Monday, August 25, 2014

Uncertainty


So, every morning, I read the newspaper (usually the New York Times), and my favorite part of the entire newspaper is - the obituary section.  Don't' worry, I don't have a morbid curiosity, or a deathly fascination. I just enjoy reading about the contributions and the life stories of people who have come before me.  A well written obituary is like a mini-biography of great (and not so great) people.  You can learn more life lessons from a good biography (or well written obituary) than any self-help manual or motivational talk.

Last week I read a fascinating obituary about a man named James Schiro who died too young (at 68) and who was the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Pricewaterhouse and Zurich Financial.  In other words, Schiro was one of the world leaders in the financial global industry and investment strategies.  It was his lessons on leadership that have stayed with me since I read about his life:

"People don't like change, but they can manage change.  The one thing people can't handle uncertainty.  I think it is the job of leaders to eliminate uncertainty."

Schiro's right!  Change is uncomfortable.  Change forces us to evaluate the way that we have been doing things in our lives, and to alter time honored behaviors.  Change means that the rhythms that we create for our lives, ordered around the activities of our lives have to be altered.  Humans thrive on good rhythms and routines.  Most of our life rhythms are functions that our bodies and souls engage in which we don't have to think about any more.  We just, as the saying goes, "Go through the motions."  Change means that we need to begin to think again.  And thinking is hard work.

Another great leader said, "Leadership is helping people to move through change at a rate they can tolerate."

Since we have moved from Colorado to California, our family has had to go through many changes.  The stores that we once shopped in for food and clothes are different.  The computer programs that we relied upon for basic functions have needed to be changed.  The schools our daughters attend have changed.  The house that we are living in has changed.  The way that we drive from here to there has changed.  In the words of the late poet, William Butler Yeats, "All has changed, changed utterly".  And change isn't always fun, but it can be.  When changes are difficult, we have managed these changes.  And we have grown through these changes.  We know that the changes we are experiencing won't last forever.  And we are stronger because we have experienced these changes.

As Schiro says, we can manage change.  We can say to ourselves, "I'm in the midst of change, change isn't comfortable, but things will get more comfortable as we go along."

It's the second part of the thought piece which is has caused me to pause and think even more.

People can't handle uncertainty, It's the job of a good leader to eliminate uncertainty.

From a leadership standpoint, this idea makes a lot of sense.  Uncertainty in a leadership system is never helpful.  When an employee or a person who works in a large organization asks him/herself; "What am I supposed to do?  Who do I report to?  Is my role important?  Does it make a difference?  Why am I doing what I am doing?  How will I be evaluated?  What will determine my success?" it is never a good thing.  A good leader constantly helps to eliminate these uncertainties, to answer these questions.  A good leader affirms and clarifies on a daily basis the certainty of these things:

*  This is the specific task
*  This concrete task is important
*  When this task is completed that's the definition of success
*  This project is important, and crucial
*  This is where we are going as an organization
*  This is how important you are!

These are uncertainties that can be eliminated in a system.

But, as a pastor, I can say that there are uncertainties that can't be eliminated.  Life is full of uncertainties.  A good leader actually sometimes needs to be honest and say, "I actually don't know what the future will bring.  I am not sure how things will end up.  I have studied everything that can be studied, but I honestly don't know what to do in this particular situation."  People, I have found prefer honesty in the face of uncertainty over gossamer laced platitudes.

So, in the end, it isn't the elimination of uncertainty that is called for.  It's the recognition that uncertainty exists and the leader will be with them, through the thick and the thin of things.

Jesus said, "Behold, I will be with you, even until the end of the age." Jesus didn't say that we would understand all facets of life or of our changes or of our futures.  Jesus didn't say we would understand the uncertainties of our lives.  He said, "I will be with you, through all of life's uncertainties."

And that's why Jesus is someone we can be certain of!

All For Now,

GB






Monday, August 18, 2014

Fully Human


I recently completed a paper for my Doctor of Ministry degree (76 pages to be exact…ugh), on the preaching ministry of one of my favorite pastors - Rev. Dr. Earl Palmer.  The assignment, in short, was to pick one preacher that I have respected and learned from over the years, and to try to figure out one singular question - "Who is God?" in that person's preaching.

So, for the last month or so, in addition to starting a new church, I have been transcribing five of Earl Palmer's sermons (incredibly, Earl doesn't write a manuscript, but takes an outline into the pulpit), dissecting them, and trying to figure out who God is, or how God is formed or modeled in these sermons.  And what I have discovered is very interesting.  Earl Palmer embraces a Jesus who is Fully God, and...

Fully Human

Let me explain.  The history of our faith, our historical doctrine as Christians, is that Jesus was and is both "Fully God" and simultaneously "Fully Human.  That is, that Jesus was the very embodiment of God while he was on earth.  Everything about Jesus was God.  As Bible says, "In the Beginning was the Word," and we Christians have always viewed "The Word" as Jesus.  Jesus is God.  And yet, Jesus is also

Fully Human.

How exactly Jesus was simultaneously two distinct and different beings is a mystery.  We humans only understand one form of reality - human-ness.  However, God simultaneously occupies two complete and indivisible characters.  Jesus is Fully God and

Fully Human

As a human, then, Jesus laughed the way laugh.  Jesus felt the way we felt.  Jesus got hungry.  Jesus slept.  Jesus grieved when he lost loved ones or he went through trauma, and Jesus was full of happiness and joy when there was something to be happy about.

Now, what is interesting is that most Christians tend to ignore Jesus' human side, and focus almost exclusively on Jesus' God side.  The way we talk about Jesus is almost always from the angle of the God-side of Jesus.  When we pray, we often pray, "Eternal God," or "Father" or "Savior" or "Dear Lord".  These are God dimensions.  But these descriptors don't always accentuate an equally important aspect of Jesus' being - humanness.

Earl Palmer uses two examples of the human-side of Jesus which are intriguing.  The first aspect is when Jesus is tempted in the desert, at the beginning of His ministry, by the devil.  According to Earl, the three things that the devil tempted Jesus to were essentially to give up his human-side, and be only God.  The three temptations, remember were:

1.  Turn this stone into bread - in other words, don't be hungry, and human.
2.  Throw yourself off of a building - in other words, don't die like humans die when they fall
3.  Have all control of heaven and earth - in other words, take control of the world like a God

Fortunately for us, Jesus says no to all of these temptations.  Jesus fully embraced his hunger, his mortality, and his human inability to take over the world.  The devil was essentially tempting Jesus to deny his human-ness and just to be "Fully God".  But Jesus did not bow to that temptation.  Being human was an important and essential aspect of Jesus' character.  Earl would say that if a person denies the "humanity of Jesus" that is equally as heretical as denying the "Godliness of Jesus."

Palmer would even go so far as to say that Jesus' human-ness occasionally caused him to make mistakes (like all humans do).  For example, Palmer says, when Jesus said that the smallest seed was the mustard seed, that was not true.  There are many seeds that are smaller than a mustard seed (not being a farmer, no seeds come to my mind that are smaller than a mustard seed, except maybe a poppy seed).  Palmer says, "Jesus was mistaken, the mustard seed was not the smallest - Jesus must be human".  To say, according to Palmer, that Jesus made an occasional human error, is not to invalidate His ultimate power or authority as God, but simply to high-light an often overlooked dimension of God's entire being.  Being

Fully Human

I am not sure I entirely agree with Palmer that Jesus could make mistakes, since those mistakes would begin to infringe on Jesus' Fully God-like aspects.  It is possible that Jesus was simply using a turn of phrase when he said that the mustard seed is the smallest seed.  However, Palmer's point does make you stop and think a moment.

Being human myself (and on this Monday morning, after preaching yesterday, feeling particularly human), I find the human aspects of Jesus' character the most comforting, the most accessible, the most interesting.  God seems, at times to me, slightly one dimensional.  God is all powerful, God is all knowing, God is all encompassing.  Humans have flaws, and these flaws are what make Jesus unique among all of the gods that history has come up with before Him.  We should embrace the fact that our God is, Fully God and…

Fully Human

All For Now,
GB

















Monday, August 11, 2014

The Last Shaker


This past week I listened to a fascinating interview on Public Radio about a Christian denomination which has very nearly come to the end of it's life.  The denomination is known as at the "Shakers" or "The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing" (in long form).  If you have never heard of the Shakers, perhaps you are familiar with their contributions to innovation and technological advancement.  The Shakers are responsible for the invention of the clothes pin, the circular saw, the washing machine.  The Shakers invented the oval box, and the straight broom.  They were also a source of great creative energy once, writing many of the hymns and songs we now sing today - "Simple Gifts" (later made famous by Aaron Copeland), is the best example.  The Shakers were once a prodigious and foundational force in England and America.

Today there are, get this, just three Shakers left in the world.  Their names are:

Brother Arnold Hadd - 56 years old
Sister June Carpenter - 72 years old
Sister Francis Carr - 85 years old

These three remaining Shakers live on the Sabbath Day Lake Farm in the state of Maine.  The Shakers were once a strong and vital denomination in the United States and world, and numbered around 6,000.  Asked why the denomination had been having a hard time attracting new members, Arnold Hadd commented that the required life of celibacy was a challenge (no kidding:-).  Ironically, Hadd mused, "celibacy is not the largest reason that Shakers have had a hard time gaining new followers.  The biggest problem has been the separation that is required from the world.  If you are going to be Shaker, you have to remove yourself from the world."

As I listened to the interview of these three remaining Shakers in the world, I had another thought.  All Christian denominations have the potential to die.  I, myself, am a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and it's membership has had a fairly consistent rate of decline for at least the past 50 years in the United States.  And, as I consider the largest single reason that the Presbyterian Church has been dwindling in membership, I think it is similar to the challenges that the Shakers experienced.  We too, more often than not, are separated from the world.

Let me make a large, and bold statement.  Christians that separate themselves from the world, in sequestered, removed faith communities, almost always have difficulty in maintaining vitality and growth and life.  Many Evangelical Christians, in my experience, also separate themselves from the world.  Quite literally, many Christians don't live in the space of the world anymore.  They don't have non-Christian friends, they don't read non-Christian books, they don't send their children to non-Christian educational institutions, they don't listen to non-Christian radio.  Everything in their lives is about separating form the world, removing themselves, taking themselves away from, not connecting with the world.

One of the things that I love most about starting a New Church Development (Mission Street Church) is its constant and regular connection to the world.  I am now writing this blog post in the church office, in a downtown public office building.  Outside my office door are five other employees who also rent our office space (an attorney, a social worker, an insurance adjuster, and two public accountants).  There is the potential for a good joke here, but I can't think of one right now.  Quite literally, this church, the one we are starting, is right in the business space, the market place, the space of the world.

As churches develop, very often the tendency is to remove themselves step by step, to be further and further away from the actual world.  The progress of a church often looks something like this.  A church begins in a public space (a school or movie theater).  Then the church builds a building, which is far away from the business world.  Then the church builds an even bigger building, because the old church was spilling too much out into the world.  Then the church finds issue with theological quandaries in it's mother denomination, or has issues with one thing or another, so it moves to a different denomination or it starts a new one.  None of these movements in and of themselves is a problem in and of itself.  Sometimes definitional boundaries are important in an organization.  Buildings and faith statements are important things.  However, the tendency to pull away from the world in which we were created to live in is a great temptation for many churches, and almost always leads to their demise.

The Shakers have left the world an incredible legacy of inventions and innovations.  Unfortunately, it appears that this once great denomination will one day, soon, be no more.  When Brother Arnold Hadd was asked on Public Radio to make a pitch for why anyone would want to be a Shaker and join his community he said, "Well, because we are here…."  Sadly, in a few years, even that existential pronouncement may not be the case for the Shakers.

Or other Christians, like you and me, who do not intentionally live in the public space that God gave us to live within, and to minister to.


All For Now,
GB








Monday, August 4, 2014

THE Mission Street Church


This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at a church in the Chicago metro area (Christ Church, Oakbrook, Ill.).  We live about 1 hour north of LAX (Los Angeles Metropolitan International Airport), but driving in traffic, and during rush hour, can be challenging, so I took a taxi cab to the airport.  Also, I love counting the number of limousines that are driving from the Bel Air foothills into the city.  As always, I was fully amazed at the deep and unrivaled life-wisdom of taxi cab drivers.  My driver on this occasion was no exception.  This was his wisdom chestnut:

Southern California is the only freeway system in the world that prefixes all of it's freeways and highways with the word - "The".  For example, if someone gives you directions from one place to the other in Southern California they might say; "You take 'The 101' to 'The 210' to 'The 405' to 'The 110'.  I realized what my cab driver was saying was, in fact, very true.  For example, when I lived in Salt Lake City growing up we didn't say, take 'The I-80' - we just said, take 'I-80'.  When I lived in Minnesota to go to college, we didn't say take 'The 35' we would just say, 'drive on I-35W'.  Then I asked my sagacious cab driver why it was that Southern Californians put a "The" in front of their freeway systems, and he had an equally sagacious answer.  "It's because freeways, highways, interstate roads are the center of our entire lives down here.  These are the oldest freeways in the country (The Old Pasadena Highway still exists and was the first ever built).  Freeways are the centerpiece, the emblem, the talisman of our entire livelihood."  Honestly, I hadn't heard the word talisman since my days at college.  I asked him where he got his education, he said, "Law degree from UCLA".   "Ugh," I thought to myself, law degrees are now a prerequisite for driving cabs….

After I began to think about it, I thought about the fact that it isn't just freeway systems in Southern California that give the "THE" prefix to important cultural icons.  Every city does this with the main symbol of that community.  In New York City, for example, you have not just, "Empire State Building" but "The Empire State Building".  In San Francisco you have not just "Golden Gate Bridge" but "The Golden Gate Bridge".  In Ann Arbor Michigan where UMICH plays football in one of the largest stadiums in the United States you have not just "Big House" but "The Big House."  And so on and so on.  In fact, if you are trying to learn a new culture, somewhere in the world, find that thing that they put the word "The" in front of and chances are it is it's…talisman!?!? (main thing).

Unfortunately I did not have this deep nugget of wisdom when I was thinking about the name for our new church - Mission Street Church (by the way, check out our new logo at the top of the page).  And now, having thought about it, and applying the wisdom of my tax cab driver friend, we should probably make sure to put a "The" in front of the name - THE Mission Street Church.  When naming the church I did, however, have an intuitive sense that we needed to name our church after something geographic and cultural that took a central space and place in the minds and the hearts of the people who live here.  Rick Warren had that idea when he called his church - Saddleback Church, based on the mountain range that flanked his church campus.  Mission Street, as I have said before, was the original name of the El Camino Real, now "The 101".  Missions, at one time ran all the way up and down the coast of California, built in the 1600's by Spanish missionaries who were sent by the Catholic church in Spain to bring Christianity to the native Indians of the coast of California.  On Oct. 26 we will launch - THE Mission Street Church - at the Edwards Movie Theater on - THE 101.

I suppose we could have called our church "The 101 Church" but that name was already taken by another church in town.  My taxi cab drivers well esteemed point seems to have been equally well proved...

All For Now,
GB

Monday, July 28, 2014

Orthodoxy and Adaptability


This blogpost is the culmination of a lot of my thinking lately about the future of Christianity in America.  So, for non-church people, it may seem a bit heavy, but hang with me.  Let me begin with a basic thesis sentence (I told you it might be heavy:-)

Where Christianity has been successful in world history, it has had a combination of two things: 

ORTHODOXY and  ADAPTABILITY 

In other words, where Christianity has flourished, where it has taken root, where it has made it's way effectively into the lives of people of all different types and backgrounds and made a difference, it has both been orthodox (it has clung to the Bible, the confessions and the essential tenants of our faith) and it has been adaptable (it has morphed in subtle ways to meet the needs and particularities of the cultures in which it lives.  Let me offer two quick examples.

In the 5th and 6th centuries, Christianity made it's way into the countries of England, Scotland and Ireland.  It's missionaries are well known to us today; St. Patrick from Briton, St. Columba, St. Ninian are just three examples.  When these missionaries arrived in the British Isles they found a mostly tribal people who clung to paganism and pantheism.  There were literally as many gods for the Celts as there were days in the year.  There was a god for the ocean and a god for the mountains and a god for the trees.  These gods were depicted in huge stone circles like Stonehenge in modern day Bath, England, and the Great Stone Circle on the northern Scottish island of Orkney.  The missionaries brought orthodox theology from Rome.  There was only one problem - it wasn't working.  It wasn't breaking into the paganism of the local people.  Christianity wasn't relevant to the pagan Celts.  How would Christianity connect with these warring tribes?  Patrick, Columba and Ninian had an idea.  They would incorporate the pagan circle of pantheism, redefine what the circle meant, and place it right in the middle of the Christian cross (today this is known as the Celtic cross, seen in the image above).  In other words, in Great Britain, for Christianity to be successful it had to have:

ORTHODOXY and ADAPTABILITY

Let's turn quickly to another historic example, before I try to relate why I am writing this post and why it makes so much difference for Christianity in America today.

At about the same time that Christianity was making it's way into the British Isles, it was also making it's way into Germania - the home of the ancient Goths.  The Goths, later exemplified by their great and famous leader, Clovis I, were a warring, tribal people.  A normal day for the Gothic people would begin with a great feast in the morning, where huge amounts of alcohol would be drunk.  That would be followed by huge sex festivals where women, as the saying goes, were "ravaged".  This would be followed by a long afternoon nap.  The evenings would be filled with plans to invade warring tribes.  How would Christianity ever permeate such a foreign culture?  Simple, it would adapt to the Goths in ways that would speak to the Goths.  The Jesus figure in Germania would adapt.  Jesus carried a sword and a shield.  In real life did Jesus ever carry a sword?  Of course not.  Jesus is a God of peace and forgiveness.  However, in order for Christianity to make an inroad into this very foreign culture, it would have to adapt.

So, why have I been thinking about:

ORTHODOXY and ADAPTABILITY

Because of this.  If Christianity is to be successful in the growing foreignness of the world today, it must also remain orthodox and it must adapt.  Denominations which aren't orthodox will die (a good example of a denomination which isn't orthodox and which is basically extinct is Christian Scientism).  Denominations which aren't adaptable will also die (a good example of a denomination which wasn't adaptable is "Berean" Christianity).

Of course this formula is overly simplistic.  More time needs to be given to what orthodoxy is exactly.  More attention needs to be devoted to what kind of adaptability is too adaptable, too amorphous, too culturally sensitive.  However, it is this blog-post writer's opinion that if the American Christian church doesn't take this tension and this dichotomy seriously enough, it won't have as bright of a future as it has experienced in the past 4,000 years.

As a way of thinking about this in practical terms think about your own religious denomination (if you have one).  Is it too orthodox or too adaptable, or has it struck the perfect balance and medium to win hearts, minds and souls for the next millennium?

All For Now,
GB
































Saturday, July 19, 2014

Digital Intimacy


I recently saw a fascinating interview on CNN of a very smart business woman named Randi Zuckerberg.  Randi is the former Director of Marketing and Development for Facebook.  She is also the sister of Facebook's co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  In the interview Randi ponders the impact of technology (particularly the internet, but also cell phones, texting, twitter accounts, and Facebook) on modern society.  The fact that Randi's own brother, Mark Zuckerberg, essentially invented the way that modern society interacts through Facebook, made this interview particularly interesting.  The main focus of Randi's thinking is vast bourgeoning divide we are facing in the world today between:

Real Interpersonal Human Connection

And

Digital Intimacy

Randi talks about how we now have an entire generation of people in, mainly in America, who have most of their interpersonal human connection through technology.  Rather than talking face to face, even in a work setting where people's desks are right next to one another, people will text one another.  Rather than having meetings with groups of people, even who work in the same department of a business, we will conduct internet chat rooms.  Rather than walking into a boss and asking a few questions about a particular issue, we will just email them.

Randi warns, though, that even if technology affords instant connections between people, we shouldn't mistake those instant digital connections for real interpersonal human connection.  "Don't assume that just because your boss and you text each other regularly, that you actually have a close relationship with one another."  (Randi's comment reminded me of the old adage, "Don't assume that though you are at the boss's house for the annual Christmas party, that that gives you license to do the macharana on the dining room table").  Technology connects us in a much quicker way to one another than ever before, and yet it also creates a kind of wall.  It divides us more than ever before.

As a Head of Staff for many years of a church staff, I can relate with this dichotomy.  Very often, if I have had a staff member who was under the age of 30, and I have wanted to relate quick information or an idea that I wanted to share, I would text that employee.  In fact, what I found is that texting an employee who is under the age of 30, has had a much quicker ability to get the information across than having a 1 hour lunch meeting together.  On the other hand, I found that the more email and text messages that were exchanged between employees, the further apart, ironically people could become interpersonally.

Years ago, I saw a live stand up comedy show of Craig Ferguson.  Craig said that he had, in the past few years, received many, many emails from irate audience members who were upset about something Craig had said on his show.   These emails were scathing.  "Craig you are the worst comedian I have ever seen.  I hate you.  Your material is awful and atrocious.  You are not funny."  Craig would then sometimes pick up the phone and call people as a follow-up.  "Really, he would ask, you think I am the worst comedian you have ever seen?"  The person would then pause and said, "Well, you're not actually that bad, actually you are sometimes good."  Craig said that technology provides a false sense that we are very close with a person and can say anything we want to them, when actually it creates a kind of wall.  Craig then came up with a series of questions that he thinks all people who send emails should ask themselves.

1.  Does this need to be said?
2.  Does this need to be said by me?
3.  Does this need to be said by me now, on email?

Usually when we stop to answer these three questions, Craig muses, we realize that we don't need to send the email at all.

Two weeks ago I attended a church worship service in Ventura, California where the sermon was delivered on a large screen up front from another location.  Every other aspect of the worship service was the same as any service I have attended (ushers, worship songs, offering plates) but the sermon was broadcast on a screen.  It was a Digital connection.  The information was related on the screen in a very effective way.  But was there an interpersonal connection between me and the pastor preaching?  Does it even matter?  I am still asking myself these questions.

Every week I write a blogpost and you read it through the internet.  Thank you - by the way!  Through technology we are close to one another, and yet we are miles apart.  Information is conveyed, but is there human connection?  Perhaps there is.  You tell me:-)

Or just send me an email...

All For Now,
GB

Monday, July 14, 2014

Unexpected Preparation


I've been thinking a lot lately about:

Unexpected Preparation

In the past week, I have put together no less than twenty-eight pieces of furniture from IKEA.  After I finish writing this blog-post, I will be driving to my new office space for the new church we are starting (Mission Street Church) and beginning the process of assembling ten more pieces of IKEA furniture.

If you aren't familiar with IKEA, IKEA is a Swedish furniture company (the big blue building with the yellow sign) that specializes in stylish and inexpensive furniture that you have to assemble yourself.  And when I say assemble, I mean assemble.  One box that I unpacked had no less than 120 different screws that had to be ordered and inserted into 120 different pre-cut holes in fiber-board.  What I thought would take me a day or two has now taken over a week.  It is a laborious, methodical, and painstaking process putting this furniture together.  Sometimes it is joyful, sometimes it is frustrating - but always it is laborious and methodical and painstaking.

And so, as I have inserted these screws into these tiny holes I have asked myself - Why?  Why, just prior to launching a new church, where there are zillions of other important tasks to complete, am I having to do this seemingly totally disconnected task of assembling furniture?  And then it occurred to me.  Perhaps, in some strange way, the task of putting furniture together is not entirely a waste.  Perhaps this laborious, methodical, pain staking process is actually a helpful pre-cursor to the laborious, methodical, painstaking  process of putting together a new church.  Perhaps assembling furniture, piece by piece is not so different than assembling a church, piece by piece.  If one screw is missing from a piece of furniture, then the furniture won't hold together.  If one small tiny step in the process of building a new church is missed, the church won't function.

Perhaps building furniture is an - Unexpected Preparation - for building a church!

Not too long ago, I read a book about the great painter Leonardo Da Vinci.  Leonardo's artistic masterpieces are well known to the entire world ("The Last Supper", "The Mona Lisa").  They are  some of the most intricate, beautiful and valuable pieces of art in the entire world.  What are some of the features that set Leonardo's paintings apart from so many others?  It is the medical mastery that Da Vinci brings to his subject work.  Each face that he paints is exactly anatomically correct.  Each eye-ball that he traces reflects a deep understanding of ocular medical understanding.  Now, it is possible that one could view all of the time that Da Vinci spent on medicine as ancillary to the act of painting.   After all, painting and medicine could not seem more distant from one another as specialties.  However, spending time on medicine and the human anatomy was, for Da Vinci, an:

Unexpected Preparation

The world is full of examples of people who applied very different skill sets to particular areas of focus and had incredible results.  Here are a few prominent examples:

*  The apostle Paul was a tent-maker by trade, before he was an evangelist.  Tent-making (the business of putting together tents, piece by piece, the business practice of setting up shop and keeping accounts) is a very valuable skill for an evangelist.  Tent-making was, for Paul, an:

Unexpected Preparation

*  Jesus spent much of his youth in his father Joseph's carpentry shop.  Even though Jesus' line of work wasn't exactly furniture making, and was more of what we would call being a "day-laborer" today, it was integral to his larger ministry later in his life.  Jesus had many stories about building.  The parable of the two builders is but one example.  Carpentry was for Jesus, an:

Unexpected Preparation

*  Franklin Roosevelt is widely considered to be one of our country's best presidents.  About the middle of his life, Roosevelt contracted polio and lost the use of his legs for the rest of his life.  Roosevelt had to dig down deep in his life to overcome the stigma and pain of his paraplegia.  This inner strength would later hold him in good stead as President of the United States during one it's darkest hours.  Polio was for Roosevelt, an:

Unexpected Preparation

*  Abraham Lincoln, another great president, grew up in rural Illinois.  When he was a boy, his home was so rough and small that it actually had a dirt floor.  One of the only things that Lincoln could do to pass the time, since he owned only one book, was to tell stories and tell jokes.  Lincoln was one of the best joke tellers in his entire town.  People would come from miles around to here Lincoln tell stories and jokes.  In a strange way, joke-telling became, for Lincoln, an:

Unexpected Preparation for the Presidency.

And the list goes on.  Try to think of other examples of people who had to face one set of tasks which seemed totally disconnected from another set of tasks, but which were an integral and essential aspect of their ultimate success.

More to the point, perhaps you are in the midst of a particular task this morning which seems completely wasted, annoying and disconnected from what you really want to be doing.  Perhaps you are paying bills, taking out the garbage, cleaning up dog poop in the backyard, driving your kids to soccer practice, appeasing your boss at work, when you would really like to be painting a masterpiece.  Is it possible though, that what you are going through right now is an:

Unexpected Preparation

For something much larger and much more important that God has in store for you?

Back to my furniture building!

All For Now,
GB