Friday, November 15, 2013

The world will always need heroes...

Hi readers!

I haven't had an opportunity to send out a blog in a while. This new job has had me super busy and with all the excitement i hardly have had a spare second to write a decent blog. Today I will write a nice quick one because of the happenings in San Francisco

This morning as I checked my twitter feed between answering emails I ran across the story of Batkid (#SFBatkid or #Batkid on twitter) the story of little Leukemia survivor Miles who was surprised with the gift of being Batman for the day. His wish drove volunteers to mass 12000 strong to turn a part of San Fransisco into his own pint sized Gotham City, complete with Riddler and Penguin villains. You can read all about this story here (Batkid Story

  In the midst of world wide problems I am glad that there are stories like this to remind us that there is still good in this world. Perhaps it won't make much difference in dropping the crime rate or even fixing all that is wrong with the world, but for one brief moment the world smiled. For one day, to that little boy, the realm of the imagination has leaked into the real world and he was given an opportunity to live out his dream. for one whisper of time the world made sense.

   Batman, is a hero to millions of fans world wide, but today's real heroes where the 12 000+ volunteers who went out of their way, taking time off work to make the dreams of a little boy real. I can't help but wonder what would happen if we tried to make each other's dreams a reality? would the world notice because we dress up in costumes or will the notice because we are doing an act of God in a public way? Too often we are bogged down with our own problems, with our own issue and trials that we forget to take time and look for the good in everything.

There is still good in this world, and today one little boy has a stronger faith in the good of humanity. In fact, if you were to tell him that Batman was not real, I'm willing to bet that he would say "yes, he is! I AM Batman!" If only we were so expressive with our faith in Christ. That we would do so much good to others making their dreams reality so that social media would explode with the news that Christians are doing good, just because we can. I think that those people we would touch with our good deeds would have a hard time doubting the existence of Christ. Like little Miles they would stand up and say "There is a God! I've seen his kids work!"

The world still needs Heroes! go out and makes someones dream come true!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Energy

    One of the questions all Youth pastors or leaders in general have to ask is "How do I maintain the energy level of my team?" Lets be open for a bit, we've all experienced that lull during the ministry year  where it feels like you're wading through waist deep molasses in the middle of winter. Events become a blur, and you're just glad when you can go home and rest. Energy gets spent in more ways than one than one as the year progresses, so its important, and dare I say imperative for a leader to be aware of his teams energy level. Lets take a look at this thing we call energy so we can understand it better and hopefully we can begin to think of ways to better spend and recharge our team members.


   What is energy?
 Humans have two kinds of energy (there may be more, but we're going to focus on 2 for times sake): Physical energy and emotional energy. Both of these is what fuels every person to do their work or to create something and even to develop deep relationships. Some people have an instinctual skill to know when they need to recharge their energy and how to reload it themselves. Others have to learn how to develop disciplines to keep their energy levels at optimum.  Some choose physical activity, music, making or looking at art spending time in nature or even engaging
 
Energy Subtractors

For the benefit of newer leaders, energy subtractors are any event, situation or relationship that leaves you drained and unable to work at an optimal level. For some its spending too much time away from people, others spending too much time with people, stress, arguments, even daily day to day tasks can be energy subtractors. each will drain away a small or large portion of your daily energy reserves. lets take a quick glance at a few major ones:

a weak spiritual life- This will erode what little energy you're able to muster, because we rob ourselves of a vast source of energy that comes from God. Most of us do our best to make it through on instinct and skill alone, but this is a dangerous habit to forms as it not only weakens us, but makes us vulnerable to mistakes and attacks. If we are to counter act the drain effect of the many subtractors out there, then this is where we begin.

Poor Diet: Its long been a running joke that the diet of a typical youth pastor consists of Pizza, Soda Pop, Nachos and Wings. Some of us don't even eat a vegetable that has not been either deep fried or if it doesn't come from a chip bag. Its amazing how much having an unbalanced and unhealthy diet will affect the way your energy reserves work. Junk food is dangerous because it gives us the illusion of being fed, while in truth there is so little nutrition in it that our body can use to give us a decent level of energy. Most of that stuff is processed as waste and nothing is drawn into the system to help it maintain health.

Lack of Physical activity: This goes hand in hand with poor diet as your physical self needs exercise to maintain peak performance energy levels. No, eating junk food and "working it off" at tonights event is not exercise! This is where most of us tend to gravitate, but the problem with this is that even though we may run around with our students, we train our selves to only do it when they're around. In fact, we are indirectly teaching them bad habits that contribute to the rise of obesity.

For our teams:

Over taxing their time: no ministry would be successful without the help of all these brave volunteers who many times are the first to arrive, help clean up, take kids home, skip meals and holidays to help impact the lives of students. They are our most important resource so we must treat them as such. As pastors we can be the biggest drain on their energy simply because we need ministry to keep functioning. Making sure we're not being unreasonable with the use of their time is important, which means that its important to start and end events ON TIME. we're good at getting them involved with the students, but sometimes we forget that they are people with lives and stresses too.

Energy Rechargers:

These are activities that leave you charged up and feeling like you could take on the world. Its amazing how good you feel after you spend time doing some of these activities. They're fun, they're interesting and sometimes a bit odd. The main idea here is to do something that gives energy rather than subtract it.  As seen above, lets take a glance at what can we do to counteract the aforementioned subtractors to help our team maintain energy.

Pray & Read: we cannot ask our teams to grow in their faith walks if we are neglecting ours. Thats just, plain and simple, hypocritical. Therefore, we must strive to set the standard that our team sees. More importantly, pray whenever you are together with them, pray for them, have them pray for you, and pray for your students. Reading the bible goes with out saying, I know that some of us are not huge readers (I love reading for the record!), but there is such a hoard of great writing out there loaded with tools and suggestions we can use to be even better leaders. If we become better leaders, then our team will become better, and really there is no limit where the Lord can take you after that.

Healthy Alternatives: At my previous ministry opportunity, my team and I made a decision to ban energy drinks from all events. We did for two reasons: 1) have you ever seen a hyper Jr Higher loaded up on red bull?! they're bound to become radioactive or spontaneously combust and then we'd get blamed for burning down the church! 2) <seriously> There is nothing healthy or good about energy drinks. we felt that allowing them to put that junk into their system and condoning it would be enabling the formation of bad eating habits and we cared about our students too much to let them ingest that stuff.
   we started to add healthy alternatives to our snack times and we minimized the use of pizza and chips at our events. We asked parents to provide healthy baked goods when snacks were needed and lowered our sugar intake. Will those kids eat healthier at home? maybe not, but as stewards of their time and lives we were going to be examples to them. btw I lost 35 lbs in 2 months (I also exercised regularly) also and it showed the kids that you could have better health.

Physical Activity: Yeah, youth events can be high energy and very active but there is a need for us to invest in regular exercise outside of youth events. When we exercise our bodies, our minds become shaper, we think quicker and have more energy. You'll notice that ideas for sermons, events and bible studies just keep pouring out of your head. Also you'll sleep better and then have more energy to invest into your team and students. You don't have to go and sign up for a fancy gym membership, but you can go out for a walk after supper (take your kids if you have some) or get a group of area pastors and play some pickup basketball a couple of times a week, or simply go jogging. Do it until it becomes a habit and yes the first few times you'll be tired, but if you stick to it you'll see results. Show your people that the Lord not only cares for your soul but your physical self too.

For our teams:

Long weekends off: "What?!?! shut down youth for a long weekend?! are you crazy!!!" this may be your reaction, but let me explain before you stop reading. I think that as youth pastors we are not only called to serve the youth but the families as well. I know that most long weekends we see a slight increase in attendance to our events because students finally have time to come out. This is great, but have you thought about your team? do they have families that they'd like to spend a long weekend with? perhaps they'd like to go and visit a friend? or just simply stay in. I think we've done a great disservice to our teams in youth ministry by asking them to work when everyone has the weekend off.
   When I started to think about this,, I realized that i was being unfair to my team and unfair to my family. I spoke to my SP at the time and told him that I was going to shut down youth every long weekend and he reacted much like I noted above but I told him that these volunteers take time after working 8 hours every friday, who sacrifice weekends to spend it in a cabin with a bunch of stinky Jr. High boys, who are there every-time we need them and ask for nothing in return. It was in our best interest to make sure that they got a gift for their service and a $10 coffee gift card was not going to cut it. We needed to give them the gift of time off.
    He raised a concern regarding the students not coming to other events or going elsewhere because we were not open. I told him that at the parents meeting I challenged the parents to take the long weekends and plan outings with their students, to intentionally take interest in what their teen was into and to not fear having to compete with a youth event. Reluctantly he agreed to let me try it for the year, and what I discovered was this: Students kept coming (we actually grew), and my team was even more energized! the winter energy lull was greatly minimized which translated into them having more energy to spend on the students which then made our events, and services better and took us into a whole new gear of momentum. My team then worked harder because they did not feel guilty about missing an event scheduled on a long weekend due to family events. They came back energized, happy and ready to take on the world and we succeeded.

Final thoughts

What I'nm trying to suggest is that we need to be intentional in ensuring that our energy levels and the energy levels of our teams are at an optimum because we'll be able to fight the good fight longer and with excellence. I don't know about you, but I rather go to battle with happy, rested people than a bunch of weary, grouchy people.


with blessings!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Perfect

Perfect:

   This word has been the bane of many ministries. It has burned out so many good leaders, destroyed marriages, strained faith walks and damaged students. All youth pastors want their groups to be perfect, and I don't believe there's ever been one who just wanted to run the worst youth group in town. We've all tried to achieve "perfection" but alas, it is unattainable. It's a mirage, a puff of smoke, an impossible dream. At least here on earth it is. Most of us who seek to go beyond doing our best in our groups will tend to fall into two extremes whilst pursuing perfection. 1)we're never satisfied, and 2) We refuse to budge.

Never satisfied

  On the one hand, we constantly are seeking for the next best thing, program, curriculum, model, media, etc that will take our group "to the next level." We work hard to provide the best teaching, events and volunteers, but more out of a mindset based on the idea that the results they yield will take us closer to that "perfection" we are reaching for. Sometimes, it may even lead us to leave a perfectly healthy and growing ministry for an even bigger opportunity and sometimes it will cause us all sorts of frustrations when we can't mould our people into the picture we have in our heads. This is quite possibly the reason why criticisms hurt us so much. yea, I know that constructive criticism is always good to receive, but there's always a tiny portion of us who feels slighted by someone saying that we could have done better. We lose sight of the very reason we became youth pastors in the first place, not to chase after the spectre of perfection, but to point people to the one who truly is perfect: God.

   We do great harm to our students, because we tend to (perhaps indadvertedly) show them how to pursue "perfect" rather than how to pursue God. They watch us and hear about how we work, pray, but I fear they see that our hearts are not fully focused on seeking God, but in creating perfection so that God will seek us. Perhaps this is the reason why many students feel that they are not good enough christians, that every time they try to do something and it doesn't produce fruit effortlessly that they need to work harder at being a better Christian. We may even teach them to not enjoy the "now" therefore, they go through life seeking the next big thing, never stopping to see the good they've built.

Immovable

The pendulum swing to the other extreme isn't any better as we may be resistant of changes that would expand the effectiveness of our ministry. We become so stuck in a rut that we forget there are many ways to enhance what we do, to keep it fresh and relevant or, most importantly, accessible to everyone. We may even become critics (or trolls) of others who are seeing increased success. We start making excuses as to why that wouldn't work in our area, or we blame the lack of money, people, volunteers, building capacity, equipment, or even blame senior church leadership for their "lack of vision." It all becomes an insatiable whining or a discourse on "why that's not going to work" or "If I had a chance..." yet, we do nothing but hope that somehow one day we wake up and everything will magically have reached perfection.

   This also hurts our students because they copy what we do or how we talk/think because we are an important figure in their lives. By dwelling in this extreme we teach them that working towards excellence is a fools errand and that keeping things status quo is best. Thus they grow up to be people who wallow in mediocrity or below, never wanting to move beyond their limits because we taught them to never endeavour to be better. We taught them to become immovable.

So what now?

  I'm not entirely sure that there is a clear cut remedy to this issue. Personally, I believe that we must do everything in our physical power to be the best we can be as followers of Christ. Our example speaks louder than a thousand sermons, but we cannot allow ourselves to be so consumed with reaching perfection, when we know it is impossible. I believe that part of (if not the whole) answer comes from shifting our focus away from a perfection based on our achievement and centre it on a perfection based on God. What I mean by this is: that we do everything in our power accomplish every task in the best way we can. We must push ourselves to our limits, we seek ways to improve (within reason), and we let God deal with making things perfect. We focus on our best and do what is pleasing to God, what will bring him the greatest amount of Honour. I believe that even though it may not look "perfect" in our eyes, in His it more than does. No matter how simple, limited, or small, when we do things to bring God glory, with pure and humble motives, He deems it perfect.

Until next time!
Blessings.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Heroes

   I recently had the opportunity to meet one of my personal heroes, Author and speaker Francis Chan. I was so excited to meet him (albeit briefly) after he finished speaking at his session at a convention in my area, that I bolted from my seat, and I must admit rather rudely made my way to the front area where he was meeting a few people, I left my backpack and all my valuables and the friends I was sitting with behind. I knew that this may be my one and only chance to shake his hand and say a few words of encouragement to him. I was determined not to miss this opportunity and would let nothing or no one, stop me. Once I was face to face with him, I thanked him for what he had spoken, and for the books he had written and how they've impacted my life as a Christian and pastor. Then I asked for a picture. That was it. the whole thing probably took no more than 3 minutes. I'm happy to say that He's as genuine and humble as he portrays.

  Have you ever stopped to think about what it is about our heroes that make us go to personal extremes just to shake their hand or even get an autograph? What makes them a hero? is it writing a book, having their own podcast or a large ministry? Is it someone who travels to multiple conventions to speak, has their own DVD series or webcast? or is a hero someone who just does the duty that God gave them faithfully and their faithfulness attracts the attention of everyone around them? There is nothing wrong with having people you admire, but we must teach our students and ourselves that they are just people.

To build or destroy...

Heroes can be a positive and a negative source of influence in our lives. Positively, they can help us to improve our skills, become closer to God or inspire us to greatness. Negatively, heroes can rob us of our sense of self by our constant attempt to imitate them, they can disappoint with their words or actions, they can shift our focus off God and unto them, making them our idols. In reality, our heroes are just people. regular, people who have a God given gift and insight that help the rest of us when we face an issue or need some growth.

We all have people in our lives that we admire, that have helped to shape us into the people we are today. It is necessary for human development, and as youth pastors, we must do a better job at helping our students pick and discern between heroes who will build them up into greatness and heroes who will destroy their lives. Popular culture has a warped view of heroes, they say that to be a hero you must either do something impossible, help during a disaster or tragedy or have some sort of talent that will reach millions. (i.e. music, acting, etc) but what about those heroes that live their lives plainly?
 
I speak of the Pastor who has shepherded a single flock in a small community in the middle of nowhere? what about the military chaplains who minister to the soldiers in the theatre of war and has the unfortunate task of performing one too many funerals for fallen soldiers? or the single mom who works 2-3 jobs and still takes time to spend with her kids and make lives as special as possible? we could go on and on about people who are heroes that go unnoticed, but the point is that we need to ensure that our students seek to pattern their lives, not after some pop culture icon or simply imitate they way they dress or act.

A true hero

  The one marker of a true hero is that they make us believe that we can be better than we are. They inspire us to pursue greatness, not for our selves but for others. We in the Christian world have the greatest hero of all, but sometimes we forget that. No, this will not turn into the sunday school version of what a Hero is. (its Jesus if you didn't know) The great draw back from students patterning their lives after a person is that they're patterning their lives after a human being. a person with flaws and weaknesses that may or may not be visible.

   Nothing hurts our hearts more than when our heroes fall. It can be so disheartening for a "fan" to see the person they admire be dragged through the mire of sin. This is why it is important for us youth pastors to remind our students constantly that even thought these people are great, and may be incredibly wise, that they are flawed beings just like us and that we must hold on to the good things that they are teaching or modelling.

   This is a very valuable lesson for us youth pastors as well, since to some teens eyes, we are the closest thing to a hero they may every have. We must be diligent in showing them the true hero (Jesus) while at the same time keeping our spirits nourished and strong. This can be difficult as we continue to fight the never ending battle versus the enemy for the souls of our teens. Yet, it is imperative to keep our relationship with God strong. It is He who makes true heroes.

   In my younger days, I loved reading super-hero comic books. (I still, like to read comic books) one of the most interesting heroes is the Green Lantern. For those of you who were deprived of this childhood rite, the Green Lantern draws his superpower from a ring that lets him create energy constructs of whatever he can imagine. The only drawback to this power was that the ring had a limited supply of energy and needed to be recharged with the help of a green lantern battery. This is a very interesting metaphor for life in ministry, for as long as we have our spirits charged with the power of that comes from God, we can be true heroes to our teens. we have the power to do more than we could ever imagine and it is not only limited to us, but we can show our students that they can also build such a relationship with the Lord that they can also do great and marvellous things for the glory of God.

The dream of every youth pastor is to see our students become greater "heroes" than we can ever be.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Overcome

   Today I, like the rest of the world was shocked to hear about the horrific tragedy that occurred in Boston. One can only imagine the fear and confusion that the people who endured this tragedy must have felt or gone through. There are no words that I could write to express what the range of emotions that I felt when I heard the news. Shock, anger, fear, they all washed through me today. I do not know a single person that ran the marathon today, but tragedies such as these always hit me very hard.

As I took some time to pray for the victims and the first responders who stepped in immediately to help strangers affected by this most heinous act of violence, I started to think about how difficult it is to explain tragedies like these to students. How do you show them that an all loving, all powerful God would allow evil people to hurt the innocent, many of which were waiting for the race participants?

I would like to suggest for your thinking, somethings we can do for our students.

1) Don't try to gloss over the tragedy with christian babble.

There is already much confusion in the students hearts and there is no need to add to it. Rather keep things as simple and as short as possible. Also, do not minimize the gravity of the occurrence, these are sad times we are living in, a lot of tragedy and pain seems to rise up almost daily. They need to hear words of comfort and peace. They need to see your faith in God.

2) Let them ask questions.

undoubtedly, they will be questions. Many of them will be difficult to answer, and many darn near impossible, but the best thing we can do is to let the questions be spoken and to help students process what is going on inside their heads.

3) Draw their focus to God.

Rather than focus on the tragedy, help them see that even amongst the chaos of this world, God is always in control. Even though many people may not want him and some may even hate God, He always sends angels in the form of the first responders, paramedics, police officers, firemen, volunteers and random individuals who step up to help with any need. It is an opportunity to draw their attention to the fact that all life on earth is fleeting and uncertain. In reality, none of us know when or even how we will end our time on earth, but as believers it is important to remember that our faith in Jesus Christ guarantees us eternal life. Death is not to be feared, but rather, we must be consciously preparing our hearts for the time when the Lord calls us home. In all tragedies, God is in control.

4) Find a way to let the students help the victims

Perhaps having some cards you can mail (its not hard to find the address) to the place where the tragedy occurred, this time being the Boston Marathon. Let them write short messages for the first responders, the doctors, the volunteers, police officers etc. If you also have Young Adults, then perhaps having a blood drive or taking them to donate blood as one event can do wonders to help them feel like they are helping people in some way.

Remember the words Jesus said:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
 
May the Peace of God be with you all
pray for Boston.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mountain


Up

One of my favourite places in the world is Banff national park, in Alberta. This is a town that is surrounded by the Rocky mountains and where one is not far away from some great hiking trails. Weever I get a chance to God there, I'm astounded by the natural beauty all around and the majestic awesomeness of those towering peaks. Being there you can truly see the finger prints of God in every corner of such wondrous beauty. It is the place where I feel closest to God, it's an inexplicable holy place to me. There is nothing like hiking these mountains. There's no distractions, no cell phones, no emails to answer, no appointments to be kept. Just your water bottle, walking stick, daypack and God.

There are many times when God takes us to a mountain, but being there may not be a great and joyous time. Most of us associate mountain to p experiences with reaching a closeness to God, just like Moses did;  yet some times mountain top experiences may be for a different reason. Sometimes God takes us to his mountain not to share in a closeness, but rather to isolate us from the world so that we may be able to hear his voice. In the quiet loneliness of the mountain, God instructs and refreshes your soul. It is where God shows you grace.

Mountain Men

Two men had contracting experiences atop a mountain. Both met with God, but the reason behind their ascensions where different. The first climbed up to receive instructions, laws and to intercede on behalf of the people he reluctantly led. A people that were so easily seduced by sin and taunted God's wrath almost daily. He had been groomed from birth to lead, he had all the skills, but he struggled with self doubt and rash, violent actions. This unbridled fervour led him to make a mistake and he had to flee into the wilderness to save his life. Yet it was in the wilderness near a mountain where he saw a miraculous sign and where God bestowed upon him the mantle of a leader and gave him the plan for the deliverance of a chosen and loved people.

The second man was already anointed by God with great power before he climbed his first mountain. It was on too of a mountain where He had his greatest success in ministry. He won a battle where the sheer power of God was displayed and proved to a wayward nation that the pagan gods they had been influenced to follow by a wicked queen, had no power compared to the one and only God. Because he had been used to expose the lies of the enemy his life was threatened, and in fear, he fled to another mountain where ind the midst of great loneliness and seeming defeat, he wanted to die. It ws in this mountain where God reminded him of his mission. Where God refreshed him and sent him back to complete the task he had been given. God even gave him some help in the form of an eventual successor who would go on to surpass him.

  On one hand we have someone who learnt how to lead and inspite of his short comings. He learnt how to speak in a way to inspire people to keep moving, to keep trusting in God and to keep the promises of God at the forefront of their minds. On the mountain Moses saw God's glory and was sent. On the other hand we have a prophet who was worn out, an angry letter by an even angrier woman had shaken him to the core even though God's power and protection had not left him. On the mountain he was restored, quieted, fed, refocused and reminded he was not alone. With a simple "why are you here, Elijah?" God began the restorative process of his soul, first by reminding him of his purpose and secondly, he was given a plan of succession by which his burden would be dispersed.

Which mountain?

Two different men and Two different mountain experiences. Which mountain experience do you identify with right now? Are you like Moses, meeting with God regularly to intercede for the people under you care? or are you facing adversity from the people you are trying your best to lead, but it seems like you just can't win, like Elijah? Dear reader, fellow worker, my brother or sister, we will all have to climb either mountain at one point or another in our ministry. But do not despair! The Lord ordains these experiences. When in doubt, or fear, or persecution there is not better place to go than up the mountain of God.

  These mountains are not to be our permanent dwelling places, for the battle is fought down in the valleys of this world. God takes us to these mountains to give us hope, to let us survey the world around us from His vantage point so that we may see how far we have come from when we first chose to follow Him. Mountain times are for a time and for a reason, don't be like Peter who wanted to set up some tents on the mount of the transfiguration, when Jesus met with the two men mentioned above. When the time is right and God has given instruction or restored the heart, He will send you down the mountain again. We, as leaders, are no good to God if we choose to cloister our selves, He needs us to be mobile, quick on our feet, and living within our people.

One last mountain

Jesus had a habit of going up mountains to pray. When ever he could, according to scripture, He would get away to the wilderness, or to a mountain to pray and recharge. He was the fulfilment of the prophecies of all the prophets, of which Elijah is considered chief, and He is the completion of the Law given to Moses. I like to think that the reason he sought out these high places to pray, was to show his disciples that He was the promised one which the scriptures and the prophets said would come, climbing the mountain to meet with God, one greater than Moses and Elijah. Yet there was one last mountain that he had to climb.

Being so close to good friday, I am reminded Calvary, a mount outside of Jerusalem, where the greatest victory known to mankind took place. Bloodied, beaten beyond recognition, tired and on the verge of collapse, Jesus took step after painstaking step up this mountain dragging a cross. This time the mountain experience was one that everyone, spanning the ages, would see. What happened atop this mount (or hill) finally fulfilled the whole of scripture. The sacrifice was made, the penalty for sin was paid, the veil was torn asunder so that we humans would be free from condemnation. So that we would one day be able to see the face of God, to run into his arms and feel the warmth of His embrace. If it wasn't for what happened at Calvary, none of us would be allowed to climb the mountain of God.

Remember, dear reader, that when ever you are in the thick of battle in the trenches, when you think that your strength will give out and that you have nothing left to fight for, remember to look up at this mountain! See the cross at its pinnacle and remember that the Lord will take care of you, He will direct you, He will restore you. Climb this mountain and remember his promise: "...And I am with you ALWAYS, to the very end of the age"

may the Lord bless you all with a Happy Easter!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Radical Humility


Radiating Humility

 There is just something about people who are humble. You can't ignore it, and you can't put your finger on it. Everything they are doing seems to be genuine and effort less. You could say that they make being humble look so easy. Sadly this quality is so rare that it catches you off guard when you are exposed to such true humility. 


    True humility is one of the most underrated and necessary character that a leader should strive to master. I'm not sure why but I have yet to find anyone write a book on how to develop humility as a leader. I'm sure there must be someone out there that has touched on the subject, but I've not found one yet. Most of the time I find lessons from biographies of famous authors, but they are brief and far between.


     Last week, I saw such a vivid example of humbleness from a very unexpected source. For a few days last week the eyes of the worlds media turned on a group of men locked in a chapel in one of the world most famous chapels, cameras trained steadily on a chimney that would herald the election of their new leader, Someone chosen from amongst a myriad of peers who would lead their church for the foreseeable future. When they presented the man they chose as pope, I could not help but notice that there was something... different, about him. Something I'd seen far too few times in all my years as a Christ follower. This man radiated humility!


Lessons from a Pope?


   As more information about this man was revealed by the many news teams stationed at the vatican, there was an over arching trait that every person who had ever met this man would highlight as they were interviewed: He was humble. They noted that the way he lived as a cardinal was different than that of the others, he lived simply, took the bus rather than use a vehicle and driver that came along with his title. He spent time in the slums, amongst the very poor, he ate with them, cooked his own meals, and he used his position to love as many people as he could.


     At this presentation Pope Francis chose to wear the simplest of robes, rather than dress in the fancy drapery available to him. Even after receiving the highest of positions in the catholic church, he chose to stay humble. Even went as far as picking up his own luggage and pay for the lodgings he had used before he became pope. The people of the media found it amazing how a man known for being humble refused so many of the benefits that came with the power he was chosen to wield. My favourite part of this news coverage was the look of confusion and surprise in the faces of several newscasters when they reported that he had thanked each member of the staff where he stayed and had taken a simple vehicle there. His actions radiated humility and they noticed! one head line read "Pope Francis shows Radical humility amidst vatican pomp." (You can read it here) Radical humility, if only we all had that.


  Watching the media circus eat up any action or word this new pope said or did, I had a thought. There is a lesson to be learned here! I think that Radical Humility is not something you do it is something you are. Can a person be so humble that people think his actions to be radical? can something as passive as humility capture the hearts of a people in darkness? Has humility become so foreign to us that it shocks us when we see it in action? Can Humility truly be radical?


Its all glitter and noise...


     This world is accustomed to big shows. It loves the next big thing, all the flash and glitter that screams: "I am awesome! Gaze upon my magnificence!!" you don't believe me? take a look at the magazine racks next time you are buying groceries. I dare you to find 3 covers of magazines that don't peddle fame, flash, riches, scandals or gossip. They're all about how you can make yourself better, more attractive, successful. Its all about the you. Even if you find one about someone famous making a difference with a charity, there's always some hidden benefit to that individual. They do it because it makes them feel like they are contributing. Its all about the you/me.


   I think that the problem we have with humility is that we think that highlighting it makes it less humble. In fact, I believe most of us use humility as a way to boost our own pride. However, Radical Humility has nothing to do with us as individuals. True humility is found in filling the needs of others when no one is watching. Its sitting in the dirt with a poor family who has invited you for lunch, its forged in visiting an enemy who is sick, its found in leaving the church/youth room cleaner than when you got there so that the janitor does not have to clean up your mess, Its found in helping the sound techs clean up after the service even if it wasn't a youth service, its found in listening to a person pour out their heart to you after you've preached 3 sermons and all you want to do is go home and take a nap, it is found in offering a ride to a fellow church goer who is waiting for the bus on a rainy or snowy day, radical humility is found in having the guts to invite a person you've never met for lunch after church just to make them feel welcomed, it is found in stepping in when volunteers are needed even though you're working 40 hours that week and it means giving up a weekend, it is found in helping that new immigrant family learn the ins and outs of the culture so that they will be able to succeed, It is found in showing up for a prayer meeting, even if you're the only one there. True humility is not a label that you can attach on your self, but rather it is one bestowed on you by others, and one you cannot see.


Effortless


    Humility is not found once you are placed in a position of leadership! If you think having a higher title will make you more humble, you're wrong. It won't. If we don't learn humility when we are part of the masses, and no one is watching, then we will not attain it when we are at the apex leading the charge. Humility is not the way to fast forward a career nor can it be used to draw attention to our virtues. In fact, when we exercise true, radical humility we may not even realize we are doing it. It becomes such a natural, effortless part of who we are that it catches us by surprise when other people admire it. You just do what you do, because it pleases the Lord. Nothing more, nothing less. That's True humility.


  Watching the Pope, break several customs to ensure that he stays humble is astounding! Yet, I do not get a sense that it is all an act. It looks so effortless, so natural the way he carries himself, like all these things that seem important and fancy are just trappings and inconvenience. He denied himself things that are his by right just to ensure that his humility is not compromised. This example has shown me that people who exercise true humility do so as part of who they are and not as something they do as an add-on to garner favour. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold! one can only imagine what it must look like through the eyes of God. Perhaps, it looks as effortless and graceful as a ballet, or as smooth and easy like the hands of a skilled musician on their instrument. Simple and beautiful. Effortless.


   Let me conclude with a question I've been asking myself since I saw the reports on the new Pope: Am I seeking after humility simply so I will get recognized, or am I exercising it because it pleases God? I'm not sure how to answer this question, all I do know is that I want to be so humble that people outside of christian circles will be directed to God without me even knowing; I want a Radical Humility to radiate out or my life, do you?