Friday, November 30, 2012

"I am nervous about the parade tomorrow"

"I am nervous about the parade tomorrow." I said this to myself, to my wife, and now I am saying to to you.

The Journey of Life worship band is going to be riding a flatbed trailer tomorrow morning in the St. Cloud Christmas parade. We will be singing the songs that we are going to be singing at our Christmas Eve candlelight service. I know it's going to be great fun, but I am nervous. I've never done anything like this before. Things are kinda coming together at the last minute. So I am nervous.

That is the point of this blog post. Not my nervousness, but my naming my nervousness and sharing it authentically with others (like you!).

There can be a temptation for a leader to hide his or her nervousness, to stand up and charge forward like the future can be predicted and everything is under control. Well, the future cannot be predicted with certainty — only probability — and not everything is even within my sphere of control. So I'm feeling rather vulnerable as we prepare for the parade tomorrow.

Having read and listened to some of  BrenĂ© Brown's work recently (her blog is, I thought I'd try on admitting vulnerability and nervousness rather than simply hiding behind a stoic facade, just to see what it feels like. A little earlier today I said to myself, "Man, I sure feel nervous about tomorrow." When I arrived home this evening, my wife asked me how I was feeling and I said, "You know, I'm feeling quite nervous about tomorrow." Not that I'm running away or anything like that. But I decided to be courageous and openly admit what I was really feeling.

You know what? It feels pretty good. It feels right. It feels true. It feels like I'm letting people know me instead of presenting them an airbrushed cardboard cutout of some idea of who I think I ought to be and then worrying about what other people think while I try to maintain the false image I project.

Here's what I experienced:

Admitting my nervousness to myself somehow reduces its power over me. When I openly admitted to myself, "Man, I am nervous about tomorrow," instead of simply trying not to be nervous, somehow my nervousness changed character. It was like it moved from my heart out to my skin. I am still nervous, but the feelings of fight, freeze or flight that accompany anxiety in varying intensities moved away from me. It was definitely good to say intentionally, "Man, I am nervous," instead of saying subtly to myself, "Man, I've got to stop being so nervous."

Admitting my nervousness and feelings of vulnerability creates space to share another feeling I am feeling: confidence. I don't know exactly what tomorrow will hold, but I am confident that as the worship band works together, we will handle whatever happens in the morning with grace and good humor. Our worship band is full of great people! I am also confident that God causes all things to work together for those who love him and are called according to his purposes. So even if we totally crash and burn, that doesn't mean God's purposes won't prevail, which is the point anyway.

Sharing my nervousness with my wife also created the opportunity for her to show love to me, which she has done wonderfully from a glass of red wine, to dinner, to three Oreos in a bowl even as I write this. The courage of honest interaction made a place for our relationship to grow.

Having the courage to own, name and share my nervousness today lessened my own anxiety, allowed me to express confidence in my team and my God, and created a space for love to to be practiced in my marriage. My prideful spirit isn't too excited about being vulnerable by sharing my nervousness, but look at all the good that comes from it!

So, I am feeling nervous, vulnerable, excited and confident about the parade tomorrow. I sure hope the sound system works like it did when I tested it!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thank you, OnBeing

I want to publicly thank Krista Tippett and for posting the unedited interviews that Krista conducts with her guests. I have two reasons for this gratitude:

First, I really feel like I get to "know" the guest a little better. I hear the banter, off-the-cuff remarks and extra stories that don't make it into the produced one-hour radio version of the interview. It is a richer experience for me.

Second, they don't edit out the technical difficulties. This week's show with Brene Brown had a major technical issue right in the middle of it. As a pastor who leads a weekly worship service that all-too-often suffers some sort of glitch, it's liberating (and in a twisted way, even encouraging) to get to listen in while pros try to solve unanticipated malfunctions. Of course, the listener never hears the glitches on the produce show. That is part of the point of producing a finished show.

I recommend "OnBeing" to everyone. It's a thought-provoking and kind conversation about the big questions in life.

Emmanuel = Love

Merry Christmas! As we move into Advent and Christmas, we celebrate the unfathomable mystery of Emmanuel, God with us, in Jesus Christ.

To those who will listen, creation speaks of God’s power and creativity. Romans 1:20 (ESV), “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” An awe-inspiring starry sky, a powerful waterfall, a living cell performing its metabolic dance —these things tell us to seek their maker. This is exactly what civilizations around the world have done throughout human history.

But who is the maker? What is the maker like? What is our relationship to the maker? That is where Jesus comes into the picture. Jesus, the child whose birth we celebrate on Christmas day, “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” (Hebrews 1:3)

This is Good News beyond the wildest hopes of humanity as they seek God on their own. People who believe in one God typically imagine God as an authority figure who must be satisfied (or manipulated) or a disinterested creator who built a toy universe and now lets it play out just to see what will happen (if he even cares).

The idea of God being most accurately represented by a baby boy born to a poor girl and being laid in a feed trough because his family was travelling when he was born is nearly unthinkable. To use a well-worn phrase, it rocks our world. What does this mean that creator of our unfathomable universe presents himself to us as a newborn child?

It means Love.

Our creator desires so much to be known to us — to be in relationship with us — that he enters our world in our way, an infant. Surely this is, to use another well-worn phrase, mind-blowing.

Consider what this means for you. For God so loved YOU that he sent his only son… You are the object of radical, unstoppable love from God. You meet God when you meet Jesus. Again, this is Good News beyond hope because when we look at the life of Jesus, we see a man who was truthful and trustable, desired the best for every person he met and, when push came to shove, was willing to die in our place.
In Jesus, from the newborn babe in the manger to the travelling rabbi to the man on the cross dying a criminal’s death, we see that the core of the God who created the universe is Love.

In this broken world, the news that God’s heart is a heart of Love is the best news that we could hope for. Gaze at the baby in the manger and see the creator of the universe wrapped in swaddling clothes. Why on earth would he do that?

The answer is Love for us.

To contemplate the mystery of Emmanuel, God with us in Jesus Christ, without response is unthinkable. How can one possibly consider what God has done to be known by us and to reconcile us to himself and not be changed? Christmas is a celebration of God’s sacrificial love. Our best response to the inconceivable gift of the baby Jesus who grew to be Christ on the cross and the risen Savior is to reflect his character to the rest of the world.

Our best response is Love for others.

Celebrate Christmas by practicing love!