at everything I’ve ever tried. And, upon nearing my twenty-tenth birthday, I’m thinking a lot about accomplishments and what I’ve achieved. There are several projects I’d like to make happen, a few books I’d like to write, and programs I want to begin, but I’m not currently doing much to make those things reality. It’s partially because I don’t take the time to implement a plan, but it’s also because I haven’t set those goals in stone. There are plenty of other goals I’ve written down, and I’ve achieved almost all of them, so why not make these official? And maybe I’ll make them a little loftier than normal.

Now I’m not here to bash anybody’s daddy, but I think most of us can testify to hearing, at least a time or two, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” This usually involved something like a project on Pilgrims and Indians, or the proper Armor-All-ing of leather interior, or the construction of a soapbox car. But I’m afraid it’s just not true. Not everything worth doing is worth doing right. At times, you have to examine the costs and benefits of a particular project: How much time is it going to take to do it right? How much money? What will be the return on my investment of time and money? Is it something I’m well qualified to do? Consider this the next time you set out to accomplish a task and spend an inordinate amount of time on perfectionist details. It might not be worth it.

I was reading in Matthew the other day and began thinking about Matthew 8:28-34, in which Jesus drives the demons out of the madmen and into the pigs. A few observations here:

1. Where were the demons in the Old Testament? I don’t remember hearing much about them there. Did the Enemy not send them out until Jesus came on the scene?
2. The demons were caught off-guard by Jesus’ arrival. They say (in The Message), “You weren’t supposed to show up yet!” My God is never, ever, ever, ever caught off-guard by anything.
3. The madmen aren’t much a part of the conversation. The demons are shown to be the ones at fault, not the men.
4. The people get angry about losing the pigs, rather than being thankful the men were healed. In the world’s first PETA demonstration, the townspeople are far more concerned that their pigs ran off the side of the cliff rather than the fact that these tortured people have been healed. Not only that, but the “madmen” had been terrorizing this part of the town for many years, and the townspeople hadn’t considered that part of town safe. Suddenly, the demons are gone, the men are healed, that part of town is safe again, Jesus has demonstrated an awesome power, and they’re most concerned about the loss of the pigs.

I’m pretty sure I’m like the townspeople a lot of the time. God is at work in many various parts of my life, growing and teaching and restoring and building, yet I’m concerned about the one little thing that is going wrong.

Having spent the better part of the last six months compiling content for the upcoming Catalyst GroupZine, I’ve had community on the brain a good bit. What is it really? What makes for authentic community? It’s clearly important in the Bible, but how does that translate to 2008 in west Forsyth county?

The past week has been pretty heavy. Some friends had a miscarriage. Other friends are beginning to believe it may be impossible for them to have children. Some friends announced that they’re separated. People have lied about things you just don’t lie about. In every instance, the importance of a strong community cannot be overstated. When life really bites, our impulse is often to recede into ourselves, to say it doesn’t bother us, to convince ourselves and others that it’s not a big deal. This is when a good community rallies around you, asking hard questions, forcing you to deal with it rather than keep it stored inside.

We have small group on Thursday nights, and it’s not unusual for it to be 6:00 pm after a long Thursday and I just don’t feel like participating in community. Truthfully, a lot of nights I’d rather dissolve into the sofa and watch mindless televison than open my heart up to a bunch of other people. But invariably, I feel better as my friends start gathering. My energy level is elevated when we start catching up on the week, then even moreso as we delve into the spiritual issues of the week. By the time it’s over, I find that I don’t want to depart from this holy alliance – I want to stick around, share some more, grow deeper in the knowledge of the love of Christ with these friends as my guides.

It’s almost like God wants it this way.

I try not to be too demanding; it’s not really my personality. But seriously, all I ask for are a few simple things.

  • Plain, white, generic, select-a-size paper towels that don’t have flowers or tree houses or fruits printed all over them UPDATE: Have found these at Wal-Mart. Sigh of relief.
  • Microsoft Outlook to not include my e-mail address when I click “Reply All.” Gmail understands that I don’t want to reply to myself – why can’t you, Outlook?
  • The worship leader to know the words to the song he’s leading
  • Car commercials to not yell at me

Nobody likes an awkward silence, least of all the person responsible for keeping the conversation going. Mike and I love leading small groups, but inevitably there is a moment (or sometimes several moments) in which nobody has anything to say. No honest answer to a question, no insight on the verse you’re studying, no past experience that might augment the conversation. At that point, nothing is more tempting than to throw in the golden morsel of Scriptural wisdom you’ve been keeping in your back pocket for such a time as this. Or maybe your default is to ask the really holy person in the group if he has any further thoughts on the subject.

Next time, keep your mouth shut.

Keep your mouth shut several seconds longer than seems comfortable. It might mean people shift awkwardly in their seats for a moment or two, and it might mean people look at you expectantly, hoping you’ll say anything that would end this eternity of silence. Or, it might give the shy girl in your group a chance to say something that has been on her mind for weeks, but she hasn’t had a chance to get a word in edgewise because of all the talking that everyone else is doing.

Just watched the newest Nooma on Facebook. She. The feminine nature of God. Incredible.

Rob Bell talks about how we’re all very comfortable referring to God in the masculine, but in doing so we neglect the part of God that is maternal, insightful, devoted, protective, and graceful like a woman. Even with my life-long association with females, this concept doesn’t always come naturally to me.

But God created man in His own image … male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27)

It’s so overused I’m not even sure they publish it anymore. And truthfully, they don’t even need a catchphrase because their logo is so perfect, so simple, so known.

Just do it.

The name comes from the Greek goddess of victory and triumph, and Nike (the company) makes use of victories across the planet to emphasize the philosophy that we should all just do it. Whatever it is. Just doing it has made injured women run marathons in record time. Just doing it has been the genesis of world-class companies and brands. Just doing it is what Christ did all the way to Jerusalem so that he could be mocked, tortured, and nailed to a cross. And save us all.

You know the good you ought to do. Just do it. You may not have the motivation right now. Do it. You may not have the resources. Do it. You may be afraid it will fail. Do it.