Recalibration Needed

It’s been FOREVER since I posted a thought on ABF.  It’s been a month of transitions, and just by way of explanation I thought I would post the text of an email I sent our church family this week. Hopefully this explains some of my absence from the blog, and gives you some insight into where I am in life right now.  I would love your prayers and your thoughts on how to get even better.

““For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? ” (Luke 9:25)

Hi everyone!
Just a quick update from me and some clarification.  I feel like I may have been misleading the past couple of weeks and wanted to make sure that I am communicating well.
I think that I may have put across the idea that we are not doing very well as a family.  Allow me to say, that is not the case at all!  In fact, I would say that now we are doing better than we ever have.  What the realization over the past month has taught us is that we were spread way, way too thin.  Between my many activities, the kids participating in lots of different stuff, and Laura’s many duties we were so thin that you could see right through us.  And that meant that we didn’t have the time to be together and love one another well.  It meant that we were always rushing to one place or another with no time to just enjoy one another.  It meant that the house was always a mess and that Laura felt like she couldn’t keep up with all of the demands of school work for the kids, house work, her doula clients (which is a huge passion of hers), AND be successful as a follower of Christ and wife and mother.  She realized it, but I was experiencing the same without really realizing it. (she’s always been more self-aware than I am)  And we all finally came to the realization that there were a lot of tasks and activities that are good in themselves, but in the end took us away from who we want to be.  So the past few weeks have been our attempt to clear out the stuff that matters least so that we can focus on the stuff that matters most.  To us, what matters most is that we love God and each other, and we are trying to do that more effectively.  And I think that God is using that in great ways, and with our “margins” and boundaries on our time re-established we are really having fun as a family.  In fact, I think that we are as joyful as we have been in a long, long time.
So that said, we cleared those margins not to get away from our church family; just the opposite, really! We want to spend more time together with you.  We want to have our family in Christ in our home, and grow closer with the people who matter most to us.  Yeah, that is primarily Laura and me keeping our marriage strong and healthy (which it is!), and helping our kids love God and love people.  This is why you’ll see us head out camping more, why James and I bought dirt bikes recently so we can do that as a father and son, and just being home more.  It’s brought back joy in my life in fixing stuff around the house, because I have the time to do so and because it is fun again to make something work correctly.  I have room in my mind for it!  It is also building healthy, transparent, growing relationships with our church family.  So look for that in our lives in the coming weeks and months as we focus on the things that matter the most to us.
All that to say, the Correia family is doing great.  We are through the “holy moley, we need to change some stuff” time and into cementing those changes to have some room in our schedules and in our hearts and heads to really just be present where we are.  So, please don’t think that we are in a dire straight or coming apart at the seams.  In fact, I think that we are more whole than we ever have been, and it’s been lots of fun to be in our home listening to laughter and talking and getting involved in what matters to our kids. (Laura told me last night that while she and James were cooking enchiladas he told her ALL about the Star Wars Lego world he has built, and all the characters and cities and everything that are in it…I know you’re jealous!)  I want to publicly thank Pastor Mike for being so instrumental in helping us make some of these realizations as a family, and continuing to help us relate effectively and communicate our hearts to one another honestly and clearly.
What does that mean for you? 
Keep loving us as a family.  We value transparency and authenticity, so we are just living life with you.  Don’t wonder what’s going on or worry that you’re intruding.  We’ll say so if we need space.  And don’t worry you’ll say the wrong thing or that you can’t just have small talk with us.  That’s what we want! Help us enjoy life a little by having lunch with us after church; we might forget to ask, so come ask us!  Let us get involved in helping you find those boundaries as well and make the main thing the main thing in your life.  Talk to us about the little things…we love that stuff.
Thanks again for being an amazing church family, where the pastor can just be a regular guy who occasionally needs to recalibrate.  It’s good to be healthier.

Rwanda Lesson #4: Relationality

I realized while in Africa what an incredibly task-oriented person I am.  I have pastoral duties to attend to every week, which starts on Monday afternoon with administrative work.  Then I work on preparing my sermon for Sunday, get my Wednesday night class ready, and make time for class prep and grading for Southwestern College and Phoenix Seminary classes.  I have kenpo classes to prepare for and teach, and leaders to train and all that at church. 

Blah blah blah, I am busy, blah blah blah.  You get the drill, but that is emphatically NOT what this post is about.  It is about getting a little LESS busy, and getting busier with more important stuff.

100_0894 In Rwanda God taught me a lesson about being relational.  I have seen the importance of sowing into people for quite awhile as a pastor, but God really shook me up with the relationships we built in a short time in Rwanda.  He began that while we were in Kigali and continued in Gacundezi.   In Kigali we were treated like royalty by the couple in the picture; Jonas and Dorcas brought us to their church and then afterward made us a huge and delicious meal.  They welcomed us into their home and spent the day with us.  That was a big deal because Jonas had other plans that day.  He is wearing his campaigning shirt and hat in this picture, because he was supposed to be spending the afternoon campaigning for his candidate for president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.  Nevertheless, he took the better part of his afternoon to have lunch with us and encourage us in our work in Gacundezi.  He was a gracious and wonderful host.

The same happened in Gacundezi, again and again.  One in particular stood out to me that involved a leader in the area.  Chris and I went one afternoon to the neighboring “town” by Gacundezi to visit with a man who Chris knew when he lived there the year prior.  His name is Kazim, and he is prominent in the milk co-op in town and a leader in the community.  He is also Muslim.  We went to the small restaurant that Kazim runs with his wife, but he wasn’t there.  He was working of course!  However, he heard we were in town and put everything down to come visit with Chris.  He told me (through Paul, our translator) how much he appreciated Chris because of how much Chris loved his kids—the first pic on this link is Kazim’s son Kevin—and his honesty.  Kazim took an hour out of his busy day and the myriad tasks he had to accomplish to welcome us and spend time with us.

This is the Rwandan way.  Deadlines are not as important as people.  Relationships trump timeliness every time.  We saw that in every activity we did, as people showed up when they showed up but always stayed later than you were expecting just to spend time together and get to know one another.

This is the part of the blog post that I am supposed to lament America and our fast pace, and pine for the old days of Mayberry.  I won’t.  I recognize that I get great joy out of doing what God has in my life, and that means focusing on my teaching and preaching ministry.  I like my life, busyness and all!  What this lesson reminded me of, though, is that being relational is important.  Spending time with people is important, be that hospital visits as a pastor (a shortcoming of mine for sure), phone calls, or spending time with my kids. 

The people of Rwanda showed me that in God’s eyes, a shepherd must be involved in the lives of people.  There is no way to know what people are going through without spending time with them.  There is no way to know people other than spending time with them.  That includes my wife and my kids. 🙂  So I have been trying to spend more time with them.  James and I went dove hunting last Tuesday (he got 4 doves on his first hunt!), and we went as a family last week to Wet and Wild.  I have tried to make meeting people a priority, and spend time with family and friends to build them up in Christ. 

That means less time to blog and less time for other electronics.  That’s okay by me, because my kids need me and they need to know that they are more important than my technology. 🙂 That’s why I haven’t posted much since I have been home, and this will likely be my new pace.  Hopefully that will mean that my posts will be more interesting and thoughtful as well!

Perhaps you can use this lesson too.  Consider all of the tasks, the technology, and the tools you have in your life.  If they draw you closer to God, then great!  If not, perhaps this reminder can help you re-prioritize to put first things first in your life as well.  The blogs and emails and tasks will still be there after the date with your spouse, or the kids are tucked in bed, or your friend is encouraged.

Rest and Recuperation

If there is one refrain I hear a lot it is that I am a busy guy. I hear it from friends, from coworkers, from my parents and from a few members of my church who love me enough to poke me when I need it. They are all correct; between pastoring a young and busy church, teaching on the side at a local college and a bit at seminary, kenpo (both taking class and helping teach) and training for a half marathon my schedule is a wee bit tight!

I don’t vacation much. Being a pastor is a busy life full of hospital visits, phone calls, prayer, sermon prep, Bible study prep, teaching, leading, counseling, conflict resolution, and on and on. My congregation expects and deserves a biblical and applicable message every Sunday in the pulpit, and it takes dedication to the task to get it done! That takes time and effort during the week, which makes vacationing difficult.

This week, though, I have had a very relaxing week. I took Tuesday off and went fishing with a couple of friends that I don’t get out much with. We went up to Bartlett Lake with a fishing boat, minnows and worms, and a need to chill out! It was great to turn the BlackBerry off for the day and just enjoy the scenery, the weather, and the camaraderie. We had a great day on the lake; we caught a bunch of fish (mostly catfish for me), shot the breeze, and joked around. We didn’t keep what we caught because we were there for the sport and for the relaxation.

Fishing would have made for a great week, but there’s still more! James’ adopted grandpa asked us to go squirrel hunting with him, so Thursday we packed up the truck and headed for the woods in northern Arizona. We spent the day hunting squirrels and enjoying an absolutely gorgeous day. This is the time to live in Arizona, as it was about 50 degrees in the morning and about 70 midday. (November 5th…just don’t ask about July weather)

When we got home I was totally wiped out. I got up at 4 to make sure we were ready to leave on time. We left the house at 5AM and drove 2 hours or so to get where we were hunting. We hunted all day and didn’t get home until after 8PM, so when we pulled into the driveway I was super tired.

Physically I was exhausted but mentally and emotionally I was refreshed. I really enjoyed spending time with my son out in the woods. We thanked God on several occasions for the beautiful scenery, the amazing weather, the great time and the good hunting. This was James’ first hunting trip too, so it was a rite of passage toward manhood for my “tiger man.”

In years past I would feel guilty about taking these days off. Not getting any work done would feel to me like “wasting” time. Now, though, I recognize the wisdom of Christ’s way of doing things. In Luke 5:15-16 I see Jesus taking time off to rest and spend time alone with God, even with more work to do than time to do it.

But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Rest and recovery are part of God’s plan for our lives. Sure He wants us to work hard (in Genesis 3:17-19 we are told that we will work hard to feed our family), but He wants us to rest as well. He wants us to spend time with Him while we serve Him. I got a great reminder of that this week while I kicked my feet up with a pole in the water, and again while I looked out over a beautiful meadow at lunch time. And you know what? Because I knew I would be out a bunch I worked hard while I was in the office to make sure my sermon prep was still done and done well. I had to be more productive and focused, but God graciously still allowed me to get it all done.

Take the time amidst your busy schedule to spend some down time. Rest, recuperate, recover, and refocus. Get some time to refuel and enjoy life a little. That’s Jesus’ model of ministry and should be ours too.

Guitar Hero and God?!?

Laura and I have had this recurring discussion about Rock Band and/or Guitar Hero for the longest time. Her conscience is more sensitive than mine to the songs in these kinds of games. I am not about letting my kids play Slayer or Megadeth, but I love the genre of music games so I wanted one of them. Laura could have lived her whole life without it and has been worried that it exposes the kids to music we wouldn’t let them listen to.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the major video game chains had the Guitar Hero band kit (with the drums, guitar, and mic) for $90. That was half price, so I finally got my way. We agreed to go through the songs as a family, and to agree as a couple on which songs the kids could play. Since Laura’s conscience is more sensitive, she gets final say.

Well the kids had two songs they could start with: Beat It and Eye of the Tiger. Nothing like bringing out the 80’s! 🙂 We have been playing through them in career mode, and decided that many of them are not okay for our family content-wise. Others can be okay with instruments if the volume is low enough to keep the lyrics at bay.

Last night, though, I got to finally see the potential of this game. James came home from kenpo camp, so after a great dinner we fired up the Wii for some GH:WT time. We switched off playing the drums, guitar, and mic for over an hour for sure. I love the new nuance in this game that has a “beginner” difficulty. That let Sarah and Abby play too! So all six of us took turns. It was a fun night of gaming as a family, giving high fives and encouraging one another in our pursuit of five stars for “Sweet Home Alabama.” (I rocked the lyrics to that one!!)

What a great time playing as a family. We had fun, laughing and joking and pretending that we were a rock and roll band.* It was a fun night of victories, as well as discussions about what is okay and what is not in our entertainment choices. We did something as a family more involved than watch TV! Okay, it wasn’t like we studied Obadiah together or something, but we thanked God for it nonetheless in our family prayers last night.

So where did I see God in all of this? Well let’s just say that I needed the laughs a lot. I had had about 72 really tough pastoral hours, with 2 families deciding to leave our church (without any discussion with me, of course…) and a company demanding our church pay them for their mistake and threatening legal action if we didn’t. I had asked the Lord to give me some sense of His pleasure, and he did so through the smile of a 10-year-old boy and the look of success in a little girl’s eyes who just finished a song on the guitar (with her mama helping!).

No, all my problems didn’t evaporate. There has been more struggle, and the problems didn’t go away because of a video game. Life is not so simple. But it started me on the path to getting over myself and that was a great reminder today as I thought about it of how blessed I am by Him.

So go find something to do with your loved ones today. It might not look like the epitome of growing in Christ together, but sometimes God works on our hearts just by making us laugh together.

*I SOOO wanted to link the Shel Silverstein poem “If we were a rock ‘n roll band” here, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it on the intertubes…props to the person who finds it for me!!