Work Ethic

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had a legendary work ethic, travelling thousands of miles by horseback, preaching thousands of sermons over the course of his long life, and starting a global movement, in the process.

Wesley was very disciplined. In fact, it’s no surprise that the UMC’s official book is called the “Book of Discipline.” Included in this book is a series of questions Wesley asked of candidates for ordination, including this one …

Will you observe the following directions?

(a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary.

(b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time.

Recently, I read Michael McKinney‘s post, distilling some lessons for leaders from Leaders in Gear by Rhett Laubach. One of the lessons especially struck me, and fits here. McKinney writes …

The Threshold Thread concept states that all high achievers have developed the ability to push their capabilities further than the average person. Their threshold for hard work is higher. Their patience threshold is longer. Their commitment threshold is stronger. Will Smith has been quoted as saying that the true secret to his success is an insane work ethic. He uses running as an example. If you were on a treadmill beside him he knows one thing for certain—you will get off first.

I love that. “If you were on a treadmill beside him he knows one thing for certain—you will get off first.” That’s determination (I recently wrote about Developing the Discipline of Determination).

A few months ago, Thom Rainer wrote about Pastors and Time, noting some research that revealed differences in how effective pastors and ineffective pastors use time. Through research, they discovered differences in how much sleep pastors of effective and ineffective churches got, how much time they spent with family, in sermon preparation, etc. The point is that our use of time matters, and our use of time is largely dependent on our work ethic.

One of the questions I’ve wrestled with while writing this post, though, is, how do you have a strong work ethic without becoming a workaholic. I think the answer lies in having a strong work ethic for life, not just for work. We become workaholics when we work hard at work only, but we’re healthier when we value and spend time with our families, by having a strong work ethic at home.

“Work hard at whatever you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9.10, CEV)

Desperate Preachers 3.0

This is another revision of my preaching prayer guide (see Desperate Preachers 1.0 and 2.0). It undergoes revisions every week.

Since the last post, I’ve gone from phrases to keywords, which gives more freedom. So, for what it’s worth here’s the latest desperate preacher’s prayer guide …

Lord, prepare me to communicate your message to change the world! Thanks!

Lord, prepare me …
Surrender. Yield. Humble. Available. All. Desperate. Clean hands. Pure heart. Armor. In tune. Fill me. Consume me.

To communicate your message …
Conduit. Connector. Courage. Truth-teller. Obedient. Biblical. Clear. Focused. Concise. Passionate. Fire.

To change the world!
Penetrate hearts. Plant seeds. Stir up. Break up. Tear down. Build up. Draw out. Produce fruit. Awaken. Revive. Renew. Transform.

Thank you for what you are doing and for what you will do!

Favorite Tweets 1.0

Three months ago, I wrote that I started using Twitter (click here for my Twitter stream). I also wrote about Twitter Web Apps shortly after that (which probably needs updating).

Over the last few months, I’ve marked a number of tweets as “favorites.” Periodically, I’ll blog some of my favorite favorites—statements that inspire and challenge me—starting with these (copied-and-pasted here in their original format) …

A Twitter stream featuring quotes from my favorite devotional writer, Oswald Chambers

Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led.

Never allow a feeling that was awakened in you on the mountaintop to evaporate.

I tend to favorite a lot of Mike Slaughter‘s tweets …

1st key 2 revitalize dying church: Preach evry Sun. abt how a church looks that takes biblical model of the church seriously.

2nd key 2 revitalize a church: Ask in ech mtg, “How is what we r doing not only getting people 2 know the word, but to do it?”

3rd key 2 revitalize a church: ask self-if neighborhood person walked n2 back of church on Sun, would this attract him/her 2 Jesus?

4th key way 2 revitalize a church: Teach people not only 2 invite others 2 worship, but also 2 invite them 2 participate in ministry

If someone unfamiliar w/ ur church examined ur budget, what would he/she conclude about ur church’s priorities?

Leaders, at heart of every decision u make 4 ur church is a choice between courage and compliance. How r u doing?

Renewals and reformation are never born out of timidity.

Some favorites from Rick Warren

Never fear criticism.Fear conformity,which stunts the soul. U cant have everyone’s approval &God’s anointing at same time.

God sometimes removes a person from your life for your protection. Don’t run after them.

And Rick Warren’s RWToolbox

“You pay God a great compliment by asking great things of Him.” Teresa of Avila

ATSAlumni posts a lot of inspirational/challenging quotes. Some of my favorites include …

Jesus does not want us to work for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work through us.-C.G. Trumbull

The Church that does not evangelize will fossilize.-Oswald J. Smith

Preachers with cold hearts will never warm and awaken the consciences of their hearers.-Bruce Milne

The greatness of man’s power is his surrender. It is not who you are, or what you are, but whether God controls you.-Henrietta C Mear

Untamed is a book by Alan Hirsch. Here are a couple quotes from the book (edited: from a Twitter feed that no longer exists) …

“You simply cannot be a disciple without being a missionary – a sent one.”

Prayer is rebellion against the status quo. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

One from Stephen Covey

So many competing priorities. Learn to say “no” or you will burn out. Having a burning “yes” will allow you to say NO to the unimportant.

One of my favorite leadership writers is John Maxwell. Here are a couple of his tweets …

The greatest gap in life is the one between knowing & doing. -Dick Biggs

Effective communication is 20% what you know & 80% how you feel about what you know. -Jim Rohn

One Twitter stream posts unpublished quotes from A. W. Tozer

It will cost you everything to follow the Lord. And it will cost you even more to be His man [or woman] for this hour.

Many Christians are satisfied with their destination but they neglect the journey.

Any sermon that is not birthed in prayer is not a message from God no matter how learned the preacher.

Silence is often the most eloquent answer to our critics.

In an effort to get the work of the Lord done we often lose contact with the Lord of work.

God is never satisfied with anything less than all.

From Ed Stetzer

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” ~Spurgeon.

Leonard Sweet

For Wesley, internal combustion (“heart strangely warmed”) led to external combustion (“world is my parish”)

Life is not a do-it-yourself project.

Max Lucado

Blessed are those who acknowledge that there is only one God and have quit applying for his position.

Tom Tumblin from Asbury Theological Seminary

Which shall we be: leaders who evoke (draw out) or provoke (stir up)? Jesus was both invitational and confrontational. Lord, teach me both.

Tim Sanders

The only reason to give a speech is to change the world – Nick Morgan

Janice Neely

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. Mother Teresa

These are a lot of my favorites. You can read the full list of my favorites here.

Father’s Day 2010

Ater church today, we were able to take a few photos before Ethan and Sarah crashed following their Sunday morning routine of Sunday school, worship … and Mommy and Daddy’s early morning, last-minute prep. No easy task!

In October 2009, I wrote in on our first full day together as a family of four that we had struggled to get Ethan to be in a photo with Mommy or Daddy *with* Sarah. That hasn’t changed a whole lot in the eight months since then, and today was no different.

We were able to get a photo of Joleen with the kids on Mother’s Day, but it wasn’t easy. Today wasn’t any easier (granted, Ethan wasn’t feeling well and Sarah’s patience ran out very quickly).

But here’s what we got. Of course, it might help to take photos at any other time than right after church! 🙂

Grateful to be the daddy of Ethan and Sarah!

Time Management

In 2008, I wrote a couple posts on task management (see Task Management and Task Management 2.0). My previous posts focused on specific systems, but even after checking out different systems, I keep coming back to my own. I’ll keep looking, for ideas, if nothing else, but here I want to focus on “time management.”

Interestingly, I have now been a student of leadership for (exactly) 20 years now, going back to when John Maxwell did a seminar for my denomination called, “Six Keys to Church Growth.” Point number two was “Leadership.” But even before I was a student of leadership, I was interested in time management, or at least, managing my time more effectively (when I started using a Franklin Day Planner in college).

Twenty-one years later, time management is still a tremendous challenge, and an area that I want to grow in!

In recent days, I’ve been thinking about some areas in which I need to further develop and/or improve. Here’s what I wrote in my journal this morning …

  1. Pray. If I’m going to use time well, especially doing the things God calls me to do in ministry and leadership, then I must have God’s guidance and blessing!
  2. Master List. I think my current practice of updating my master list weekly works pretty well. I might try to update the list at the end of the week instead of first thing Monday, which might help me to hit the ground running at the beginning of the week. I’ll give it a shot.
  3. Schedule Tasks. I sometimes plan what days I will work on specific tasks/agenda items, but I’d like to do this better.
  4. Estimate Time for Tasks. I do this occasionally, but I’m not very good at it. I always underestimate the amount of time tasks will take. Need to work on this!
  5. Focusing on the Most Important Tasks. Rick Warren often says that we have enough time to do what God calls us to do. Either we’re trying to do more than we should be doing or we’re not doing them right. It’s a constant challenge doing those things that are important, not just urgent (especially if they’re not even that important)! Knowing my call and having a clear sense of vision, as well as understanding the real leadership/ministry needs in the church, are critical here, as well.
  6. Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry. Long time challenge. Still haven’t figured it out. But I’m convinced it’s an important discipline!

Question: How do you manage time? What do you do well? Where do you need to grow?

Susquehanna Conference, God’s New Thing

Today, clergy and lay members from more than 950 churches throughout central and northeastern Pennsylvania gathered in Williamsport at the Williamsport Arts Center to form a new conference, the Susquehanna Conference, a Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church. It was the culmination of years of prayer, discernment, and planning.

Joleen and I left home around 6:30 a.m. and reached the Williamsport Arts Center about an hour and a half later, in time for registration and opening worship, which started at 9:30 a.m. After an hour of worship, we dealt with several action items related to the formation of the new conference.

The business portion of the day took nearly two hours. After lunch, the day concluded with an ordination service, which began at 2:30 p.m. and concluded between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.

The Scripture focus in the years leading up to today’s uniting conference has been Isaiah 43, particularly 43.19 — “For I am about to do something new.” (Ironically, if I remember correctly, Isaiah 43 was also Bishop’s Middleton Scripture text for the sermon she preached at her installation in 2004.)

It was an historic day, a day of celebrating what God is doing in our midst!

By the way, Susquehanna is the name of a major river that runs throughout much of the conference, including here in Clearfield. In fact, when Rev. W. Lee Spottswood writes about the river and its importance in the community around 1860, he was referring to the Susquehanna River.

One of my favorite moments from the day was the band playing the music to “Sweet Home Alabama” but singing “Sweet home, Susquehanna … where the river is so blue.” 🙂

If you were there, please add your thoughts on the day and/or your favorite moments.

Memories of Korea

We spent 8 full days in Korea in February 2008 when we picked up Ethan and 4 full days in October 2009 when we picked up Sarah. We wrote a number of posts while we were there both times, which has helped us remember more than we would have remembered otherwise.

It was an especially memorable time because it was such an intense time. In the months following our first trip, in particular, I think I had daily flashbacks of being in Korea. The flashbacks were so vivid that it felt like I was there. As we get further away from our trips to Korea, the flashbacks have gotten less frequent and less intense (although we still have them).

Here are a few of the more vivid memories of our time in Korea …

  • Visiting both kids’ foster homes. When we visited Ethan’s foster home and Sarah’s foster home, each time we met a baby we had come to know through photos and reports, but it was obvious they did not know us. We also remember when we showed up to get Ethan the day after we met him that he smiled as soon as he saw us (apparently, remembering us from the day before), but that didn’t last long …
  • Goodbyes with the foster families. We’ll never forget the goodbyes at the elevator at the SWS offices. Each time, we went into the elevator with the child we were receiving (or taking away, as it must have felt like for the babies) and watching tearful foster parents give their last goodbyes.
  • The Takeaways. There were a few differences between Ethan’s Takeaways and Sarah’s Takeaway, but both were pretty brutal (in fact, the word “brutal” kept going through my mind with Ethan; we were much more prepared for Sarah). It’s hard to tell what kind of mark those experiences left on the kids, but they certainly left their mark on us!
  • Holy Flames Methodist Church. We enjoyed connecting with people at Holy Flames. At the end of the main worship service, we were asked to stand at the exit so that people could greet us on the way out of the sanctuary. Being greeted by so many Koreans bowing to us in their traditional greeting was a memorable experience.
  • Small Group. We had been looking forward to meeting with a church small group while we were in Korea, until we learned that we would be picking up Ethan a couple of hours before small group. As it turned out, it was a tremendous experience, once we’re glad we didn’t miss!
  • A man at Incheon Airport. We often wondered what Koreans thought about us with a Korean baby, whether they viewed it positively or negatively. In 2008, Chung Suk Kim, senior pastor of Kwanglim Methodist Church, perhaps the largest Methodist Church in the world, expressed gratitude to us for adopting a Korean baby. But our last memory from Korea was going through customs at the airport in Korea on our way out of the country. Joleen and the baby (Sarah) were at the counter and I was waiting in line. An older Korean man was behind me and asked if we were adopting a Korean baby. When I told him that we were, he patted me on the back and said, “Thank you!”

But, as I’ve said before, WE are the lucky ones!

Rev. W. Lee Spottswood

During the first couple of years after responding to God’s call to ministry as a 19-year-old kid, my favorite reading was journals and memoirs of great preachers from the past, people God has used to lead times of spiritual awakening.

After arriving at Centre Grove UMC in July 2008, I spent a little time in the church library looking for any historical information I could find about the church. I came across a book written by one of my predecessors, Rev. Wilson Lee Spottswood, who served the Clearfield Circuit from 1858 to 1860.

Spottswood published his memoirs, “Brief Annals,” in 1888. The full text is available online at Google Books. Chapter 12 is about his time as a presiding elder (i.e., district superintendent) and Chapter 13 is about his service as president of Dickinson Seminary (now Lycoming College). And, chapter 8 is about his two-year stint in Clearfield (pages 168-194).

On the last page of chapter 7, Spottswood recounts a conversation between his wife and the Presiding Elder …

“Where do you want to go, sister Spottswood,” asked the Presiding Elder, of my wife. She emphatically answered: “Any where but to Clearfield and Curwensville.” (167)

Oh well!

Spottswood opens the chapter on his Clearfield experience by relating their expectations and first impressions of the town …

We fancied that it was on the verge of civilization, and I will tell you the reason why. As already seen, we lived in Milesburg, and in the spring we saw the “watermen” of Clearfield county as they were called, hardy, unshaven and unshorn, roughlooking and bronzed with their peculiar toil on the river. They sometimes came to our house, not to beg, but to buy bread; and my wife was afraid of them. We thought that we were going among a rough people and to a hard appointment. But we were young and brave … we did not think of backing down. (168)

Spottswood describes their journey to, and arrival in, Clearfield …

We started on our journey, spent the night at Tyrone, left in the morning on the plank road—then in a most wretched condition, running through the Bald Eagle valley. When we arrived at Bald Eagle furnace, the end of the plank road for us, a fellow came to the door of the coach, opened it and shouted: “Hip! hip! hoora! I’m one of your drinkin’, swearin’ kind.”

“See here, stranger,” said a passenger inside, “we’ve got a preacher in here, and there’s to be no swearing in this coach; if you swear, we’ll pitch you out head-foremost.” There was no swearing on the entire trip.

It was drug, drag, drag, on the dirt road—the mud up to the hub the most of the way. About four o’clock in the afternoon we reached Philipsburg, and dined. In the gloom and chill of a drizzling rain I thought that this town was a most forlorn-looking and God-forsaken place. Far on in the watches of the night we gained the top of the high hill overlooking Clearfield town, and a gentleman exclaimed: “There’s ‘Old Town.'” My wife asked: “How far is it to Clearfield?” The gentleman replied: “‘Old Town’ is Clearfield.” (168-69)

On getting to know and love the people of Clearfield, as well as the importance of the river and rafting in Clearfield, Spottswood writes …

Our first agreeable revelation was that the Clearfielders were not rough, but civilized people; and in all likelihood the rough-looking “watermen” clad in their coarse garments, and tanned by the wind and sun—some of them anyhow—were merchants, doctors, lawyers and even preachers, for everybody went down the river on a raft. The most of the people lived and dressed well, for lumbermen are remarkable for their liberal, sometimes extravagant outlay of money. It comes in a pile and goes in a pile; and many a home was elegant in all its appointments.

He continues …

The minds of the very children were imbued with the idea of rafting; it was their play in its season. My wife had charge of the infant class in Sunday school, and taught the children every Sabbath a text of scripture. One Sabbath this was the text: “Let not the sun go down on your wrath.” A little one with a bright face and a sweet voice said to her mother: “Mamma, I know what the text was to-day.” “Well, what was it, my dear?” “Why, it was: ‘Don’t let your son go down on a raft.’ (172-73)

One of the spiritual events that Spottswood shares is a story about the conversion and subsequent faith struggle of a man who became a friend …

Dr. Thompson, of Curwensville, was present. He often went to church simply because it was the fashion, and when there, as he himself said to me, “heard nothing, but spent the time thinking and planning how to make five dollars.” The oddity of this sermon arrested his attention; he listened to it carefully from beginning to end; it awakened and convicted him of sin. He was soon afterwards converted, and received into the Methodist Episcopal Church. Religion produced in him a great and wonderful change—felt by himself and seen by all. He became a rapid learner in Christian experience, was made a class-leader, managed with great skill and success the subscriptions for the new church, and superintended with constancy and good judgment its building from its foundation to cap-stone.

I was with him on the first fierce assault of Satan after his conversion—summoned at midnight to his side by his wife. My wife followed me. I found him kneeling in the middle of the room, and pleading piteously with God; “Oh! Lord God, have mercy on me.” “Stop, Dr.,” I said, “and let us see what is the matter.” “Oh! Mr. Spottswood, I have doubted; Lord Jesus, have mercy on my soul.”

It was a sad hour—a dreadful conflict! I explained the situation to him as best I could. I prayed for him. And when we arose from our knees, I asked him: “How do you feel now?” He answered: “A little better.” We talked again. I prayed once more. And Dr. Thompson gained a signal victory. That night’s terrific conflict taught him that the Christian life is a battle, and that night’s hard-won victory showed him how in future assaults to foil the mighty foe. (177-78)

On the spiritual awakening that took place in town, at one point during his ministry here, he writes …

We had a glorious camp-meeting, and many of the chief citizens were converted. Brother G., of Clearfield town, where there had been a long, religious dearth, went around the camp-ground, crying: “Oo, oo! I do believe the Lord is going to do something for Clearfield.” (180)

Spottswood obviously enjoyed his time in Clearfield. His departure from Clearfield was pretty dramatic …

The time came to leave one of the pleasantest charges we ever had, where God crowned our labors with signal success; but we staid a week after our goods were packed up in the interest of the revival. At last we left with regret, and three hundred dollars saved from our salary. We were driven in a two-horse sleigh to Clearfield town, and thence to the bank of Clearfield creek, then to take the stage, waiting for us.

A flood had swept away the bridge, and to reach the stage we had to cross a foot-log. My wife slipped. One foot was off the log. She pressed her side against an upright, seized the slender railing above her with one hand, and drew herself up with a super-human effort. She was saved from falling into the stream beneath her, either to be swept away in its angry waters, or to be dashed to pieces upon its jagged rocks. How true it is, as David said to Jonathan, in a time of danger: “There is but a step between me and death.” (187)

It’s encouraging and challenging to read about ministry that took place here 150 years ago. No doubt, there were seasons of renewal as well as seasons of dryness. My hope and prayer is that we experience another season of awakening in the near future!

(Note: You may be interested in a follow-up post I wrote about the rest of Spottswood’s ministry.)

Surviving Annual Conference 2010

I say “surviving” rather than “survived” because, technically, we’re between sessions of Annual Conference this year. Last weekend, the Central Pennsylvania Conference held its 222nd and final session. This coming Saturday will be the first Annual Conference of the new Susquehanna Conference (with a special session to be held later in September).

Ethan was with us each of the last two years, but Sarah made it our first time with two children. Fortunately, we had a suite on campus with plenty of room, because we needed it!

We’ve been attending annual conferences for twelve years and how different they are with children! The kids kept us moving — getting up early to make sure we’re all ready in time for breakfast, then getting them to childcare. After the morning and afternoon sessions, we walked to another building on campus to pick up the kids before going to the cafeteria for lunch or dinner. Anyway, it’s a busy time!

Sarah didn’t sleep too well (especially Friday night). But our biggest concern, which I mentioned Thursday night, was how the kids would handle childcare in an unfamiliar place with people they didn’t know. But, actually, we were very proud of how well both Ethan and Sarah handled childcare both days we were there! The fact that they both did well was a huge relief for us!

Of course, writing for the Daily Link also adds to our busyness there (although, since we’ve had kid(s), we’ve been doing lighter duty). But it’s part of our annual conference experience — the only year we haven’t written for the conference publication, so far, was our first (1999)!

Cokesbury always sets up a bookstore at annual conference. Browsing bookstores is always a bittersweet experience for me — I see so many books I want to read but know I can’t read them all! But I did come away with 4 books (a gift card and a coupon made me do it!): The Future of the United Methodist Church: 7 Vision Pathways, Five Practices of Fruitful Living, Reading Scripture as Wesleyans, and This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice (I also added a few others to my Amazon Wish List which has well over 100 items on it already!).

The last two books on the list are in connection with the Wesley Study Bible. The only reason I haven’t picked up a copy of this study Bible is because we expect to receive copies when we are ordained (at least, that’s what those who were ordained last year received).

Speaking of ordination, the first ordination service of the new Susquehanna Conference will conclude this Saturday’s uniting conference. Afterward, Joleen and I (along with those in our ordination class) will be “on deck” (that is, we’re on track to be ordained next year!).

Till then, here are some photos from our final night at annual conference this past weekend …