I’m Probably Frustrated with You

I’ve recently found myself getting more and more frustrated with more and more people and things: with work, at church, and in my personal life.

And to paraphrase my wife, “When it’s everyone else, it’s you.

When it seems like everyone’s against you or everything is going wrong, when you find yourself blaming someone else at every turn, it’s probably time to take a good, hard look in the mirror, to figure out what’s going on inside of you, because chances are that the problem is with you, not everyone else.

I’m planning to take a couple of days off next week and figure out not just what’s going on with me now but where I’m headed and why I’m headed there.

Holiday Lessons

This Christmas was the first one Rachel and I have spent in DC. It’s our first year in our own home, and we’ve dreamt for years about having a place big enough for both of our families to come stay with us. Truth be told, having enough space for all of them to stay with us at once was no small part of my wanting a large (by city standards) home.

It was great to have everyone here.  And I think I’ve learned a few things this Christmas season, some tongue-in-cheek, some a bit more serious.

  • Things break when people visit – When my mom and brother were in town over the summer the basement flooded.  When the Marcums visited a couple of weeks ago, the roof started leaking.  While our family was here two faucets stopped working.
  • Families can be difficult – You choose friends because you like them.  Families are always there, and you don’t always see eye to eye.
  • Enjoy your family – I love DC, but one of the things I miss most about Chicago is family.  I miss cookouts and meeting my cousins’ significant others before the weekend of their wedding.  I miss watching little ones grow up.  These things make my heart long for home.
  • Vacation regularly – There are often times when I could use an extra day off during the week, but I tend to “save” my vacation days. Nearing the end of two weeks off, I’m dying to do some work.  I should have used my extra days off when I needed them and taken a shorter end of the year vacation.
  • People are expensive – We went through a lot of food with 8 people in the house for a week.  And I’m not looking forward to this month’s utility bills.

Old Friends

This weekend my mentor, Rick, and his wife, Chelle, were in town visiting Rachel and I.  We had a great time, as we always do with them.  I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s something special about visiting with old friends.  There’s a soul connection that happens when you get the chance to spend a few hours with someone who you has been a significant part of your life.

Jenny and I knew each other in high school and when we came home from college for breaks would go to Denny’s and talk until the sun came up.  A few years ago I had the privilege of officiating her wedding, and on the rare occasion when we talk on the phone, the conversation is bound to top an hour.

Five years ago Rachel and I moved to DC, which just happened to be a two hour drive from where Rick and Chelle had moved just a couple of years earlier.  We see them for a weekend about once a year just to catch up.  It’s one of the highlights of the year.

Last year Eric, a good friend of mine from college, relocated to DC.  We see each other fairly often, and I thoroughly enjoy his being here.  For a while he considered taking a job in Texas, and I was quite glad when he decided to stay.

In October I was in Chicago for my cousin’s wedding, and I got the chance to see my Janet, my first boss.  We talked for hours, and could have talked for hours more.  I worked for her for six years.

To the right are a few stories of people from my past with whom I’ve had these encounters in recent years. I think the common thread is the length of time and significant experiences I had with each. None of these were people I only saw on occasion.

Jenny and I saw each other at least twice a week went on youth retreats and mission trips together. Rick and Chelle invited me to dinner weekly before our church’s youth group, and Rick led many of the aforementioned retreats. Eric and I lived across the hall from each other in the dorms, and we were part of the same circle of friends. We were also both in DC one summer during college. Janet and I have had any number of shared experiences: she probably makes the top ten list of people who I’ve spent the most time with in life.

I’m not sure if there’s a lesson in here anywhere, other than to appreciate and take time for the significant relationships in your life, those who are close to you now (you might not always have them around so often) and those you used to be close to. There’s little sweeter than a true friend.

Hanging Out at RightNow 2010

In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m at the RightNow conference in Dallas, TX and am liveblogging the sessions. RightNow is all about being a trader, trading the pursuit of the American Dream to pursue Christ.

The sessions are good, but the in between times meeting and connecting with folks are even better. Stay tuned here and on Twitter for updates.

The Weirdest Bus in Africa

We’re just a couple of hours away from landing in Washington DC.  We spent the last two days of our trip outside of Addis Ababa at a camp/retreat center.  Adam wanted to get the boys out of the city for a night, so we packed up a bus with with nine Americans, a New Zealander, four Ethiopian adults, and twenty street boys from Addis.  It was the weirdest bus in Africa.

I must say, I was variously excited and apprehensive about the trip.  It sounded like a lot of fun, and then I thought about a two-and-a-half hour bus ride with those twenty boys.  At times I was a bit reticent to engage them, but ultimately doing so was well worth it.

One of my most meaningful times on the trip was giving piano lessons to Gurum.  Those who know me well are astonished to hear I was teaching anyone to play the piano.  In my lifetime, I’ve probably taken a grand total of eight lessons, but between those and a basic music theory course from college, I knew enough to cover finger exercises, chords, and octaves.  It was quite an experience.  One I’m not sure I can do it justice in a few words.

That’s just one of the stories from the night away.  Some of the boys learned to fish and were thrilled with each small catch.  We heard amazing testimonies from two of our team members, and we had the chance to swim in an African lake.

The trip back was less than smooth and provided a bit of worry about missing our flight, but we arrived in Addis in plenty of time to have dinner and have a cake for Jack, our team member who turned twenty-eight on Saturday.

Man, what a trip.  There’s a lot to think about and process, including how to use what we’ve learned and experienced in our lives back home.  Hopefully I’ll find some time to do just that in the next few days.  Until then, ciao!

An Exciting Update from Addis

Salam, just wanted to catch you up on how things are going in Addis.

After spending a day (me) or two (Tanya) sick, the team is back in action.  It’s amazing to see how God works through even things like illness.  It allowed some of us to spend more time together just talking, which in turn helped the team break down walls and share very personal parts of our lives.

Yesterday, we spent some time with the Beza staff, and I had the chance to share Andy Stanley’s message from Catalyst about controlling our appetites and preserving the things we hold most dear.  It was good for the team to be able to meet the folks from our sister church and for me to be able to reconnect with people I had met previously.  People like Pastor Z are beginning to feel like old friends.

While others were souvenir shopping in the afternoon, I spent some time walking through a neighborhood where I was the only ferengi.  I was supposedly helping an elderly gentleman buy some medicine, but the pharmacy was "just ahead" one too many times, so I left and rejoined the group.

We also visited home care groups (Beza’s small groups) last night, which is always a cool experience.  Unfortunately, I had stayed up half the night before preparing my talk, and I could hardly stay awake.  I felt myself starting to fall over during the opening prayer, and realized I was falling asleep standing up!

Today we visited Hope for Ethiopia, an organization that works with people who have been enslaved: street kids, firewood gatherers, and prostitutes.  Among other things, they help provide people with fair employment, so it was cool to be able to pick up some of their wares as souvenirs and support a great cause.

In the afternoon, the team finally got the chance to visit the Entoto Project and hear a better explanation of what Entoto (the project and the mountain) is all about.  It was amazing to hear how God had blessed them in the year and a half since I had been there.  Their ministry has expanded dramatically.  They’re now employing around 100 women and are exporting their jewelry to a few American companies, including 10,000 Villages.  They’re also paying for tuition and supplies for 40 kids to go to school.

One of their big needs/prayer requests was for a coffee roaster which would allow them to purchase unroasted coffee beans directly from a farmer, ensuring the farmer is paid fairly for his crop and saving them money.  They would need about $3k-4k to buy one.

Sometimes God answers pretty immediately.  A few minutes after they told us about it and we were thinking of some ways we could raise the funds, Tanya agreed to buy it for them, which was amazing.  The Entoto staff weren’t quite sure how to process that!  Tanya is one of two people who God had told me were supposed to be on this trip, and the only one of those two who actually went.  I think this might be one of the reasons (and yes, there are definitely others).

That pretty much brings you up to date.  It was an exciting end to the afternoon!  Tomorrow we head out to Debrazet to get the Change boys out of the city for a little while.  We’re staying at a place with some canoes, sports, etc.  I think it’s a summer-camp style thing.  Should be a great time.

This will probably be my last update at least until Saturday.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get online again before we head to the airport, which I believe (and hope) has wifi.

Developing Meaningful Relationships

Leadership Lesson #18: It’s hard to let people into your life and develop meaningful relationships.

I have dozens of friends and hundreds of acquaintances, but I still don’t think I’m as close to anyone I’ve met in DC as I was my college buddies.  We lived near each other.  We challenged each other.  They’re the guys who developed my concern for the poor.  They were my brothers in life, and now some of them are my brothers in ministry.

I’ve certainly made a lot of friends in DC, some I would even call very good friends, but I’ve never quite replicated those college relationships. I’m five years in and just now feeling like I’m even getting close.  I think this is because it’s hard to live life with people day in and day out. It’s easy enough to open up about problems, feelings, etc., but it’s difficult to replicate is the amount of time I spent with the guys who lived on my floor in Fisher Hall, especially now that I’m married.

One of those guys actually moved to DC about a year ago.  It’s great to have him here, but schedules make it difficult for us to connect as often as I’d like.  Working full time really puts a damper on hanging out time.

In spite of this, I’m not giving up.  Deep, significant relationships are essential for any Christ follower, even more so for those of us who are pastors/leaders. God provided Adam with Eve.  He gave Timothy to Paul.  Elijah had Elisha.  We need people who care for us, challenge us, shape us, and stretch us. We need community.

Exhaustion

So, this is really just a personal update.  Feel free to ignore :)

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks.  I spent several days navigating some sticky situations at work before heading to the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta and then on to Carlisle, Pennsylvania to spend a weekend with my wife, to Chicago for my cousin’s wedding and back to DC yesterday for NCC‘s Leadership Summit where I provided the comic relief and preached a sermonette about some of the great leaders God has given us.  After the Summit I did some visioncasting with the team of Group Coordinators I serve about where we’re headed in the next year, and they came up with some great ideas on how to make it work.  I’m very grateful for those amazing people.

After all of that, I was shot.  I fell asleep last night around 8:45 while watching TV with my wife and then got up and went to bed around 9:30.  I slept until 8:00 this morning and still felt like all of my energy had been zapped.

Meanwhile, I have a million thoughts running through my head and several blog posts swirling around that I haven’t had the time to write.  Let’s just say that Catalyst is great at catalyzing thoughts and some of my travel experiences were interesting as well.  Hopefully you’ll be getting a lot of posts over the next few days.

Well, I should get back to bed soon.  After being exhausted most of the day, I couldn’t sleep when I finally went to bed.

Get Water for Your Birthday

Scott Harrison, founder of charity:water, spoke at Catalyst last week.  For those of you who might not know, charity:water is an organization that builds wells to provide clean water to people who otherwise drink the stuff you see at the right.  According to Scott, 80% of disease is related to unclean water and unclean toilets, meaning that providing people with clean water would be an incredible health revolution.

Scott used to be a club promoter.  Essentially, he threw parties for a living.  He began to fundraise for charity:water by throwing a birthday party for himself and asked people to bring money for clean water instead of gifts.  Then he decided to ask other people to pledge their birthdays to providing clean water to the 1/6 of the world that lacks it.

We were asked to take this pledge at Catalyst.  My birthday is a few weeks away, so I’m passing this year, but next year I plan to engage in some significant fundraising to bring wells to communities that need them, to provide others with clean water in the name of Jesus.  I haven’t completely decided where to set my goal, but I’m considering attempting to raise $20,000, to provide 4 wells to serve 1,000 people.

It might sound ambitious, but it’s nothing compared to the $2 billion that charity:water hopes to raise over the next 10 years.  $2 billion would provide water to 100 million people, or 10% of the population in need of it.

Will you pledge your birthday?

National Community Church Protege Welcome Video

We have a year-long ministry immersion program at NCC called the Protege Program. People volunteer a year of their time to work on staff at NCC. Our third class of Proteges just started a couple of weeks ago, and we wanted to give a warm welcome to those who are making such a sacrifice to be serve with us. To that end, we put together a welcome video to introduce them to the church and the staff.

A note to any potential viewers from TED: This video is intentionally full of inside jokes and is not my most polished nor well prepared presentation.  However, it does show my ability to deliver an engaging monologue, even with little preparation.  I had been given some basic ideas and cues but otherwise ad-libbed this.

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