Two Kinds of Authority…

Winter break! Maybe I will find more time to write for a few weeks.

For now, I am returning to the question of authority, “What is authority?”

Two kinds of authority come to mind, “real” authority and “title” authority; Dave Ramsey calls it “positional power versus persuasive power.” The distinction between the two is a business school basic, one that most leaders intuitively understand: some people have authority because of their title; others have a different kind of authority one that is much harder to define. Positional power is easy to talk about, people slow down when they see a police car on the side of the road, they stop playing when the ref blows a whistle, and they quite down when the speaker steps up to the podium. The person in authority doesn’t need to spend time convincing people to follow, people follow based on their title and followers don’t need to know very much about the leader before they follow.

The second kind of authority is much harder to define.  It is hard to stand in a room and point to the person that has authority, sometimes even when they are using their authority. I am currently reading Reaching People Under 40 While Keeping People Over 60: Being Church for All Generations, the author tells a good story that illustrates the difference. When the author was first starting in ministry, his pastor asked him to move a Sunday school class to a new room because they needed the larger space for the growing number of babies in the nursery. He walked in and told the group to move. The result of his demand was months of heartache and pain. In addition, the group refused to move. After months of healing and rebuilding relationships, one of the members of the Sunday school class agreed with the need to move. She walked in the room, told them they were moving, and they moved. This leader had a “real” authority over the group. She cared about them and the group knew it. What she said mattered to them, and she knew it. They had a relationship that went deeper than a job title or positional authority.

Two types of authority, but I don’t think they are that distinguishable. Sometimes people may have either positional power or persuasive power, but usually authority comes from a place of title and from a place that is much harder to define.   What do you think?


Speaking of spiritual practices….

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The first time I read a description of a Zen Koan I was very excited. “That’s what I do!” I thought, “who knew that something I naturally do has a description! And a name! And other people do it too!” You know that excitement that can only be born from a moment of realizing that you are not alone in this world.

That was three or four years ago now. Not all explanations of Zen Koans speak to me in this very clear way…but unfortunately, I can’t find the original piece I was reading. (I’ll probably search up some links and add them to the bottom of this post for you to check out!) I have never really studied Zen Buddhism, nor have I ever practiced it but I want to explain my spiritual practice, which sounds a lot like a Koan to me.

Koans are not easy to define or explain. They are a way for me to seek deeper meaning from every day events or words. It is a way to quiet my thinking mind and listen for spiritual truth. I often see “what” is going on around me, Koans are a way to ask “why?”  Often the question is simple and sometimes there is an obvious answer (part of the practice is putting down the answer so new thoughts can emerge!).

Discovering the answer is a bit more like practicing communication than thinking through a problem. Well, I think through the problem too. I’ll look up words, definitions, stories, and as I come up with more questions that tie in, I look those up too (I know…not very Zen!). But I am a grad student I think through a lot of questions…what’s different is the way in which I listen. I listen to my spirit and the subtle, quite hints, that may not seem to tie in, but somehow I feel like they do. It ends up being a conversation between my active thinking mind and moments of listening to the quite whispers of my soul. Besides thinking and listening to my soul, I am also seeking clues in my day. Suddenly sermons are answering my question, leaves falling from trees, conversations with friends, they all seem to speak to my question, hinting towards an answer.  Even when I am not really thinking about my Koan, it seems to hang in the air. In some ways, I would say it is practicing awareness.

Finally one day I understand. I would say, “one day I have an answer,” but I don’t usually end up with an answer, often it is just an understanding. Even then, questions often come back in a new form or needing a new understanding.

All of this to say a mentor and guide (hi!!) gave me a Koan, even if I am not sure if that’s what she meant to do or not! My new Koan is: “What is authority?” Which I will post about in the day and weeks (months? years?) to come.


I really like the “Life is a Koan…!!!” Blog post (link below). It is not all about how a Koan is supposed to be done, but rather it is more about the goal/purpose of a Koan.

The purpose of Koans is to upset or dislocate the mind from these habitual ideas of reality and open the mind to the other possibilities and, eventually, knowledge of reality.” <–Good quote!!


Become a Servant

So relaxing sitting by the fire.  #iseethismom...
So relaxing sitting by the fire. #iseethismoment via tiffkei



“Whoever wants to become great must become a servant.”


The tone of text is not “where you nice to someone when you didn’t have to be” nor is it “did you do your volunteer time at the kid’s school this week?” We are listening to a conversation between people who are going to die for their faith! So, when Jesus says, if you want to be great you must be a servant…we are not talking about a few volunteer hours here and there! We are talking about some serious sacrifice.

I put more than my fair share of volunteer time in but is it enough to consider myself a “servant.”  I spend my days interacting with really (really, really) smart people, learning about things I love to learn about, I have a husband that supports me, emotionally and financially, I have kids that are smart and confident, I have books…(and more books)…and all of this can only come if I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and I eat when I am hungry. Doesn’t sound very much like a “servant” to me!

Good thing I am aiming for humble not great!

Because I really don’t want to give that all up. I love my God, I (kind of) have given my life to following this path. (But I didn’t really “give” anything. I love what I have, where I am at, and where I am going. ) This faith walk has never asked me to give my life, not like they talk about it in these verses.

So, this is the question I asked during prayer time: am I a servant?

On the one hand no. We all know that I am no servant. I will not be giving my life for my faith, I will probably never be asked to even seriously consider it. On the other hand, this stuff is hard, challenging. I give up time with my kids and my man; I struggle to keep my stress level to a manageable level; and I face myself…my fears, my joys…all of me. Leaning on “the Bible says it…so I believe it” is not an option. I have to face my fears, question my faith, I spend my life being vulnerable…so I can spend the rest of my life being vulnerable with the people who call me “pastor.”

So no, I am not a servant. But I am willing to keep striving for humble.


O Holy God, thank you for not asking me to give up everything. I want to say I would be your servant…no matter what…but we both know that wouldn’t be very honest. I like my cushy life. Even though this is where I am today, please walk with me again tomorrow and help me become a bit more like the Christ that didn’t want to go…but walked to the cross anyway.





This Week

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This is week 6 of praying with the scriptures. I can’t believe it has been that long already! It is unbelievable how quickly time goes by when I spend so much of it studying. It is hard to say how much Lectio Divina has helped or I guess it would be better to say…it is hard to say how it has worked in me or (maybe  in spite of me). 

One thing that seems to be different this quarter is that I feel less stressed than last year. Well maybe not less stressed but I am reacting to the stress in a different, better way this year. Some of it has to do with the fact that I have experience and way more knowledge under my belt for sure…but I wonder if Lectio is helping too. I just don’t hold on to stress or attempt to act like it doesn’t exist as much. I say what I need to say, cry when I need to cry and move on; I am working really hard NOT being the strong one.

Anyway, I am going to go on a just me, silent retreat (okay…homework without distractions) retreat for a few days. It is like Lectio on steroids…this will be good :-)



GBOD ~ October 21, 2012

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

Laity Sunday

Read the texts online at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library:

Job 38:1-7 (34-41)
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c (UMH 826)
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

Color: Green

 Links I like:



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via tiffkei

Most of my Facebook friends have seen it…at least once or twice…(or maybe a dozen times)…


This is usually my response to Facebook posts asking for prayer. Friends ask for prayers…people that I have never met in ask for prayers…and my answer is “Praying…”

So, the question is: do I actually pray?

A couple of years ago my honest answer would have been “no.” I would say, with very good intentions, “I’ll pray for you.” But honestly? I forgot. Within seconds I was thinking about my errands and whatever activity my kids needed to be at that night. I said I would pray…but I didn’t really pray.

Today I am different. When I say “I’ll pray for you.” I am in that moment praying for you. I am taking a breath, thinking about whats going on, listening for a deeper meaning…a spark…God’s voice in your situation.

And then I pray. I say a prayer…in that second…for you. That is what I mean when I say “praying.” But what about the dots “………” There is movement in those dots. Those dots…not a period…not an exclamation…not an end…those dots are a continuing. I continue to pray…

So, tonight, when I told a girl…not even in her teens yet….that I am praying for her, that I know her situation is scary, and that I see that she somehow had the strength to do the right thing. In that moment, I really am praying for her. And in the dots…I am still praying for her.

When I say “I’ll pray for you.” It usually means…I am praying for you, I am listening for you, and I will continue to pray for you because you…like me…are a beloved child of God. You matter. You are worthy of the prayers that are sent up for you.

When I say “praying….” Know that I am praying for you.

Fine…you win!

I can’t believe I spent all that time whining about the Book of Job. Our pastor gave an amazing sermon…it was well worth all that listening, reading, and learning I did!  :-)


Just not interested

#iseethismoment via tiffkei
#iseethismoment via tiffkei

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when we left James. I was just getting into James’s writing style, his snarky attitude and sharp eye. Don’t get me wrong, Job is a good story. Job wrestles with THE question…the “why do bad things happen to good people” question. On top of it, the story of Job is old, like really, really old. Well not the whole book but at least portions of it. Even with these amazing attributes, Job just isn’t speaking to me this week.

On the other hand…listening to Job has been a great spiritual practice! The fact that I wasn’t looking forward to reading/listening to Job again…but doing it anyway. This was good for me. I believe that even though it wasn’t something that I was looking forward to…it did help shape who I am becoming in Christ.  Scripture always shapes me…(even when I wine and it isn’t very fun.)



October 7, 2012
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

World Communion Sunday

Read the texts online at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library:

Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26 or Psalm 25 (UMH 756)
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

Color: Green