The Side Effects of Impatience

Today I am having a hard time figuring out what to write.  I have started several things and each one of them either needs time to settle and come together or simply needs to be thrown away.

Seems a lot like life.  When something isn’t clear I want to push through and make it clear.  Patience, however, is almost always more effective.

Impatience can have serious negative side effects:

  1. My writing may not be well focused.
  2. I may not feel peaceful about the result.
  3. I may miss important content.
  4. I may include suspect content.
  5. I may unintentionally damage relationships.

Patience, on the other hand, is always rewarded with:

  1. Peace.
  2. Clear meaning.
  3. Effective communication.
  4. Great results.

So instead of forcing something into cyberspace before it is ready, I am going to be patient.

Where in your life are you being impatient?  What would patience look like in that situation?

Choosing Songs for Worship

Music selection is one of the worship leader’s most visible jobs. Worship leaders are also vilified more for music selection than for anything else.

  • That song has weak theology.
  • The melody is unsingable.
  • That song has way too many words; I can’t get them all out in time at that tempo.
  • The music had absolutely nothing to do with the message.
  • Why don’t they sing more hymns?
  • Why don’t they sing more new music?

You don’t have to be a worship leader to recognize those questions. Perhaps you have even asked one of them.

I know I have.

So how do you choose music for the service?

  1. Remember that you can’t please everyone. If you pursue the path of pleasing people you will run into lots of problems. You are accountable to God, yourself, and the senior pastor; no one else.
  2. Find out the information for the service ahead of time. If the pastor does not have a practice of planning in advance, work with him to facilitate his planning, explaining the value of knowing those things ahead of time.
  3. Pray. Always pray. God is the ultimate creative, and he knows what he wants to do through you.
  4. Know your church’s tastes. If you are leading worship at a country cowboy church, don’t begin with a Prelude from Bach’s 1st suite for solo cello. Pick music that they can identify with.
  5. Begin with God. Almost always you should begin a service with a song that points us directly to the attributes and greatness of God. We have spent the week fighting the noise of life; worship is our opportunity to reset our perspectives on God.
  6. Begin up-tempo. I almost always begin with a faster song. I just like that. People arrive at church groggy and half awake; they need musical caffeine.
  7. Work towards songs that are more personal, intimate prayers.
  8. Guide the themes of the songs towards the theme of the service so that when the pastor gets up to speak the people are ready to hear what he has to say.
  9. Break rules 4 through 8. Never be afraid to try something different.

How do you select songs for a worship service?

Do Stupid Questions Exist?

Note:  The first edition of this post was rather harsh and judgmental, which is ironic considering the topic of this post!  I apologize for that.  I have re-written this post to hopefully better communicate the heart of what I was trying to say.

Chances are either someone has said to you or you have said to someone else, “Well, that was a stupid question!”  The problem is, defining a “stupid” question is difficult; people who have been accused of asking “stupid” questions tend to refrain from asking really good questions because they do not know what constitutes a “stupid” question.

So you may ask, “What is a ‘stupid’ question?”  I’m so glad you asked.

Usually “stupid” questions include the following:

  • Rhetorical questions, or questions asking the obvious.
  • Questions unrelated to the matter at hand.
  • Questions that are impractical.
  • Questions that are embarrassing for either the person asking the question or the person being asked.
  • Questions that have been asked before, usually recently and by the same person.
  • Questions that are naïve.

I really think that by designating questions as “stupid” we are really trying to be funny and even helpful, not trying to be mean.  Unfortunately instead we tend to come across in some pretty negative ways:

  • Self-centered.  What we are really saying: “Don’t ask questions that I think are ridiculous.”
  • Condescending.  What we are really saying: “You are immature and childish.”
  • Prideful.  What we are really saying: “I know which questions are reasonable and which ones are not.”
  • Judgmental.  What we are really saying: “You are embarrassing.”
  • Insensitive.  What we are really saying: “I don’t care why you asked that question.”

Calling a question “stupid” communicates to other people that we do not care about them.

If you want other people to feel like you care about them, try doing the opposite of calling a question “stupid:”

  • Welcome every question.
  • Ask why they are asking that particular question.
  • Demonstrate empathy by putting yourself in their shoes.

I am certain many times Jesus had every right to say to his disciples, “Now that was a doozie of a stupid question,” but he didn’t.  He spoke to the root of the question and gently guided them in the right direction.

Jesus does the same for you and me.  I am human, and so are you, and so is everyone else.  Let’s show the same grace to each other.

In which relationships do you need to show more grace?  Do you need to ask forgiveness of anyone? 

What Fishing Teaches Us About Life

Lots of people fish; it’s how you fish that determines whether or not you will actually catch anything.  The same is true about life.  Lots of people are physically alive, but how you live will determine whether or not your life is actually full and meaningful.

Dad the FIshing Guide

I grew up rod-and-reel fishing with my dad.  Over the years we have fished for trout, walleye, bass, and recently, Alaskan sockeye salmon and deep-sea halibut.  Each fish differs in many respects:

  1. Diet
  2. Habitat
  3. Season
  4. How they engage the bait or lure

One thing never changes:  how you manage your line.

Early on dad drilled into my head the truth that you must always keep tension in the line; not too much or the fish will not be able to sufficiently swallow the bait, and not too loose or you will never know if something bites.  You have to keep it just right.

If the tension is right you will feel the nibbles and hits transmit through the line, up the rod, and to your hand like your rod and line are a giant antenna.

If the line tension is right you will be prepared to set the hook when the time comes.

The same is true with life.

You have to maintain a little tension; not too much or you will be anxiety-driven, but not too little or you will be apathetic and unresponsive.

Maintaining the just the right tension is called active waiting.  Active waiting has several characteristics:

  1. Peace.  You have ordered your life so that distractions and noise are balanced with sufficient refreshing time.  Personally I believe this requires significant time nurturing a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
  2. Attentiveness.  You are actively observing your life and experiences.
  3. Anticipation.  You expect opportunities to come your way.
  4. Engagement.  You recognize opportunities and take immediate action.
  5. Balance.  If your action fails you learn what you can and return to active waiting.  If your action succeeds you continue looking for the next step in the process.

Most of us say we want a life without tension, when that kind of life would be enormously unfulfilling.

A healthy life involves actively waiting for what God is going to bring your way and responding when the time comes.

Where in your life do you need to engage active waiting?

How to Start Well in Your New Job

Leaders emphasize the importance of beginning a new job well, but often our best lessons come from our mistakes.

This past week I accepted a new job as full-time Interim Director of Worship at the church where I have been working part-time for the past year.

I searched the web for advice on how to begin a new job and here are some of the recurring themes I found:

  1. Dress right and make a great first impression.
  2. Learn everything you can about the company.
  3. Identify key leaders and find ways to align with them.
  4. Start earlier and stay later than your new boss to let him/her know you are committed.
  5. Keep perfect attendance the first 2 years of your new job.
  6. Be friendly.
  7. Report your progress to your boss weekly, whether they ask for it or not.
  8. Ask questions.

While these are good suggestions, I did not find the lessons I learned from mistakes I made beginning a previous job.

In 2010 I became the Interim Director of Music at a church in upstate New York. I had just finished eight and a half years at a much larger church in a much larger role, so I quickly began to apply what I had learned in my previous role to my new job.

Very soon I realized I was off track. Team members were working hard but were getting stretched thin, and I was getting frustrated in rehearsals.

The answer was simple: I was not working at my old church, so my solutions for the old job were not working. After some time we were able to get on track and move forward as a team in a more healthy way.

Here are a few of the lessons that I learned:

  1. Start slowly. I am a big proponent of notated music charts, and so I quickly began converting the charts at the new church to notated charts. I also began adjusting keys of songs where necessary. Finally, I began trimming old songs from the rep and introducing new ones. I did all of this at the same time. As a result often 70-80% of the music in a week was new to the band. Not good. Once I slowed down the team began to get back on top and catch their breath.
  2. Honor the past. I was so focused on the future that I would discount the way the team had worked before. I found later that carefully learning how things used to operate earned me the trust of the team. I also gained a better understanding of how to move ahead.
  3. Be patient. I am a dreamer and I can get all kinds of ideas in my head that I want to do now. Patience, though, is much more effective, whether you are transitioning culture, changing leadership, growing new worship leaders, or challenging difficult personalities. After all, Christ is very patient with us; why shouldn’t we be patient with others?
  4. Be humble. Admit you do not have all the answers, and admit it when you make a mistake. Don’t make excuses; just say it like it is and take steps to improve.

I definitely was humbled yesterday. After announcing my new role in the second service, the pastor commenced with giving his message. Because I had been through the entire first service I stepped out when the message began.

I was standing in the office when the pastor ran in and said, “Maurice, I’m off the platform.” Oops.

Here I had just been given a new role, and I blew it on the first Sunday.

Wow.

Fortunately one of my leaders stepped up and led that final hymn for me, but I had to profusely apologize to my pastor for my mistake. Trust me when I say I will be very careful not to make that mistake again.

What steps have you taken in order to begin a new job well?

Give Me Patience, But Hurry

Every one of us has felt this way. Today I was visiting a friend and her late husband had placed this plaque on the wall:

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Good things come to those who wait, but usually our waiting has a schedule, which really is not waiting at all.

This past Sunday pastor Verne at Abundant Life Church said we need to give God time to finish the process he is working. If we do not wait we do not allow him to finish what he is doing.

Where in your life do you need to wait patiently and let God finish what he has started?

A Leader’s Most Important Trait

Ambition? Energy? Vision? Critical thinking? Marketing sense?

  • Without ambition you will fail.
  • Without energy you will be uninspiring.
  • Without vision you will have no focus.
  • Without critical thinking you will make bad decisions.
  • Without marketing sense (even for pastors) you will misunderstand what the public really wants.

But none of these is most important.

I believe that a leader’s most important trait is . . .

Patience.

Yep, that’s it. Patience.

  • Without patience your ambition will burn your family, your employees, your volunteers, and every business connection have.
  • Without patience your energy will override your common sense.
  • Without patience your vision will have unrealistic deadlines.
  • Without patience your critical thinking will kill growing talent when they make mistakes.
  • Without patience your vision will blindly follow culture.

1 Corinthians 13:4 says “Love is patient, love is kind . . .” Patience is first on the list. I believe God put it there because he knew that if we are not patient we will miss him every time.

God is never in a hurry. We are. We think that if we do not implement a new strategy now we will fail. We think that if we do not get our presentation skills perfect right now someone will not decide to follow Christ, our presentation will fail, our business will die tomorrow.

These are lies.

And I (like you) have believed them way too often.

Patience helps us remember our priorities in the midst of critical decisions.

Patience helps us to hear God when life is in the balance.

Patience reminds us that people are most important; not our ego, job, action list, bank account, or church attendance numbers.

Love is patient . . .

Where do you need to exhibit patience today?