Live One Life

A Manifesto

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“So to live one life, defined as ‘interweaving the various parts of life into a harmonious single narrative’, is going to take work.”

Where We Want to Be

I know what it is like to be pulled in many directions. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel good. It makes me feel split, and pushes me to cry out for solace! The public me versus the private me. The professional me versus the recreational me. My emotional self versus my intellectual self. The combinations seem endless. What I want, what I believe we all want, is the peace that comes from having harmony among the different parts of our lives. Harmony. That’s the word that continues to call to me. I want harmony. Don’t we all?

Instead of harmony, most of us settle for organized chaos and call it harmony. After all, for many of us, it appears to be the best we can expect. Balancing health with our appetites. Balancing consumption with our desire for security financially. Being charitable, generous, and frugal, all at the same time. Being parent and spouse, and doing both well. Living as a faithful employee and a burgeoning entrepreneur. We manage. Sometimes we absolutely fall short of the goal. We work it out. But in the back of our minds, we’re always longing for better. We believe that somehow there is supposed to be more harmony in our lives. Well, there is supposed to be more. Harmony is possible. But we’ve got to be willing to do the work to achieve harmony, and sometimes the work towards harmony is difficult.

Live One Life

One of the definitions of harmony, according to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary is, “an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative.” How appropriate is that definition for where we desire our lives to be. I, we, want all the different parts (accounts) of my life to come together into a single narrative. I want to live one life, instead of all these separate lives that seem to have their own direction. Some would say that the varied, staccato parts of our lives do create a single narrative. After all, this logic would state, it is “our” life. True. Another definition of harmony, however, gives us a deeper understanding of what it means to live one life of harmony. A second definition of harmony is a “pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts.” So although my/your wild, harried, crazy life can be considered a single narrative, can it be considered (by you or others) either pleasing or congruent? If not, and if you desire to live one life, then it is time to commit to doing the work.

Commit to Do the Work

So to live one life, defined as “interweaving the various parts of life into a harmonious single narrative”, is going to take work. Harmony doesn’t just happen. Balance isn’t an accident. To live one life, we’ve got to decide to live for something other than the moment, while recognizing the importance of the moment in which we’re living. Living one life is greater than being a parent, employee, Christian, philanthropist, writer, spouse, or citizen, just like a puzzle is more than the individual parts in the box. Living one life is the sum of all those things when they come together in harmony. It will take work to see the picture. It is a composition that will take time to design. We must step back from the minutiae of all the different roles we play in life, in order to see the picture that all the roles create when they’re put in their proper place. Living one life is bigger than a mission statement, a vision board, or a slogan. It is the intentional, constant organizing and adjusting of our inner and outer, public and private, professional and personal selves. If we are willing to do the work, we can have the harmony that we desire in our lives.

What I Did When I Couldn’t Take The Lies Anymore (Maybe You Can Relate)

Secret Kiss From One Boston Terrier to Another

I remember like it was yesterday. I felt that I had been lied to. To make matters worse, I felt that I was still being lied to. The frustration built as I continued to contemplate that, what I had thought to be the truth was actually something else. I can remember exactly where I was when I, as a newly minted church planter came to the realization that all of the things that I had been told about church planting failed to come close to the reality that I was now living. That is also the moment I knew that I needed to begin writing about my experiences, thoughts, and feelings as a church planter and church leader.

Stop Complaining and Make Life Count

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Recently, I attended two funerals in the same day. I officiated one and simply attended the other. Funerals always leave a strong impact on those who attend, reminding us of our own mortality. To the casual observer the two funerals that I attended were at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the lessons they reinforced were invaluable.

Leadership Resolutions

Believe it or not, we’ve arrived at the end of another calendar year and the beginning of resolution season. Personally, I believe that we should resolve to be better and live more committed lives daily not just annually, but I can’t resist the call to be reflective at year’s end. There is something about section of time when one year ends and another begins, that moves people to think of starting anew. Truthfully, most of the resolutions that are made in the next several days will be forgotten in a month’s time, but that fact doesn’t at all diminish most people from announcing resolutions. Leaders are no different. As the curtain closes on the year 2010, and rises on 2011, here are a few resolutions that I believe would be beneficial for all leaders, and especially those that lead in churches.

1. Resolve to live balanced lives.

Leaders, in the same or greater proportion as the rest of the world, are typically living out of balance. Too much work, not enough rest. All worship, no serious study. Spend, spend, spend; not enough saving. Eat too much, exercise too little. Too task-oriented, not enough attention to relationships. Let’s be honest, balance takes work. It is a lot easier to lean to our areas of perceived strength or comfort, rather than to work to grow in the areas of our weakness. Some management philosophies, such as “staff to your weakness”, empower the notion to continue in our strengths rather than striving for relative balance in all areas. Some leaders have gone so long without any course correction, that they have developed blind spots to just how out of balance they are.

As leaders, we should strive to live balanced lives. Leaders should, at least annually, partake in some sort of assessment that will highlight where we need to improve. Ask others their opinions, seek counsel with denominational or business leadership. Leaders need to work towards balance in every area of life, not just in the office or boardroom. Family, health, and relationship with God cannot suffer for the sake of “leadership” excellence. Truthfully, the unbalanced leader exhibits little overall excellence.

2. Resolve to continue to learn and develop.

A disciple is, by definition, a lifelong learner. Leaders should never tire of learning, developing, and growing. Finished with formal education? Audit a course. Ready to write a book? That doesn’t mean that you can stop reading them yourself. Set some reading, learning, and professional development goals for yourself in the coming year. I believe that one of the issues with the church in America is that most of its believe that they are above being taught. Make strides to ensure that you are not counted among that number. Many leaders complain that those they lead don’t want to learn, or think that they know it all…make sure that they aren’t learning those habits from you. A wise person once told me that when a leader stops growing, those they lead stop growing.

3. Resolve to be counted among the servants, not the served.

Jesus, in Matthew 23, admonished the Pharisees for desiring Moses’ seat at tables of honor. The rulers of the synagogue, the ecclesiastical leaders of the time, perceived themselves to be those who deserved to be served due to their title and position. Sadly, there is a trend in contemporary Christianity that implies that clergy leaders are a different class of Christian. This class of leader deserves the service and adoration of those they lead. This line of clergy worship couldn’t stray further from the ministry of Christ. This year, let us all resolve to serve, rather than be served. If you don’t already, esteem others higher than yourself. Recognize that the cincture that girds the waist of a cassock represents the servant’s role of the minister. A minister is, by definition, a servant. To be called servant was good enough for Jesus, and for centuries it was good enough for those called to lead within the church. Now we have the proliferation of titles such as bishop, elder, overseer, and even apostle. Whatever your title, resolve, that in the new year, you will be known by the name…servant.

4. Resolve not to compromise integrity for the sake of growth.

Recently, I listened to John Piper preach a sermon, in which he admonished a group of leaders not to sell the gospel. By this he meant that they should not compromise the integrity of the gospel message for the sake of crowds or cheap growth. Believe it or not, we do not get to determine, as leaders, when growth occurs. We do not control growth. God gives the increase. The Lord prepares the harvest. What a leader does control, is whether all the elements of healthy environments for growth are present. We get to ensure the integrity of the soil and the seed planted. We get to be faithful in our nurture of the seed. But the increase, the growth, is in God’s control. In the coming year, allow the discernment of the Spirit of God to reign. Say no to shortcuts that undermine the truth that is in the gospel message. Don’t follow the crowds into the use of the latest ministry techniques that promise to grow your attendance. Expose heresy, by shedding light upon it. The lines of one of my favorite hymns gives us a lead…”How to reach the masses? Men of every birth. For an answer, Jesus gave the key. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. Lift him up!” Lift Jesus up…still he speaks from eternity!

Above all else, I pray that we all, in this coming year, continue to grow in the grace, peace, knowledge, and likeness of our Lord. Stay blessed.