Thursday, May 31, 2012

Leadership Tip: When You Can't Do the Big Thing, Do Some Little Things

For any leader, especially those whose jobs involve tasks on the creative side, we will occasionally get stuck.  For me, this usually happens when writing a sermon.  There may be an outside stressor that is weighing on me or an inner blasé with no discernible cause.  But for whatever reason, the big important task just isn't happening.
At this point, my old pattern response is to stick with it, to buckle down, and to try to hammer something out.  One of three things usually happens.  (1) By some kind of miracle or sheer will-power, I'm able to push through the fog and create something meaningful.  (2) I write something, but it's actually pretty mediocre.  (3) I try and try to write, but I end up doing basically nothing.  I may surf the net trying to get inspired or simply procrastinate by playing solitaire.  So, trying to buckle down only has a good result one out of three times for me.
Here's another option that I'm finding much more helpful.  Instead of trying to pound out the big task when it just isn't working, sometimes I put that task aside for a few hours or for the whole day.  Instead, I pick up some smaller - less demanding tasks - like emails or organizing receipts or making phone calls.  Those tasks will have to be done eventually.  They aren't going away.  If I'm not going to put in quality work on the big task, I might as well get something productive done.  Then, two good things happen.  (1) I'm not ridiculously behind, when I finally finish the big task.  (2) I give myself some mental and emotional space to get a better grip on the big task.  Usually, my subconscious keeps working, and when I pick it up again after lunch or the next day, my creative juices are flowing, and I'm ready to roll out some quality work.

Summer Worship

This summer, we’re studying 1 and 2 Samuel, which mostly tell the story of David, Israel’s greatest king.  David was a man deeply flawed and yet also “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).  
David gives us hope in an ironic sort of way.  We’re all just as broken as he was, and yet God loves us and - if we will allow it - God slowly remakes his own heart in our hearts.  Two parts of David’s life stand out as possible examples of how he embodied God’s heart.  
First, David prayed ... and prayed ... and prayed.  73 of the Bible’s Psalms are his own prayers.  But these aren’t clean, simple, “churchy” prayers.  This is a man pouring out his heart to God - all of the pain and all of the joy.
Second, when the Arc of the Covenant - the symbol of God’s presence with Israel - was being carried to Jerusalem, David let loose in celebration.  He danced “before the Lord with all his might.”  
Could it be that the essential part of having God’s heart formed in us is total openness ... unhindered worship ... holding nothing back ... going all out with God? 
As we talk about kings and kingdoms, we will continually return our focus to the King and the Kingdom.   Let’s go all out for our King and hold nothing back - in worship full of life and in lives full of worship.

[By the way, the art above is from Rebecca Brogan's great spiritual art at John the Baptist Artworks.]

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Two Roads - Psalm 1

Mike was about 40 when he went to the hospital because he was having chest pains.  Doctors said he was having a pre-heart-attack.  Mike’s father and grandfather had both died of heart attacks in middle age, and Mike’s older brother had recently had a life altering heart-attack.  
Mike was an old-fashioned American man.  He liked meat and potatoes, and he didn’t care much for fruit and vegetables.  He was intimately acquainted with all the best barbecue restaurants in town, and church potlucks were his special forte.  And it all showed in his body.  His face was aged, and his belly was round.  When Mike traveled and showed people pictures of his family, people often thought his wife was one of his daughters.  Awkward!  
Mike decided that he didn’t want to follow his family tradition of mid-life heart attacks.  He wanted to see his kids get married and hold his grandchildren.  He gave up his baby-back pork ribs and fried apple pies for a new healthier way of life.  
He and his wife became students of healthy eating, and they starting taking long walks together at the end of the day.  He developed a taste for salads, fresh fruits, and even tofu - which is a big stretch for most Americans.  10 years later, Mike has lost about 50 pounds (20 kilos), and his heart is healthier than ever.  He is trim and fit, and he is enjoying his grandchildren.  Mike saw two roads for his life, and he chose the healthy path.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Psalm 1 - Sons of Korah

My friend Sarah Bean just introduced me to a really cool band called Sons of Korah.  They're 6 guys from Australia who play psalms - as in from the book of Psalms - in the Bible.  They put these prayer psalms to contemporary music in a variety of musical styles.
We're going to use this rendition of Psalm 1 in our worship service this week.

I also really like Psalm 100.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Smoking Miracle (24-7 Prayer)

From a member of KNU International English Church (in Cheonan, South Korea) who prefers to remain anonymous.

This is a smoking story, but not the kind one reads about or sees on TV.  This is about a real miracle.
Back in March, my boss told me that all foreign teachers had to get some tests done at the medical center.  My boss told me that he needed to take me to get tested March 27th.   I scheduled my time at our church's 24/7 Prayer Room for March 30th.  Then, my boss told me he only had time to take me to the medical center on March 30th (right when I was scheduled for the prayer room). I was very angry and hurt about this, but rescheduled the prayer room for Sunday.
When I came for the tests, I found out there would be a chest x-ray also.  I always get nervous about chest x-rays, but this time was extreme.  I was so nervous that I failed the blood pressure test.  
I decided to smoke before going into work and quit for 24 hours in order to really help the blood pressure results on the following day.  I figured that after the test, I would be free to smoke all I want.
I passed the blood pressure test and the chest x-ray, but something very strange happened: I suddenly lost the desire to smoke.  I also had a cold and a bad cough, which I wasn't even taking medication for.  All of this went away the same afternoon.
Then on that Saturday, I went swimming and found myself swimming very fast without even trying. My lung capacity had improved so much that I just naturally swam faster.
I have been smoking heavily since 1980!  I did not plan to quit smoking last month.  It just happened.  I feel that God worked a miracle in me. I am even more grateful to God for helping me quit and for healing my body.   All of this means even more to me, because it all happened during Holy Week before Easter and our 24/7 Prayer Week.  I have now been free of smoking for almost two months!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Korea Tip 131: English Speaking Chiropractor

If you have back pain in Korea, it can be hard to know where to go for help.  Finding a doctor who speaks English or works in familiar ways is almost impossible.
Dr. SiHo Ahn, of Cheonan, may be exactly what you need.  He is a USA licensed chiropractic doctor (from Pennsylvania), and his office is near Dujeong Station on the north side of Cheonan (1469 Dujeong-Dong). 
Check out his English website at:  For directions or to make an appointment call, 1661-1230. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Goodbye Letter #04: Kim and Paul

Dear KNU International English Church,

We have very much enjoyed been part of the church fellowship for these past eight weeks, courtesy of Daniel and Arnelle Helbling who have very kindly and willingly collected us by car to travel from Anseo-dong.
We were warmly welcomed at KNU IEC from the first day and very quickly felt part of the fellowship. This was in part due to the ‘extra-curricular’ sessions we joined in and in part to the greeting time each Sunday. It was here that we had the time to connect with individuals and learn some names. It is through learning names and then through these same lovely people being willing to stop and speak each week for a short or longer time that we felt connected.
We have discovered that as we have been on our travels with God and left our home church in the north of England for Canada, then Yeosu in South Korea, back to the UK, then returned to South Korea, that we have each time been blessed with a church that we have felt part of and has increased our joy in serving Him.
So thank you for the part you have played; especially those we know by name who warmly welcomed us each week.

Yours in Christ

Kim &  Paul

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


When does the sun rise?
   When the first hint of light?
Always while it’s dark
   After a long, long night.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Faithfully Doubting God - Psalm 22

Most of the time, we think of faith and doubts as polar opposites.  We think of faith and doubt on a single spectrum.  We think that if we have more doubt, we have less faith, and if we have less doubt, we have more faith.
Doubt                                          Faith
But that’s not what the Bible teaches.  The Bible’s perspective on doubt and faith is more like the father with a sick child who said to Jesus: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).  Belief and unbelief are all mixed together - like overlapping ovals.  We have all these doubts of different shapes and sizes, but they can be enveloped by an even larger circle of faith.  Having doubts does not mean we don’t have faith.  Doubts can actually enlarge and enrich our faith.  True faith is not being doubt-free.  True faith is taking the leap to trust God even while the doubts are there screaming that we shouldn’t.  True faith is moving forward to follow Jesus - even if it means carrying a backpack full of doubts along the way.
Sometimes, we let our doubts drive us away from God and away from God’s people.  We can get very ashamed of our doubts.   We think, “If I was a real Christian, I wouldn’t feel like this.  If I really trusted God, I wouldn’t have these doubts.”  And so we end up hiding our true selves from other people at church and even from God in prayer.  We only say the nice things.  We only pray the nice prayers.  We stuff our doubts down.  We try to shoo them out the window of our souls.  
Here’s the thing about doubt and pain and fear.  It’s part of us.  It will always be part of us as long as we live in this broken world.  If we don’t bring God our pain and fear and doubt, then we are leaving a huge part of us in the back room of our souls.  If we don’t bring our church and our friends our pain and fear and doubt, then we are hiding huge parts of ourselves and preventing deep relationship from ever happening.  
We (as a church) and we (as Christians) have to find healthier ways of dealing with pain and doubt.  Thankfully, we have Psalm 22.  This is probably the single most famous “lament” or “doubting” Psalm in the Bible.  Listen for how it mixes together doubt and faith.  
1  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?   Why are you so far away when I groan for help?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Goodbye Letter #03 - Arnold Tanubrata

[When people in our church move on, I ask them to write a goodbye note before they go.  I hope this will be one way to help us navigate these transitions well.]
   In 19 years as a servant of God, I never saw or met any power bigger or greater than the power of God, no matter how bigger my problems were or how bad I feel that I'm 'being cruxified' because of my loyality to Him.
   My name is Arnold Tanubrata, but I am also known as Tan Yue Liang since I am Chinese-Indonesian. My extended family originally owned a top pharmaceutical company, producing prescriptions drugs and OTC drugs and importing pharmaceutical and chemical raw materials.  However, my nuclear family was the second poorest of the families in our clan, so I considered myself as middle class of Indonesians.
   As a middle class Indonesian, I lived happily like in heaven. I received the highest education available -  from kindergarten to a posh graduate university.  However, I had friends from many backgrounds both poor and rich, including children of the unemployed, military generals, artists, and governors.  After graduation, I also got good jobs, slowly moving up from staff, to supervisor, to assistant manager, to manager, and finally to director.
   Things started to change in 2008.  I lost my job due to the global economic crises. After lost my job, my relationship with my ex-wife became worse until she cheated with another man.  I became very angry and even had a plan to have the other man killed by a professional.  My father knew all about my situation, so he suggested that I go to South Korea to work and to search for a better future there.