Balloons Fall Over

Today, the balloon fell over. Figuratively.

A video project was on the agenda. These projects have moving parts, but this one had more than usual. Within minutes of starting to set up, it was clear plan A wasn’t happening. On to plan B.

While editing after recording, plan C came into view. Doesn’t always happen and isn’t always better, but the end result was an improvement over the initial vision.

When we entered 2020, we had plans, visions, expectations. Then the balloon fell over. We were forced to develop and carry out plans we didn’t even know were possible. Flexible, adaptable, fluid mindsets aided our finishing the year, in some cases better than the initial vision. Balloons went from flat on the ground to soaring high in the sky.

As we look around, we see various stages of other’s balloons. Not everyone’s is back up. Not everyone’s plan B or C worked out. Not everyone’s mind has reset.

2021 will start differently than 2020. We enter hoping to see all the balloons upright, maybe even flying together. Our hopes can best be grounded by commiting to supporting others whose balloons are still on the ground or will fall over just like they’ll be there for us if ours does. 

One thing we know for sure, 2020 isn’t ending with God off the throne. There is coming a day when he will make all things new. “These words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5) May these words be enough to keep the air in balloons, to keep them from falling over.

Photo Credit: Will O on Unsplash

The Gift of Balance: Ministry and Service (Part 2)

(This is part two of the final topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. At the end of this entry are suggested resources.)

Tonya: The million dollar question is, “How do you distinguish God’s plan?” If we are making God first and really trying to follow the Holy Spirit, one thing is to pay attention to what’s in your heart, the passions of your heart. Pray that he will open and close doors. It doesn’t mean you won’t miss the mark sometimes, but then you have the chance to recalibrate. We don’t have to go forward fearfully; we can just go forward.

John: I thought about that question by comparing my plans to God’s plans, what characterizes them. So for instance, my plans tend to be my first choice and God’s plans tend to not be my first choice. The reason for that is my plans tend to not require a whole lot of risks, they are comfortable and fit naturally; God’s plans tend to require me to trust him more and to have courage. So for me, I have to say, “Just because it looks good and looks easy doesn’t means it is God’s plan.” God’s plans tend to require me to figure out new boundaries and to step out in courage. They mature and grow me. In that talent parable concept, I shouldn’t try to hide talents as much as allow them to be worked on and developed and let God take care of wherever they go and accomplish. That’s not easy, but the more I live in it the more fulfilled I am; his work is getting accomplished, not mine.

Tonya: He doesn’t always make it easy. He likes us to stretch.

Mark: Well, it’s at that point that we are really trusting and leaning on him, not what we can manage and control on our own.

Where I am at this point about this question about my plans versus God’s plans, first, there are times when God asks us to specifically do things, and as his follower, there really is just one choice. Even Jonah ultimately got to yes. Recognizing his voice and learning to listen over time makes it easier to hear those when they come. I also think there are lots of other opportunities where we just simply love others. There’s no law on how to do that. There are suggestions and guidelines throughout the New Testament of what that might look like, but really we have a lot of creativity and flexibility in being unique by how we were designed-like what you were saying, Tonya, following the passions of our heart. He’s already given us permission, wired us with gifts and passions to do that. Loving people inside of who he’s made us to be is part of being obedient to what he wants us to do.

Tonya: God gives us room and choices. When my husband first graduated from Bible college and we were trying to choose where we were go and sending out resumes, a couple of opportunities came that made it a tough decision. Everything about them was good. I remember asking, “How do you know which one?” A pastor friend once said, “God may be saying this is the direction I have for you, but which one you choose is your choice.” So I think there are those times.  I also believe there are times he is very specific about you needing to be at a certain place. I think he gives us freedom at times in some choices.

John: As you say that, I think that may go back to personality as well. I don’t live in the idea that I have to have 100% approval before I’ll step out. I know as I’ve moved from a church position to the next church position, there’s a moment of solid peace in that process that I know I’m supposed to be there next or I’m supposed to leave this place now even if I don’t know where the next place is. I’ve learned to wait for that moment or I’m not moving yet. That’s for me. Someone else could be willy nilly and be totally fine. I need to have that peace about those big ministry movements before I’m going to move in that direction.

Mark: I can relate to that, for sure. My thinking has also expanded into what Tonya was talking about. I often have this visual of a bowling alley. There may not be a whole lot of room in a lane, but there’s room to move left and right in the lane. I think of God sometimes as the bumper guards that keep us moving down the lane. Sometimes we drift right or left, but the guard rails keep us moving in a specific direction with freedom to move left and right in that lane.

John: I feel it’s important to add that we can’t always wait for the green light. We can’t always have every little jot and tittle clear before we’ll say yes. There are times we know enough, and it’s all we need to know. God will take care of step #29. If you know step #1 and #2, go on. You’re not going to get #29 because he’s not ready to give it to you. Those moments are trust tests on my part. “He’s given me the green light. Why am I not moving?” 

Tonya: That seems to flow us into our final question we wanted to discuss, which was “What one belief best fortifies your balance?” I asked my husband that and he said, “Do it Jesus’ way.” His example was he did what the Father asked him to do. That’s it. He came and did what the Father asked him to do. He discipled people, spent time with them one on one, and he took rest. That was his example. I always love pointing out that he was in ministry three years. He discipled twelve, and eleven of them then created the church which still exists. He walked side by side. He rested. That’s my fortification for balance. Do it Jesus’ way.

John: The scripture that came to my mind for this question was 1 Corinthians 6, “We are not our own. We are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in what we do and in our bodies.” My best fortification is to be reminded that I am not my own. You could say Jesus’ modeled that also. He gave up everything for everybody. Another way to test myself when I’m not responding well to either current ministry or something new that I feel like God is pushing me to, “What is it I’m holding onto that’s not really mine or shouldn’t be mine?” That is a challenging statement to people in our culture. There’s this tension between “it’s not about you” but “of course it’s about me.” This presents the challenge to figure it out for myself, “How do I live in a surrendered place rather than a selfish place?”

Mark: I’m thinking, John, that takes a lifetime of practice to perfect. For me, the undergirding belief is twofold. Kingdom living is full-time, whether it’s called work or service. What works for me as someone wired to be drawn toward legalism, what helps me to stay grounded is just two laws that we’ve already referenced: Love God and Love Others. If I stay focused on that, I 100% agree with what you said, Tonya, things just work out the way God wants them to work out. They may not be my plans or expectations, but certainly better because it works out the way God wants it to work out.

Tonya: Yeah, it may not always be comfortable or feel good, but in the end it’s what he’s doing. Jesus always did what the Father wanted, but it certainly wasn’t always comfortable. He had to go through torture. It doesn’t mean it’s all going to be gravy, but it is all going to be good.

 

Suggested Resources:

Mark’s:

John’s:

 

Utility Players: Being the Ideal Teamplayer

(This is the sixth post in a series on wisdom from baseball co-written with Mark Stanifer.)

What makes a teamplayer ideal? Patrick Lencioni, writing about this in a 2016 book, may not have meant to highlight attributes that make up an established trend in baseball, but much of his content applies. That trend is the manufacturing, valuing, and usage of the Utility Player (a player who can play several positions competently, a sort of jack of all trades).

My Cardinals certainly are riding this trend with players like Matt CarpenterGreg Garcia, and Kolten Wong. They bring excitement to the clubhouse and the field with their versatility. But the player who has best modeled the worth of the Utility Player over the last decade is Ben Zobrist. Zobrist has been called the Father of Utility, and with good reason. He’s been at it most of his career, which includes playing for the last two World Series champions.

So what does Zobrist have, besides talent, that makes him the ideal teamplayer? What does a Utility Player possess that any teammate could possess, regardless of the team or their position, and be an ideal teammate? Here is a short list:

Hunger

Lencioni includes this as one of his three attributes of the ideal teamplayer. To be hungry means to want it more, to be self-motivated, to have what Bill Hybels calls a holy discontent. Hungry teammates want to be on the field, at the plate in the big moment, or dedicated to every workout and routine. They aren’t satisfied letting the rest of the team outdo them; they are passionate about carrying their weight and taking on more responsibility.

Flexibility

If you’re not careful, hunger can blind you. Hunger could lead you down the “it’s my way or the highway” path. To avoid that road, the ideal teamplayer values and pursues being flexible. If he’s not in the lineup every day, he trusts the coach. If he’s asked to move to another position for a short term to cover for an injured teammate, he trusts the decision. Hunger and flexibility must be present for the ideal teamplayer to maintain balance.

“Team First” Mentality

The Utility Player will fail with a “me first” mentality. Eventually, all teamplayers would. Building and maintaining a “team first” mentality is what the ideal teamplayer does. They show up on time, they meet deadlines, they squelch any temptation to complain, they even offer to give the rookie a shot at glory. The ideal teamplayer knows how to and works hard at staying off any ego trips.

So what about your life teams (family, work, community, ministry)? Maybe you aren’t the skilled Utility Player, but would your leader call you hungry? What’s your flexibility level? Who mostly comes in first in your thoughts, you or the team?

If God has placed you on that team as the Utility Player, how are you managing your perspective on your position? Your position on the team is what God designed for the team and for you. Stay hungry and flexible. Keep team first. Be ideal.