Sunday, September 9, 2007

Been gone--should post soon

Loretta (my wife) and I spent several days (W-Sat) at the Oregon coast. It was beautiful and good for the two of us to get away--it was badly needed. The pict is Cape Foulweather, a place I wanted to show Loretta. Awesome view. There are a couple of whales that live year round in the bay in this picture.

I should be back to posting in the next day or so.


P.S. I forgot to drink my water more than an hour before preaching this morning! That is going to take some conscious effort.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Drinking Preachers

The four hour drink was new to me. Makes sense. What is says about coffee is, of course, bogus ;-} :

The Underappreciated Role of Water in Caring for the Preaching Voice
J.R. Morgan
2006 Nelsons Annual Preachers Sourcebook
Jesus Christ walked on a body of water, but the rest of us are walking bodies of water. The human body is approximately two-thirds water; and if you don’t believe it, just consider this odd little fact. The ashes of the average cremated person—who is totally dehydrated, of course—weigh nine pounds, about the same as when he or she was born. Or, to employ another bit of useless trivia, the average person produces twenty-five thousand quarts of spit in a lifetime. That’s enough to fill two large swimming pools.
We drink approximately sixteen thousand gallons of water during the course of a lifetime, and water is involved in virtually every function of the body. It transports nutrients and waste products into and out of cells. It is instrumental in the digestive, absorption, circulatory, and excretory functions. It is at the heart of the body’s “climate control” system, layering the body with a coat of sweat when it’s in danger of overheating.
Nutritionists tell us, in fact, that it is almost impossible to drink too much water.
Preachers need to drink a little more that most people. Here’s why. Water lubricates the lungs, larynx, esophagus, throat, mouth, tongue, and lips—all the bodily parts involved in generating and projecting speech. Our vocal cords are surrounded by a mucous membrane that needs to stay wet and fluid if our voices are going to work properly.
It’s just like oil in your car’s engine. You wouldn’t want to drive your vehicle if your oil was low; neither do you want to speak if your body is dehydrated. It’s exactly the same.
Don’t think, however, that you can solve the problem by chugging a bottle of water just before preaching. Remember that there are two tubes descending into your body from your mouth. One sends food into your stomach, and the other sends air into your lungs. That’s why we sometimes choke on a drink and spew it across the table; it goes down the wrong pipe. To benefit your voice, the water has to go into your stomach, work its way through your digestive system, and have enough time to make the return trip to properly hydrate your voice.
That’s why on Sunday mornings, preachers should drink a glass of water the moment they get up. It takes approximately four hours for the water we drink to return to our vocal cords in the form of lubricating phlegm.
Professional musicians know that the two most important things they can give their singing voices are sleep and water. Without proper rest, a singer’s voice becomes cranky and uncooperative. Without water, it becomes stiff and raspy.
If you’re like me, you take your water in the form of coffee—which is counterproductive. Dark beverages take longer for the body to process, and the caffeine serves as a diuretic that actually exacerbates the hydration problem.
The answer is to figure out ways of getting more pure water into your system. So go ahead and buy those cases of drinking water at the grocery store. I hate paying for something I can get for free out of my tap, but I’ll have to admit I drink more water when I have a bottle of it sitting on my desk. And your desk is a good place for it; not the refrigerator. Experts recommend drinking water at room temperature, since cold water tends to make the vocal cords tense up. Just think how your body feels when you jump into a pool of cold water.
One of the best ideas I’ve come up with is to start drinking water (without lemon) when I eat at restaurants. This habit saves me enough money to pay for all my bottled water! Here are some other ideas:
Drink a glass of water after brushing your teeth three times a day.
Never pass a drinking fountain without stopping for a few slurps.
Except for your wake-up coffee in the morning, switch to decaffeinated drinks. I’m even having my afternoon cup of Earl Gray in decaffeinated form, and it doesn’t bother me a bit.
Buy sports beverages when they’re on sale, and take one with you to the gym each day. Exercise is important, but it’s also a significant drainer of the body’s water reserves.
Now lay down this book and go have yourself a good drink of water.

Monday, September 3, 2007

If Barry Bonds Were a Pastor

I found the following helpful from Adam Hamilton who is a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.

This summer we have waited for Barry Bonds to knock number 756 out of the park, surpassing Hank Aaron's home run record of 755. Seven times Bonds has been voted the National League's Most Valuable Player. He's won the Golden Glove Awards eight times. And that's just the beginning of the list of his accomplishments, and of the controversy surrounding them.

As one who steps into the pulpit every week and attempts to send one sailing over the balcony wall, I have considered that there may be some lessons in Barry Bonds's experience for us preachers and church leaders.

1. Every home run is preceded by two strike-outs.
That's right. Barry Bonds, arguably one of the greatest players in the history of the game, struck out more than 1,500 times, twice as many times at he hit homers. Here's the lesson for pastors: not every sermon is going to be great. Sometimes we can carry an unrealistic expectation that we are going to preach an excellent sermon each week. I don't know of any preacher for whom that is true. The Spirit speaks each week, if we have been open to the Spirit's work and we are preaching the Scriptures, but all sermons are not equal, and even the best preachers don't bat a thousand.

In evaluating my own preaching, I feel like one in four is a pretty good sermon. One in four feels like a pop-fly or strike out, and the rest are walks, singles or occasionally doubles. I trust that the Spirit works even through those sermons when I fell short.

2. "I never stop looking for things to try and make myself better."
This quote from Bonds is part of the reason he is a great player; he is constantly looking to improve. The fact that you're reading this article may indicate that you are constantly looking to improve as a leader, teacher, or preacher. Do you read books on your subject? Attend continuing education events? Do you invite others to give you constructive criticism?

I've known preachers who, in their fifties and sixties, seemed to be preaching warmed-over sermons they've preached many times before. But I've also known preachers who continued to stretch themselves, and whose form and style in preaching continued to adapt and improve over time.

One thing that helps to stretch me is to listen to other preacher's sermons. Every year I will listen to at least ten other preachers, both to hear God speak to me, and also to evaluate their preaching to see what I can learn and how I can improve my own preaching.

3. You can try too hard.*
At the moment when he was eclipsing Aaron's record, what should have been a great personal moment for Barry and an even greater moment for baseball fans everywhere, Bonds's feat was itself eclipsed by questions over steroid use. The use of steroids, if proven, would call into question his amazing accomplishment and add an asterisk (*) to the record books. If nothing more, Bonds is accused of trying too hard to make himself better.

Self-improvement has its limits in baseball. It also has its limits in preaching. When we take someone else's sermons and preach them as our own, we may improve the quality of our preaching, but at the price of our integrity. If we borrow heavily from another preacher, we need to get permission, to cite our source, and to not share someone else's experiences and stories as though they were our own.

4. What happens off the field affects what happens on the field.
I don't know if Barry Bonds is innocent or guilty of steroid use. What I do know is that the allegation has significantly impacted his career and his otherwise amazing accomplishments. Our private lives, as preachers, have an even greater impact upon how our parishioners receive our messages. Does your private life undermine the gospel you preach?

Some years ago I interviewed an executive pastor at a very large church in Texas. I asked him, "Tell me about your senior pastor."

His answer has helped shape how I hope to live. He said, "The people who know our senior pastor the best respect him the most." In a word, we're called to have "integrity," to practice what we preach.

5. Relationships and people matter.
One of the persistent criticisms of Barry Bonds is that he's not very personable. He is perceived as aloof. This doesn't change the record books, but it affects how others receive him and often how much grace they are willing to show him. I am reminded of the words of the late Bishop W.T. Handy who told me that the key to effective leadership was to be found in two simple tasks: "Preach the Word and love the people." Effective preaching starts with loving the people we're preaching to.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

When You Need to Punt...Do So!

I work very hard not to repeat sermons. I think that total originality is grossly overstated, but I believe for my mental stimulation if for nothing else, I should (and do) avoid repeating sermons. That doesn't mean I have had the courage to burn (recycle) the old ones...although I am slowly culling through the paper copies and recycling the ones I have electronic copies of (and making .pdf's of the rest).

But there are times like this weekend. It is the first Labor Day weekend I have been in town since we moved to Portland in 1999. And I intended to preach on I Corinthians 15...continuing my year-long series. But this week ended with very little to show for my efforts and realizing I was basically going to have to put a sermon on a complex text together in one day. Not a pleasant task.

So I have done what is the rare exception. I have pulled a sermon on Work from my years in Garden City, KS. It isn't a bad outline and I do believe it is very pertinent to today. And with some tweaking the illustrations can be updated. We'll see how it goes, but I expect it to go well.

I am not a total purist in many things. And as hard as I work on my preaching, there are times when the best thing to do is to punt. I had my choice between serving an unbaked entree to my people or pulling our some left overs from the freezer. These people have never heard the sermon and so it will be fresh to them. And so this weekend, that is what I am planning on doing. I'll let you know how it goes.

Change in Blog format

I am thinking about changing the format of my blog. Not away from preaching, but actually to give it more structure. I would emphasize a topic for every day of the week. For now my list looks like this:
  • The Person of the Preacher
  • Resources
  • Study/Preparation
  • Delivery
  • Philosophy
  • Historical Perspective
I could divide up Study/Preparation, I could leave a day for a slough day, or I could find another subject to emphasize on that seventh day. (Or I could rest & not post!!) Any thoughts or suggestions?

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