Archives For Benjamin Kane

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It is Tuesday, almost a week after Ash Wednesday, and I still haven’t cleaned up from the Ash Wednesday service.  Well, that’s not all together true; the table cloths are put away, the food stored and the floors swept, but the ashes are still out; so is the olive oil and the glass jar I used to wipe crosses on people’s foreheads.  I want to put them away; I like a tidy office, but something urges me to keep them out.  Maybe it is laziness, or maybe it is a sign of the season of Lent, or maybe it is a reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

We say those words each Ash Wednesday.  Then, like the post-service clean up at home, we wipe away the ashes from our foreheads, brush our teeth and crawl into bed, prepared for the season of Lent.  Our focus turns to our dreams, where we live out the potential nightmares of how we’ll cope without chocolate or alcohol for the next six weeks; or we have beautiful, fantasy dreams of becoming a whole new person because of all the good food we’ll eat instead.  Some of us are trying one of the new trends that invite us to add something to our lives this season.  And those of us with kids are attempting to explain how this season works and why we give things up or add things to our lives.  So we give our children “Good Deeds” charts and ask them to collect money for a worthy charity—all of these remind us that this season of forty (let’s be honest, forty-six) days is different.

I’m also looking at a book on my desk called Becoming Who You Are by James Martin, SJ.  In it, Martin explores insights on the true self from Thomas Merton and other saints.  It was a suggestion from Amazon so I picked it up as Lenten reading.  What I’ve realized is that I like the participle in the title, “becoming”.  We aren’t ever there.  We are works-in-progress.  So the ashes still sit on our forehead, even after they’ve been wiped clean and we’ve curled up into bed.

I think I want to keep the burnt palm branches and the olive oil and the glass jar on my desk for Lent because I’m not ready to put an ashen cross on my forehead each day—that would invite too many questions.  I’m becoming something in this season; we all are.  We are always becoming something that God intends.  I don’t know if you are like me, but I get caught up in becoming who I want to be, or who I think God wants me to be, or who I think the best advertisers or my favorite people think I should be.  I’m particularly fond of following ministers whom I want to emulate so I find myself trying to become a younger version of them.

We are all dust.  And that means we’re blown around by the winds of life.  We are all dust.  And that means we are created from the materials God used to enliven creation.  We are all dust.  And that means we are brothers and sisters walking a path worn down by our Lord so it is just a little easier.  We are all dust.  If you forget or need a reminder, come by my office and you can see the ashes, olive oil and glass jar; I’ll even mix them up for us if you want.

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Advent and Christmas usually affect pastors in one of two ways (or maybe both!): we are drained beyond belief and know January will be tough; or we are riding high because we had big crowds and people loved what we said and how great our choirs sang.

The holidays drained and energized me and I was left wondering what to do with all the excitement coupled with the strong desire to sleep! Given that the New Year offers an invitation to start anew or resolve who you wish to be, I thought about what I hoped 2016 would hold. I had these thoughts while I was holding my six-month-old daughter, Phoebe.

Watching her I realized I had much to learn from her. I wondered what 2016 would be like if I acted like she did? The way she interacts with the world, tries new things and deals with all that comes her way (new toys, foods, family, etc.) made me wonder how much ministers could learn from a developing infant. Here are five things I’ve noticed about her that might aid ministry:

  1. SHE TRIES EVERYTHING ONCE.

This doesn’t mean she likes everything (see #2), but she is all about a new toy, food, and sitting location. We’ve made it to the stage where we have to watch what is in her immediate location as it will inevitably be in her hands and/or headed to her mouth. How often do ministers find themselves in a routine that works because we are too afraid or lazy to try something new? I’m often fearful of trying anything new because that means I have to step out of my comfort zone or put extra energy into something new. But what if we developed or grew or learned something new because we tried something new?

  1. SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE LIKES.

The girl won’t eat prunes for the life of her parents. This is hard because her older sister LOVED them so we assume she would like them too. But she isn’t going to eat them, come hell or high-water (or another spoonful). How often do ministers keep doing the same thing because it’s easy and we don’t want to upset anyone? What are some things you or your church does that could stop? What holds you back from making those decisions?

  1. SHE KNOWS WHEN SHE’S TIRED.

January is a tough month because it comes on the heels of a big season. We are tired; we are worn out and believe a few good days of vacation will do the trick. But we all know that isn’t enough. When Phoebe is tired she starts talking (albeit in an unknown language) and it’s a clear sign she needs to rest. I don’t know about you, but I’ve realized that I need to rest (close the computer and head home—no matter what else needs to be done) when I can’t write or my words won’t form. Give yourself permission to rest.

  1. SHE GREETS ME LIKE I’M THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND.

It doesn’t matter whether or not I just left the room for a minute, when I return it is a glorious occasion and her smile makes that known. I know there are times when I don’t feel terribly cheerful, but I also know what it means to be greeted by one of those ear-to-ear smiles that announces to the world, “Welcome, we are excited you are here.” Maybe the church needs to share a few of those for our folks who join us for worship, education or whenever the doors are open.

  1. SHE IS LOVED BECAUSE SHE SHOWS UP.

This has less to do with what she does and more to do with how people interact with her. She (and our other daughter) are greeted with love and affection (as are all children in our church) simply because they show up. And it’s infectious. People see others greeting (or trying to greet!) the kids and then they want to say hi, too. And the best part is parents see how other adults greet their children and they feel loved and welcomed too. To welcome children is to welcome God, in my opinion.

Do you act like a six-month old? How? If not, what holds you back?

My Stop Doing List

Benjamin Kane —  October 28, 2015

I love books on leadership.  They are inspiring, enlightening and offer tangible help to my ministry.  While there are many out there, my favorite leadership writer is Jim Collins who wrote Good to Great (a must read for anyone in leadership or thinking about being in leadership).  Recently I came across a speech he gave at the Drucker Institute (click here to view the speech). The entire speech is worth listening to, but the last 10-15 minutes are pure gold.  He offers 10 pieces of advice to emerging leaders, two of which are: “If you woke up tomorrow and found out you inherited $20 million dollars while also finding out that you had a terminal disease and would be dead in 10 years, what would you stop doing right now?”  His next piece of advice is, “Create a stop-doing list.”  I immediately created one and here it is:

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1. Stop trying to memorize my sermons. I thought great preachers memorize their sermons and I want to be a great preacher.  So I tried, worried, tried some more and ultimately felt unfulfilled because I never found the time to do it.  I realized that I was setting myself up for failure and my gifts and time could be used elsewhere.  I know great preachers who use notes—and I know great preachers who don’t.  To each her own! Continue Reading…