The Flower Blooms Anyway

I have a black thumb…not a green thumb but a black thumb. When people bring me plants, I feel bad for the plants because I know they will certainly face an early demise. When I lived in Raleigh, I tried almost every year to plant flowers at my house.  There is something about the spring that makes me want to plant things but by the end of June, often earlier, they were dead. And while I usually killed off any hanging baskets I purchased as well, the soil at my old house was not conducive to growing things. It was rocky with a lot of clay and the sun never hit the house just right either. I know I sound like I’m coming up with excuses, but it is true.

Last year, I had great hopes for my new house. My plan was to wait and see if anything popped up in the backyard, something the former owners had planted. As I looked around the neighborhood, it seemed that these were people who planted for the future. I was certain lush plants were going to come out of the ground.

Something did start coming out of the ground.  It was just green though and I kept waiting weeks for something to flower or blossom, or even for the green to seem to take shape. It wasn’t happening and I began to think that the backyard, which seemed to be calling me to plant things, had nothing planted in it but weeds. I decided before I could plant my new flowers, I needed to kill the weeds that seemed to be coming up.

Only they weren’t weeds at all. I hadn’t given them enough time to start blooming, which of course they did just days after the leaves began to look burnt from the weed killer. These beautiful day lilies began to blossom in the midst of the fried, yellow leaves I’d tried to kill. Since I’d harmed the leaves, the flowers didn’t stay very long. They’ve never fully gone away, just stood as a half-living reminder of my attempts to kill the “weeds.”

But I’ve kept watering these plants every night (after watering my tomato plant and hanging basket that I am keeping alive, thank you very much), hoping the water would flush out the toxins in the dirt. Last week I noticed a few new green leaves growing and then this happened…IMG_0781

Right there in the middle of burnt dead leaves, a little bright orange flower popped forth.

Sometimes as leaders, we think we know what is best for an organization and we work hard to kill something we don’t feel is the best idea. And often, leaders have to kill something for a different thing to begin blooming, but sometimes we try so hard to kill an idea or a ministry and it just keeps coming back. Theologically and in regards to best ministry practices, we are right about wanting to kill it off. Sometimes even in the middle of the dead, one thing just keeps coming back. And often it causes more damage than good to try to kill it off again. You just have to let it bloom and know that as your nourish the soil, other good things will come with it. It takes real wisdom to know what is just an annoying plant that does not seem to be producing flowers as quickly as you want and what is really a weed that will cause damage to new growth.

So, pray for wisdom to know the deadly weeds from the misshapen, or slow to grow plants. Keep watering the soil and then celebrate what grows. When that flower that you kept trying to kill keeps coming back, find a way to enjoy it. Most importantly, find rest in the fact that you don’t own the garden but are only given the task to taking care of it for awhile.

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Leadership Training Ground

I have joined the Junior League of Richmond. It is hard to move to a totally new place where you don’t know anybody when you are a grown up (even though Lorelai Gilmore once said, “You know the one thing real grownups don’t do..call themselves grownups.”) I’ve tried a lot of different avenues to meet new friends and so joining a group of women devoted to volunteering, leadership development and empowerment of women just seemed like a natural fit.

One requirement/opportunity is participation in ongoing leadership development. This year the group offered “board training,” teaching members how to serve on the boards of other non-profit organizations successfully.  The coordinator described this program by saying, “We want to equip you to serve in the community. That is our way of giving back and making a difference. We want to equip you to take the name of Junior League out to others.”

“We want to equip you to take the name of Junior League out to others…..”

When she said it, I let out one of those ministerial sounds…you know that gutteral agreement sound when something hits home or really clicks….

because church, this is what we should be doing….

We should be equipping our folks to go out and serve as leaders in the community. We should want to equip people to take the name of Christ out to others.

We should bless their going. We should know do everything we can to make a difference in the way they carry the name of Christ into the world. We should do everything we can to empower and honor their going, commission it even.

So often, we get frustrated when individuals are serving elsewhere. They just “don’t love Jesus enough” or “have their priorities straight” if they are not in church every time the doors are open. “They don’t know how powerful it can be.”

We plan more and more events inside our walls and wonder why the number of leaders are diminishing.

I heard a pastor once tell about an outreach event their church had done for families in the neighborhoods around the church, the people who were not actually coming to the church every week already and in fact did not look much like the people who did. As a part of the event, they were offering people tours of the church.

One little girl looked at the pastor with wide eyes and said with an incredulous voice, “You mean we can go inside. I didn’t think I was allowed to go inside.”

We spend so much trying to make ourselves safe and of the world but not in the world that we are never actually ever in the world.

The truth is that a lot of young people find a lot of good in the world and when we close ourselves off to the world, we close ourselves off from them.

How can we equip our children and teens to be the presence of Christ in their worlds…in their classrooms, with their teachers, on the bus, on the sports team? How do we equip our adults to serve on the boards of other organizations, bringing Christ into all of the places of the world?

How do we change the church from being a place of protection to a leadership training ground for the world?

Burning Bridges

I’ve always worked hard not to burn bridges in my ministry and leadership. It’s not necessarily that I think I will want to cross those bridges again in the future. There are some bridges I have crossed that I know, I will never want to cross again.

Sometimes you cross a bridge because have taken steps to be a healthier person, sometimes it is theological, sometimes it is just the natural progression of life that had you cross the bridge.

Sometimes there are people on the other side of those bridges that are still your friends. People you respect, people that you hope you can continue to be in relationship with. Burning the bridge only hurts you both. It is also true  that no matter how deep the chasm, people on opposite sides may find themselves on the same side again down the road.

And in a world that is constantly drawing lines in the sand, constantly yelling at each other from opposite sides of chasms, it has been important that my ministry look different. We should find ways to cross bridges without burning them.

But sometimes, there are people who burn the bridges for us. People who remain and say they can no longer stay in community with you, no longer work with you, no longer be your friend, etc. It hurts to stand on the opposite ridge and watch everything you once knew go up in flames. You know you’d never want to go back, but you thought before you crossed the bridge, there had been some level of respect and trust and now that is just ash.

Sometimes we just have to watch the flames, grieving what is lost but keep moving on. Knowing that God can take even those ashes and make something beautiful from them.