Governor Mark Sanford Could Be You or Me

June 30, 2009

It has been stated throughout the unfolding of the circumstance for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford that he often would retreat after legislative sessions because they would wear him out. Retreating and refreshing is good, but at some point, Mark made some dangerous decisions about his integrity. Most likely, those decisions came in weariness and fatigue. They almost always do.

Pastor Gary Lamb recently said that in the couple of weeks after his resignation as a result of his affair, he had received over 30 anonymous emails from Pastors who admitted in those emails they were currently in the middle of an adulterous affair.

As stated in this post, there are a number of politicians who have admitted their moral failings recently. Is it just me, or does it seem like this is happening left and right?

We could list (and it would be LONG) Pastors who have shipwrecked their families and ministries because of sexual indiscretions as well. In the last post on this issue, I stated that we too often make our public figures more than human.

I don’t mean for this post to communicate that we should do that, but I also can’t help but wonder if God is not cleaning house among us. I’m talking about Pastors, not Politicians. It’s very interesting to me that this is happening with Politicians as well, but my primary focus here is Pastors.

The focus of this particular post comes back to self-care. It sounds like Mark Sanford had somewhat of a good sense and rhythm of self-care, though not knowing him it’s hard to really say. But it’s notable that he knew himself enough that when he was tired, he would get away to refresh.

Obviously, his trip to Argentina wasn’t about refreshing himself. But Argentina didn’t happen overnight, and affairs never do. They start slowly and grow in a process of decisions that lack integrity and honesty with important people.

How are you doing in this area? Are you taking care of you? Have you gotten away lately to be restored in energy, passion and vision? Are you taking your Sabbath and spending honest time with your family and friends?

Erwin McManus & Dave Gibbons on Burnout

June 27, 2009

There’s an interesting conversation posted over here between Erwin McManus and Dave Gibbons. In it, they share the following on pastoral burnout:
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How to avoid burnout?

  • Erwin: Not the bible that helps someone live a moral life (it’s when people are truly connected to Jesus)
  • There are lots of lost people that live honorable lives
  • It’s about escape (that’s why someone kills their wife instead of divorcing); pastors want to get out so they self-destruct
  • Burnout is about doing something you don’t love way too much
  • When you do something you love, you become “addicted” (like athletes who get addicted to pain and practice)
  • Listen to your soul (it’s ok to change; take ownership); I once was this person but now I’m not; we don’t give each other an out
  • Don’t do things b/c you like the outcome idea, but b/c the process is rewarding
  • Primary movement of life is from illusion to reality (figure out a way to penetrate the illusions, and then you found something that’s a treasure; then it’ll help you live a fruitful life)
  • Create space for people and activity that energizes you (ministry isn’t supposed to just be “our cross that we must bear” but what are you doing that energizes you in realm of God’s will)
  • 1. Find out who and what energizes you
  • 2. Be intentional about having people speak into your life (what can I change about myself? What do you see in me?)
  • 3. What did you hear God say?

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Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? What would you add?

A Pastor or A Politician? The Unfolding of Governor Mark Sanford?

June 25, 2009

What’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician? Both are highly public figures. Both represent something larger than themselves. There are similarities that are eerie and sometimes dangerous, and we could go on and on about them. But there are some important distinctions to make too.

When a Pastor fails morally, he or she most often loses everything, their job, their church, often their support system, kids often lose their friends from church or their school if a move is necessary; sometimes they even lose their marriage and family.

When a Politician fails morally, he or she may take a hit in their approval ratings, but rarely do they lose everything around them. Sometimes they do, but not often.

With this week’s news about the bizarre story of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford being on a secret trip to Argentina having been about an adulterous affair he was having with a woman who lives there, he joins the ranks of a few politicians who have failed morally.

  • Just last week, Nevada Senator John Ensign admitted to an affair with a campaign staffer.
  • This generation’s most visible political figure to fail morally is President Bill Clinton, who denied having an affair with a White House staffer for seven months before he finally admitted it, all while he was President
  • Presidential hopeful John Edwards admitted to an affair a few months ago and it’s still making news.
  • New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was tough on prostitution in his state, and then lost his job when it was discovered he had been hiring them personally.

There are more examples, but that’s enough for now. Please note that this is NOT a post about whether or not Pastors or even Politicians should resign or lose their jobs as a result of adultery. I am not saying here that they should or shouldn’t.

We don’t yet know what will happen with the situation for Mark Sanford. His wife’s statement clearly says she is ready for reconciliation should Mark want it. That’s a good thing, and I hope it happens for the sake of their entire family.

But back to the question … what’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician? We can mark several differences:

  • Pastors “work” for God; Politicians “work” for the constituents who voted for them.
  • Pastors represent something sacred; most seem to believe Politicians represent something pretty secular.
  • For the sake of “political correctness”, Pastors stand for the Church, while Politicians stand for the State, two institutions in America that have a weird relationship.

Let me boil this down. The point of this post has been primarily about the differences between Pastors and Politicians. But the real answer to the question, “What’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician?” is, bottom line, NOTHING.

Part of our problem is that we make them out to be MORE THAN HUMAN. Certainly, there is a greater standard for spiritual leaders biblically, but we still make them out to be something more than flawed humans.

The more we can see that we are ALL flawed, imperfect human beings, the greater our ability to actually HELP each other when we fall, and help each other to stand again.

Your thoughts?

Summer Days Got You In A Daze?

June 23, 2009

Summer brings with it all of its splendor and, hopefully, the anticipation of some down time with family and friends. How are you facing it this year? Are you excited about, ready for some time to refresh relationships, maybe see some friends or family you haven’t seen in a while? Or are you feeling like closing the door on your bedroom, ready for somebody to wake you up when it’s time to go back to work?

There are lots of great assessment tools available to help you gauge your burnout potential and current status. I want to suggest one here that can give you an idea of where you stand as you dive into Summer. This is a perfect time in ministry life to wind down, ease back, relax a little more and let the rest rejuvenate and restore. Sometimes it can be helpful to know where you’re at in your own body, mind and soul, and what your level of need is to be refreshed.

Maybe it will help you plan what kind of vacation you really need this year. Go ahead, try it out.

Good Stuff Coming From Gary Lamb’s Pain

June 20, 2009

When I speak of anything good coming from someone’s pain, it’s not news to any real leader. The best stuff of life and ministry, especially when in leadership, comes through pain. We have all felt the sting of where Gary is at in one way, shape or form. Maybe not in ways disqualifying you from ministry (though maybe so), but maybe painful in other ways we could go on and on about.

Disappointment …. discouragement …. half-heartedness from leaders (or ourselves) …. betrayal …. gossip that cuts to the core …. (you fill in this blank)

Among the so many things being said (and that will be said again at someone else’s expense and pain), I have found a few things that stand out. Ironically to me, the things standing out are being said not by those well-known, but by those who are faithfully plowing the ground God has given them and have lasted well.

One such person is Marty Duren. I haven’t met him, but I’ve perused his blog some. And this week I came across his “Thoughts Regarding Fallen Pastors”. Worth your time to read and process. Good stuff.

If you have found like material that isn’t being said by everyone else, please share it in the comments.

Healthy Follow-Up to Gary Lamb Post

June 18, 2009

After last week’s post about the resignation of Pastor Gary Lamb due to an affair with his assistant, a good friend of mine, who is also a Pastor, suggested I look at a video teaching by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, called “The Heart of a Champion”.

Friends, this video is worth your time and note-taking. It is filled with rich wisdom on checking our own hearts in days like these. Situations like Gary’s are an unfortunate “dime a dozen”. It was Gary last week, who will it be next week? Not trying to be morbid or hopeless, just truthful.

Truth be known, we are ALL susceptible to failure, because we are human. Nothing more, nothing less. You might be living in the proverbial phone booth, thinking that your Superman cape and superpowers keep you from walking a road like Gary’s, but the bottom line is, you are only fooling yourself.

It takes intentionality and truth-telling that is hard and uneasy and awkward. Take the time to go through this video. Bring it to your Staff, Church Council, or whatever group of leaders you see fit. Whatever you do, do something intentional today to affair-proof your own marriage.

If You’re Getting Very Sleepy….

June 12, 2009

I’ve posted about sleep before here. Napping, in particular. Numerous studies show that most of us are NOT getting the amount or the quality of sleep that we need to be have our internal batteries restored to full usage each morning.

While none of us will have perfect sleep, we all have habits that can be utilized to improve this crucial area of our lives. The Wall Street Journal had a great column on this, including some good tips and some incredible, albeit somewhat costy, tools. One quote that encouraged use of monitoring devices that was really good, stated, “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”

Read the article here.

Redeeming the Secular

June 11, 2009

I know this post may cause some controversy, especially following my last post. However, when my wife encouraged me to read this column from the LA Times’ Chris Erskine, I immediately thought of how some of the things we lament in our culture can truly be redeemed. This is one of those things.

Read on, for those who are married, please enjoy, and feel free to leave any comments you feel appropriate. Really, it’s OK, ….. you’re not gonna hurt my feelings. I just think this is funny, and we could all use a good chuckle. Some may even be brave enough to try it, but please, ONLY with your spouse!

Baring his soul . . . and more

OK, sexting his wife was a snap decision and maybe he’ll regret it later.
June 6, 2009

Keeping a relationship alive these days isn’t easy. So, in an effort to demonstrate my commitment, I just sexted my wife of 27 years — that is, I have sent her a revealing photo taken with my cellphone.

Love, says H.L. Mencken, is merely “a state of perceptual anesthesia.”

Now, I know my parents would never approve, but I don’t care anymore what they think. They’re not the boss of me.

And I don’t see what’s so wrong with sexting. It’s a declaration of love, much like a wedding ring or a ginormous dragon tattoo, from your hipbone to your neck. At least I didn’t do that.

In my case, I didn’t do anything bad to my body. I just lifted my Dodger T-shirt. Aim. Snap. Send.

Now, I know what you’re wondering. What happens when Posh eventually dumps you? Wonder if, out of spite, your wife distributes your sexy photo to her friends (the Yummy Mummies), and then the revealing photo makes its way all over the Internet and onto their Facebook pages, which they’ve suddenly flocked to like pigeons to popcorn? Facebook, the new merlot.

Anyway, suppose that happens, then what? You know how those Yummy Mummies are — they can’t keep a secret, especially not a sexy one.

You know, you just can’t worry about what other people think. I love Posh and she loves me. Besides, I’m tired of parents getting all judgmental over everything us kids do. My mom, she’s 84 now, won’t even let me get my tongue pierced. I said, “Mom, back off, OK? Gimme my space! I’m old enough to disgrace myself in any way I see fit!!!!”

Then I cried a little. Then I called Posh and we talked for, like, four hours.

::

If you’re not familiar with “sexting,” here’s the deal. Beginning a year or two ago, teenagers (usually girls) began sending naked or semi-naked cellphone photos of themselves to the loves of their lives.

At first blush — assuming anyone blushes anymore — this moronic gesture seemed mostly harmless. Sure, it compromised the poor girl’s dignity and any sense of self-worth. But that’s OK. Dignity and self-worth are now available at most major department stores and online.

The only permanent drawback to sexting is that a teenage girl can be a rather fickle creature. Sometimes, the love of her life turns out to be the love of her week.

So, in practice, when the girlfriends eventually dumped the boys, some of the jilted boys also forgot their sense of dignity and distributed the embarrassing shots to their friends, who sent it to their friends, till pretty much everyone in the world had it.

This, my friends, is how sexting got such a lousy, undeserved reputation.

This, I assure you, will never happen to me.

Aim. Snap. Send.

::

It’s not till now — yesterday morning, actually — that dads like me started sexting, meaning the trend may have run its course, who knows. That would be unfortunate. As with many things, once a dad does it, it’s never really cool again. Like when your old man started watching “Idol.”

Or Mom got her mitts on Facebook.

But let me just say this: Sexting rocks! Sexting is exciting! It made me feel all sexy again, and I didn’t even need to take any of those pills that can give you a big honkin’ headache and sometimes, occasionally kill you. All I had to do was act on impulse and lift my shirt.

I also included a little note: “YOU+ME 4-EVER!”

What did Posh do? Well, I sent the sext-message from the next room, and when Posh received it, she yelped a little, then gagged, then got all dizzy and passed out. It was like our honeymoon all over again. I kissed her to consciousness, then we went out for a nice lunch.

Aim. Snap. Delete.

Another Pastor Down

June 9, 2009

The news has sadly been circulating the internet over the last couple days regarding the confession of Pastor Gary Lamb at his blog of an affair with his assistant. There’s already enough opinion flying around about who is for who, who hasn’t said what and what ought to have been said, and more. I don’t have anything to add to that. Don’t really want to even be a part of all that.

I will only mention that probably the healthiest two places I have read response to Gary’s situation have been from Geoff Surratt and Ron Edmonson. They are certainly not the only two who are speaking painfully well of the circumstance, but they’re at the top.

Since the launch of Pastor For Life last Summer, I have endeavored to keep any commentary or review of stories like Gary’s to a minimum, just trying to bring about anything factual and pointing out what we can learn to keep such stories from becoming mine or yours. Frankly, sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t.

I’ll never forget being at Mountain Learning Center in June Lake, CA in May of 2001. I was 3-1/2 years into a Senior Pastorate at a church I had served for 12 years before being appointed as the Sernior Pastor. In those first 12 years, I had worked with the three previous Senior Pastors. All three pastoral transitions were painful for the previous Pastor’s family and the congregation. The last two had pains of immorality and both Pastor’s marriages ended in divorce.

When I became the Senior Pastor, I was sure of two things:

  1. I was nothing like my predecessors (watch out for that pride, folks!)
  2. The one thing that would never happen to me was “burnout”.

Yet there I was, deep in burnout, wondering how in the world I got there. My wife was with me, there had been no immorality or “sinful” mess that had been made of my marriage or ministry. But my foundation of inner life was in shambles and I was depressed and spent.

What I will never forget is my counselor at MLC, Dr. Russ Veenker, having no idea of my two certainties above, hearing my story and saying to me:

“Paul, you are just like your predecessors. I can guarantee you that before they messed up their marriage and ministry, they were in burnout. The only difference between you and them is that you sought help before doing something stupid.”

The advice to Pastors that I’ve scanned today on all the blogs in response to Gary’s situation has been good stuff for the most part.

  • “Don’t counsel alone with the opposite sex.”
  • “Have an accountability structure in place.”
  • “Don’t spend time at the church office with staff of the opposite sex.”

All of it is good advice. It’s good stuff to have in place. Bottom line, however, is that most people close to me were able to see my slow descent into burnout way before I ever saw it coming. And they were saying things. And I was giving blank stares. And before I knew it, when the pressure became too much, my inner life crumbled.

Thing is, at some point, we ALL crumble. Um, yes, ALL of us. I’ve seen it happen time after time, and so have you. If you can’t say that, you haven’t been around ministry long enough. Just wait.

So, what does it take to last? My belief …. do whatever it takes to monitor your heart regularly and keep it at Jesus’ feet. This requires that you adjust your pace to your current life and ministry circumstance, and “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” (from John Ortberg’s “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”).

Most of us Pastors, I find, are unwilling to do that. I was. That’s how I ended up where I was. I am convinced I was headed for a major life adjustment no matter what, even because of age. But it could have been experienced much differently had I been less “Superman” and more hu-man.

I realize, too, that for many Pastors, you serve in a system (church body) that doesn’t allow for much adjustment in these areas for you. That’s a whole other story of change and transformation that must take place for real health to occur, both for you and your congregation.

How about you? Your thoughts?

Help When You Hurt

Who ministers to the Minister when you're hurting? Many do, and they can be found on this listing. Please find a friend in your area and seek the help you need today.
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A Place For You

Many Pastors are not aware that all over the country are a number of places you can retreat to for a number of given reasons or purposes. Find some of them here, get there, and find your pace!
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