Before we start:

DISCLAIMER: The thoughts and opinions expressed here may bare striking similarity to actual persons or events, but I may or may not be talking about you because you are only one of many drama kings and queens that I encounter on a daily basis, and therefore I can say without reservation that this message identifies with countless persons, living and dead, and some fictional characters that I included for artistic license. At any rate I love you even if you are a drama queen or king, and if you ask me, I will flat out lie and deny it’s you, and then repent for lying (just kidding – maybe).

Drama. Admit it, you just emitted an involuntary futility-induced “sigh” at that word, didn’t you?

I hate drama. It’s not that I can’t deal with it – God knew what he was doing when he gave me the gift of reconciliation. The problem is that drama kills penguins. It pummels them and then plucks their feathers. It wrings the joy out of life. I am sure you can relate – you’re having an amazing day, loving God, loving each other, passing it on… then, all of a sudden someone drops an entire flask of lemon-extract in your whi-cho-mo. Everything good just met a brick wall at 90mph.

As a church planter, I thought I could escape it – you know, start from scratch and all that. Well, I was wrong. It happens more than I want it to. But, I’ve been able to manage it – maybe not in the way you non-professionals might have hoped, but it works for me. So, here are my tips for drama queens and kings and those who deal with them. Some of it may read as “harsh” but please know that I am trying to bring some humor to the dreary and overly populated Drama Stupidity Land.

1. Speak up or clam up.
Yeah, I know you might think it’s a harsh thing to say, but seriously. I do not know you have problem with something unless you speak up. If you don’t tell me I won’t know – unless…. you tell everyone else but me. It’s not that I am ignoring your issue, it’s that I don’t know about it. So, if you want me to tackle an issue, tell me about it, and don’t go involving everyone else in your issue.

2. You don’t need me.
I am not going to insert myself into your friend/family internal drama. Sorry, but you’re on your own. If it starts affecting other people, then I might step in, but typically I will not get involved – especially if only one side of the issue thinks I should get involved and won’t try to get the other party to agree to meeting before asking me when we can schedule it. Yes, sometimes friend/family issues do rise to the point where they need the mediation of a spiritual leader. But, before you get me involved, be sure that I need to be involved. That leads me to the next “tip”.

3. Talking is good.
Contrary to popular opinion, ignoring an issue doesn’t make it better. It’s amazing how huge issues are not so huge when we talk them out with one another. Sometimes when we are in our own reaction bubble, we do not see the issue in context to real life. We get trapped in a self-strengthening whirlpool of resentment. The only cure is to talk it out. Please, before you drag me into that drama eddy you’re cultivating, see if you can solve the issue yourself with dialogue. Oh, and don’t think that it is the other person’s responsibility to start talking. The ball is always in your court, which leads me to the next “tip” (funny how that works).

4. Get over yourself.
I wish I began, early on, to track the issues behind the issues. But, if I were to take a stab at a guess I’d say that 93.54678% of the time, issues are issues because of pride, arrogance, and self-pity (which is really a form of arrogance). “Check yourself” is what Angel tells her students whose attitudes are bringing them to the brink of “poof”, which means they are about to exit her world – pray it’s just figuratively!!!

OK, I’m done, and I know you’d never guess it, but yes, sometimes I can be quite the drama king. So, all of this is pointed back at me too – maybe.

P.S. Free coffee for anyone who accurately counts the number of times the word “drama” is used in this post.

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Week 2 – Those Who Mourn

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

“Those who mourn” took on a new meaning for me as I prepared for this week’s message. I have to admit that prior to this point, I had always read this verse in a self-centered way. “Those who mourn” has been code for “me” as I bemoan the various circumstances around me, both present and past, which brought “mournful” thoughts to mind. Now, don’t misunderstand – I don’t “bemoan” often, but whenever I read that verse, I tend (quite naturally in fact) to take on the honorable title of mourner. I would puff myself up as a martyr, “doing without” for the cause of Christ.

The angle taken by the book is to bring attention to the “nationalist” heart of the typical Israelite – their tendency to tie their national identity so close to their own identities. When Jesus walked the earth, they were once again under captivity – this time to the Romans. While Roman rule was generally aloof, crossing them brought harsh retaliation – something they had experienced very recently (the Maccabees). This occupation was a source of national mourning – akin to the kind of thing we see in many of the prophets, and perhaps a glimmer of with Isaiah in the Isaiah 6:5 scene.

I decided to do the experiment that suggests sending a gift of some sort to some soldiers as a way of recognizing our nation’s fallen-ness. I decided, however, that what was in the book wasn’t good enough. I wanted to do something that felt less cliche to me. So I struggled with it. Sitting in my favorite restaurant, I discovered two very unlikely people there – two soldiers. This is not typical of my part of the country. I could not help but to eavesdrop some on their conversation and caught them talking about how people act different to them than they used to. These were officers, and older, so they had been around the block. They talked about how people used to eagerly engage in conversation with them, but since the war started, people seem to avoid them. “Whether you agree with the war or not, we are duty-bound to go because that is what we signed up for – to do what our nation requires.”

My heart mourns for our broken nation that is so divided ideologically that we can’t even seem to unite in support of those who chose to put their lives on the line so that ALL OF US have the right to disagree with one another. We all talk a good talk, saying how we support our troops no matter what we think of the wars going on. But do we really support them? If so, how could they feel the ways these two did? Yes, we have the right to disagree, but you know something else? We also have the right to agree with one another. Let’s agree to keep our troops safe from our ideological cross-fire.

–end rant–

Listening to them, I’ve come to realize is that I’ve been so self-centered and self-righteous – two characteristics that I hate to think that I exhibit. What right have I to wear the martyr mantle? What have I done to earn “martyr” on my business card? I discover that I’m spoiled rotten and oblivious to that which actually deserves to be mourned. It’s not like I am unaware of how undeserving of God’s grace I really am. Every time that passage where Isaiah stumbles upon God in His temple, I am moved as one of unclean lips, of a people of unclean lips, who finds himself in the presence of GOD. But, Isaiah’s grief was not only over His own condition, but also over that of his people – the whole nation! In the presence of God, suddenly the unholiness of everything is made so clear.

I felt petty about my self-martyrdom, and repented. The problem is that anything I thought of doing for my experiment now seemed a meager pittance. I bought their lunch, anonymously.


In His grip!Herb Halstead, Pastor

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Since we canceled services this past Sunday, I am holding off publishing the Kingdom Experiment Part 2 blog post.

The picture above is a crop of a picture I found here. This is from the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 series, and is a vision of a ubiquitous device for interacting with data. Such devices, ubiquitous in Gene Roddenberry’s world, are about to become a 2010 reality. Before I get into the correlations to ministry, I have to say that it is an amazing time to be alive if you are a tech geek. Microsoft, Apple, and the like, are creating some crazy technology. Every time I think about it, I am amazed at how my life is so different after the Xbox-360 and after the iPhone. OK, now back on track.

I am not an expert on futurists and can only name two (Gene Roddenberry & Arthur C. Clark), but I was one of those guys who would always be lured into a magazine cover of a futurist’s vision of things. My fascination comes from seeing beyond the ubiquitous. While I’ve never been a fan of his personality, I have always respected Steve Job’s ability to see life this way, which has resulted in some amazing products, the latest of which is the iPad. After a lot of thought, I decided that I will be one of the folks itching to own one of these. The deciding factor was being able to correlate the potential of the device (as championed by Jobs) with the casualness of such devices in Roddenberry’s visions. When the moment of intersection finally took place in my head, my decision was made. It takes critical mass and convergence of circumstances to achieve ubiquity, and I think the iPad embodies both.

Thrive Church will be 3 years old come mid-March, 2010. I have always maintained a tension in my ministry philosophy between size and mission. On the one hand, there is no escaping the fact that a church needs numerical growth in order to be able to fund mission. This is simple math, and I have been somewhat resistant to the truth of it. On the other hand, the vision God gave Angel and me for Thrive cannot be realized with quick-growth. “Relationship” is the theological root of that vision (with Jesus first, then with one another, then extending). Building strong relationships take time. There is no way to escape it. So, Angel and I have always prayed, “God, grow us as fast as we are able to nurture relationships.” The result, is good, solid, growth via relationship. I would not trade that for anything.

We are not perfect at relationships, but we are intentional about them. We have the same struggles as every other church regarding the drama of life with people. But, it hurts so much more when the struggles come, and it is so much more immensely wonderful during the great moments. And that is exactly the way I want it. I want to be hurt to the core when there is a relational problem. I want to be overjoyed in the innermost nooks and crannies of my heart when things are awesome. It’s how I know we’re legit. It’s how I know we’re tight.

But, here’s the thing: we are not living in God’s vision for Thrive – not yet. As amazing as this place is, it is but a hazed-over picture of who God wants us to be. We are still only preparing and planting. Right now, I feel as if we are some kind of oddity in the midst of reality – almost but not yet. But God’s given me a clear vision of what Thrive will look like, but sometimes the journey is frustrating – especially when we’ve chosen the hard way to get where we want to go.

Someone recently told me that during their church growth push, her church’s motto is “fake it until you make it” (if you’re reading this please know that I’m not mocking your church). That may work for other churches. Some people may think we should adopt that philosophy. But, you will never hear that sort of thing from me. We are always going to be honest about where we are on this journey – during the struggles and the triumphs. When critical mass comes, we’ll be able to look back and witness the amazing grace of God as he grew us to that place – which will, of course, be the beginning point of the next “thing” God wants to do through Thrive, because we’ll never “arrive”. But, we’ll be able to look back with amazement at how the things we will enjoy as ubiquitous to life at Thrive Church, we were once just out of reach.
In His grip!

Herb Halstead, Pastor

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