Ask Without Fear! – the first week

[Cross posted on Fundraisingcoach.com.]

A week ago tomorrow, I got my first copies of Ask Without Fear!. Caleb even made me a sign!

What a whirlwind of a week!

My kids helped me pack up the 70 or so boxes:

And we finally got them done:

Here’s a link to the rest of the photos.

Resignation Day

Today is the 5th anniversary of my resigning from The Stony Brook School to obey what I thought was God’s invitation to come back to Maine.

Five years.

It seems so long ago. Fortunately time blunts the conflicting emotions of that tumultuous time. God has done so much in my life and allowed me to accomplish and experience more than I could’ve imagined. Think like:

  • Moving back to Lewiston
  • Learning that I really would drop everything and “go” if Jesus called me like He did the disciples
  • Learning to really trust God to watch my back and protect my reputation
  • Became a Certified FranklinCovey Coach
  • Starting Fundraisingcoach.com and PitmanCoaching.com
  • Teaching a Kingdom of God class at the Vineyard Church of Lewiston
  • Depending on God for every red cent (and being blown away by my parent’s generosity with the house)
  • Hosting Passover Seders
  • Seeing my speaking career ramp up
  • Having the privilege of training nonprofit boards and businesses like a physical therapy practice and a equine vet practice
  • Developing the entire Nonprofit Fundraising Institute and presenting it to organizations and through a local community college
  • Applying for over 100 jobs, projects, and joint partnerships in less than 2 years
  • Doing a couple Marriage Encounters with Em
  • Being asked to pray about starting the Vineyard Church plant in Waterville
  • Finding the first job that was a perfect fit here in Maine, as Director of the Inland Foundation (I’m glad I didn’t stop after 97 or 98 job interviews!)
  • Moving to Waterville and joining the wonderful team of Maine and NH Vineyard pastors
  • Adding Sofia to our family
  • Finding tremendous favor with the Waterville community, like this story on pastoring and this one on fundraising coaching
  • Finishing the manuscript for my book Ask Without Fear! (it’s supposed to be in print by this March!)

This is by no means comprehensive. But it’s humbling to see what God’s done.

I wonder what God has in store for the next five years!

Goals

I’m in the process of writing out my “100 dreams and goals for 2008.” (I use my own MagnetGoals program.)

This year, I started with a fresh piece of paper and my “life” and “5-year” goals. In 45 minutes at Starbucks, I’d jotted down about 50 things I want to do in 2008. Some of them are off-the-wall dreams. But it’s still half the list.

This morning, I’m going to go over my 2007 list of 100 things, see how I did and see what I can add to my 2008 list.

In the past, I’d started with the prior year list. It helped fill up my sheet but it didn’t exactly get me off to an “anything’s possible” beginning. It was more of a,”Sheesh, I accomplished a lot but there’s still a lot that didn’t get done” sort of beginning. More of a “downer” feeling.

So if you get the chance, I highly recommend going to a comfortable place with a clean pad of paper and letting your dreams go wild. It’s somewhat embarrassing. I often find myself thinking things like, “Gosh, I hope people don’t find this list or read over my shoulder! They’ll think I’m really stuck on myself.” Even “Would God be that good to me?”

But it’s really invigorating.

[For what it’s worth, when I find myself asking if God would be that good, I know that thought or idea is almost assuredly from Him. It’s just my concept of Him that’s too small. Afterall, He gave His own Son for me. What would He hold back?]

Dying

My iPAQ is down again. I had to reset and reload it. These things simplify life, right?

At least I get to catch up on blogs. Here’s a quote from Jon Swanson:

Much to the chagrin of churchy people, the standard that Jesus established was not dying for our faith. It was dying for each other. Too often we get all stuffy about standing up for our beliefs. Seldom do we get celebrated for laying down our lives or our livelihood for others. (However, it happens. All the time)

He’s writing about peas and a fundraising effort for a breast cancer patient.

But this is so true, isn’t it?

We’re so much more likely to say, “Yes Lord! I’ll die for you!” than we are “Yes, Lord! I’ll die to that area of my life for this person.”

That’s why so many marriages fail. Dying for Jesus (in North America) is largely conceptual. But dying to myself for my spouse means I really have to change. And if I don’t my spouse will let me know!

Dying for Jesus can happen at some unspecified time. Dying for others happens NOW.

I think that’s been the most incredible thing about pastoring for three years now. Often, the people that don’t stick with us are the ones that

  1. say they’ll die for Jesus and say it loudly and
  2. want every single part of life to conform to their own preconceived notions.

Then they go and justify their inflexibility by their passion for Jesus.

And as a recipient of their “you’re-not-doing-it-like-I-would-so-you’re-not-doing-it-God’s-way,” I get to die to myself. Their myopic vision isn’t something I need to chastise them for or vilify them for. Once in a while I’ll get to call them on it. And it certainly is stress producing. But we keep reminding ourselves we’re all myopic in some areas.

I’m not ranting. Really. This is just how it is. This is community. It’s not hanging out with people you love 24/7. It’s living life with people and doing it whether it feels comfortable or not.

If you’re a pastor, I bet you know it’s true.

If you know a pastor, ask Jesus to help them live in this tension. Ask God to help them have a thick skin and a tender heart.

And if you call the Vineyard Church of Waterville your home, thank you! We have an amazingly committed crew of people that are committed to dying for each other. You guys keep short accounts (not letting things fester). You keep communication open. And you’re just as honest when you’re going through a crappy patch of life as you are when you’re living in praise-land!

You guys are the best.

[Hallelujah! My iPAQ just binged at me!!! It’s fixed!]

Happy Boston Tea Party Day!

Boston Tea PartyI bet you felt something different in the air today, didn’t you? A tingle, an electric aliveness that wasn’t there yesterday, right?

That’s because today is the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. It wasn’t the first, Charlestonians claim to have done it earlier. But it was ours.

I think I’ll go dump a little tea down the garbage disposal in homage.

Snow Day

Today we had the second ever snow day of VCW. Maybe the third. Not bad for being in existence for three years here in Maine!

When I started, nothing was going to hinder a Sunday service. Nothing. I was going to be like the postman-pastor: not sleet, nor snow, etc. And our first year, I was extremely proud to be one of the only churches open on a Sunday. Good rep to have.

But I’ve grown.

Many Sundays I say when Jesus comes back on the white horse, his first question to you probably isn’t going to be “Did you have perfect Sunday attendence?” 🙂 So why was I holding that measure to myself?

Well for one, I wanted people to know that they could count on VCW being open. I guilted myself into thinking that I might screw up someone’s eternity because we shut our doors.

But that’s a bit hard on me, my family, and my team. We have people driving from 45-60 minutes in good weather to get here. If they were like me, I’d have driven through it all to get to church. Not always a wise decision.

Plus, in a church our size, most people are “on the team.” It used to be that I’d just go to church, sing some songs, hear a lesson, hang with people, and go home.

Now I know how much work goes into a service.

  • The children’s time needs to be all planned out and materials ready if crafts are happening.
  • The communion bread and juice need to be ready.
  • Coffee and snacks too.
  • Someone needs to get there early (in past winters it’s been me at 6 a.m.) to make sure the building’s warm and the walking area is cleared and de-iced. (I’ve even come to thinking of the sound the ice chipper tool clanging on ice and tar as a sort of 21st century equivalent to the monastic call to worship of banging on a log of wood!)
  • The worship leader needs to have a worship set practiced and ready. And get to church in time for the sound check and warm up.
  • The sound board person needs to be there to make sure the recording and audio levels are set and that the powerpoints are ready; the songs up on the computer for projection; and any videos I want for the sermon are loaded.
  • I have to prep for the sermon and make sure the powerpoint announcements are up-to-date and ready to go. As well as have something for eyes to see while I preach.
  • And the team is often listening in to God throughout the whole service. Asking,
    • “What are you doing Lord?”
    • “Is this technical difficulty human error or spiritual attack?”
    • “Did that person just bring in confusion and how do I neutralize it?”
    • “That other person seems down. Would they prefer to be left alone or should I pray for them?”
    • “Has that visitor been greeted? Or our we weirding them out with our friendliness?”
  • The offering needs collecting, counting, signing off on, and storing.
  • Numbers of people need counting.
  • Trash needs taking out and the building needs locking up.
  • And there there’s all the Sunday afternoon church stuff: entering counts into our records, adding visitors to the database, entering the offering and preparing the deposit, updating web sites and podcasts.

The day is full. And wonderful. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

But a snow day feels like a wonderful break for me and the team.

My family had a wonderful no-TV morning. Made wassail and popcorn balls. Played UNO. Did a jigsaw puzzle. Read. Right now there’s a fire in the fireplace.

Life is good.

It’s nice to not be bound by the legalism that held me in my first year. It did try nip at my heels last night and today when the snow wasn’t as much as we’d expected. And someone said they were surprised that we’d canceled. That fed into my firstborn-perfectionistic-legalism! I even (foolishly) found myself praying for the biggest nor-easter in decades just to prove I’d made a good decision. (God had me laughing at myself before I could even finish that one!)

But despite that, I enjoyed today. And God’s ok with that. 🙂

And I’m really looking forward to church next Sunday!!

Gross

Here’s a cheery thought from a somewhat scary article on WebMD:

The average desk area in an office has 400 timesmore bacteria on it than the average toilet seat, which means your workplace is a fine place for cold and flu germs to congregate. People sneeze, talk, eat and breathe all over their desks and their neighbor’s desk all day long, and cleaning at work is usually the last thing on someone’s mind. When Jim from the next cube over lets out a whopping sneeze, the flu has just flown the coop, making a nice nest on your computer keyboard. The good news, after two days of being sanitized with disinfectant wipes, most desks have about a 99.9% reduction in bacteria and virus levels, including those that cause the cold and flu. By practicing good cleaning habits in your work space you are less apt to come down with the cold or flu.