Friday, November 14, 2014

Change can be Emotional...

Today is an emotional day, because today we end what a friend called a 'Grand Social Experiment.'

27 months ago, we started our long term house sit of a huge house for some extremely generous friends of ours.  All they asked was that we share the blessing with others who may find themselves in need.

15 months ago our friends the Bookers took us up on the offer and moved into the second floor of the house.  Mom (Amy), Dad (Kevin), 3 boys (Kaden 9, Jesse 6 and Ransom 3) and 1 baby girl (4 months) made the jump from being friends to being family.

In the beginning there was lots of feeling mortified as our kids did the kinds of things kids do at home that you somehow manage to avoid them doing in public. And there was a fair amount of being mortified at ourselves, and the way we kept house, or parented.  But as Amy put it, the secret sauce was "radical grace".  Choosing patience, never letting anything fester, and coming to the place where you will genuinely miss being woken up in the night by a crying baby, who became a wicked cute toddler who likes to wake everyone up by throwing things out of her crib.

We knew from the beginning that this would probably not be a forever arrangement. That hasn't stopped it from being an emotional few weeks since they found a phenomenal deal on a little house just outside of town.  My Silas felt it first.  Since the announcement he has been "off" and not able to articulate exactly why.  I was in denial, even when they started taking load after load over to their new place, as they slowly began the moving process.  It didn't really hit me until I went upstairs one day and saw just how much they had moved out.  

Their kids spent one of their last weeks away, and the house was just too quiet. A portent of things to come.  My boys didn't know what to do with themselves with out their extra brothers around, and we realized just how much joy was moving to that little house just outside of town.  Even my dear overworked wife whose schedule keeps her working 13-15 hour days has been getting up early to savor coffee and toast with Amy.  My dear wife, who, even when it was just the two of us, found 1 person too overwhelming until she had spent at least an hour in silence with her bible and a cup of coffee, has spent her first waking moments several times this week in the natural chaos that is 5 little boys and 1 baby girl, just to savor the last drops of the joy that the Booker family has brought to our home.

My Silas has learned that leading means putting others first from Kaden (and man I will miss having you mow the lawns!).  We've all gotten a little tougher as Jesse's 'nothing slows me down' attitude and abundant energy have rubbed off on us. (you seriously are one of the strongest, toughest people I have ever met) Infectious laughter has been a constant in our house as Isaac and Ransom laugh at anything and everything the other says or does.  Little London has blossomed from a 4 month only baby to a year and half old little lady who will take my hand and sit me down on the carpet and play with me, clapping her hands when I finally understand what she is trying to get me to do (I am the only one who can call you princess).  

I've been grateful for a brother living under my roof.  Whether its remembering to take out the trash when I forget.  Fixing little things without being asked, using his snow blower to keep a path clear to the wood pile for me, almost weekly basketball games, or just being someone I can bounce big ideas off, I have treasured our unexpected deep conversations in the kitchen as you cooks up you latest kill, and lots of free samples of venison.  

Then their is Amy, who has made my transition to "house husband" much smoother.  She does so much around the house in her constant attempt to bless Shandy.  I swear the woman has washed more of my dishes and folded more of our clothes than I have.  While she has been trying to bless Shandy, I have certainly been blessed as well.  She makes my wife smile, helps her to process big thoughts, and gives her a reason to express big feelings.  Without you being the friend to Shandy that you are, she would not have gotten through her lowest points. You have been the quintessential best friend to her and thank you just seems insufficient.

All of these blessings and one more.  We've long desired to be a Haven for those who need it.  To provide a place where people can step out of some of their stresses and into a place of rest.  Given some of our past experiences we've wondered if we were cut out for it.  This was not our first attempt at living with friends.  In our 8 years together we have lived with extra people underfoot more often than not. Shandy's sister, a guy from our small group, good friends, a single mom and her 3 kids.  Ups and downs, some of which made us wonder if we had misunderstood the calling we call Haven.  You have renewed our hope that our Haven is a real and tangible thing.  That we can be a blessing and be blessed at the same time. 

Thank you for being a part of our experiment.  We consider it a huge success.  You came to us as friends and go out as family.  We will miss having you underfoot.  We pray (HARD) that God will continue to grow our connection to each other as you embark on the next chapter of your story.  May your little house just outside of town be filled with all of the joy that you brought to ours.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

One Year Later

I’ve heard a million illustrations for what leading change is like, but in this instance it was driving a car where each passenger had access to a brake pedal.

Imagine driving a car like that.  Or for today’s story, envision yourself helping the driver interpret the map and the guide book, and helping him take care of the passengers.  You know the Guide (in this case God) who gave you the keys wants you to fill the car with people who can't find their way, but for every down on their luck hitchhiker you pick up, one of the passengers who has been with you for a while steps on the brake, hops out and climbs into another car. You try to move on, but that was someone’s friend, someone’s parent, or child.  The other long term passengers may not have gotten out, but they are understandably upset.

When you try to start moving forward, the car won’t move because someone has their foot on the brake. They ask you to track down the car that their loved one is now riding in and convince their loved one to get back in your car.

You try explain that all the cars are heading in the same direction, and that you have to focus on helping people currently heading in the wrong direction.  You try to dialogue about why you are determined to press on.

In doing so you find yourself repeating things you need to hear. The destination is worth it. You can get their faster in the car.  The car can carry more people.  But for every foot of progress there is another foot on the brake, and it wears you down.

You get frustrated, like we all have when driving. In a moment of road rage and you lash out at a passenger or two.

After that outburst, a few of people who once encouraged you to keep going are putting on the brakes.  Some do it hoping to get everyone working together.  Some are reminding you that the mission is worth the frustration, and others remind you that no matter what happens those driving the car can’t take their frustrations out on the passengers.  Everyone says they want the vehicle to move forward, but until they reach some kind of consensus the car isn’t moving.

Despite your frustrations, you love the passengers, and it dawns on you that, with a few modifications to the car, you could make this work.

But working on the car requires pulling over, having everyone get out, and you’ll need some serious teamwork if you are going to overhaul this thing.

You and the driver read and study as people grow restless.  You start sharing the fruits of your research and trying to lay out a plan that you genuinely believe will make things run more effectively.  But while you’ve been researching, a few more people have hopped out and flagged down a passing car.  A few people have wandered over to see what’s happening and while love the concept for your redesigned car, their voices drowned out by the crowd of passengers upset over you trying to remove their break pedals, demanding that you just get back in and keep going the way things always have been.

They throw a little paint on the exterior, and hop back in, expecting you to go along.

The driver, who had worked on the concept for redesigning the car for over a decade, insists that the vehicle still needs to change.  He says that he isn’t sure he should be behind the wheel if the changes aren’t made, and a group of the most influential passengers agree, some reluctantly, some exuberantly and suddenly your driver is gone.

When you start to climb back in the seat offered to you is not in front, helping to navigate, but somewhere in the middle.  Not being accustomed to a back seat you start planning a graceful exit, hoping to find ways to explain why you just can’t travel like this.  Some of your friends see it coming.  You try to lean forward and quietly talk to those influential passengers now sitting upfront, to make one more plea for change but you realize that in order to get their attention you will have to become one more person stepping on the brake.

More than a bit frustrated you think to yourself, “if this is how the car is designed, maybe I should just roll with it,” and mustering your courage you stomp on your brake pedal demand to be heard...

And that’s when it happens, someone in the front seat whispers an accusation, unfounded, but the threat is clear “Leave, and this accusation will stay between us, or stay and have your name dragged through the mud.”

In fear and anger you unbuckle and reach for the door handle.

You find yourself on the side of the road, sobbing.

At first all you can do is stand in the pouring rain, crying, angry, feeling like you’ve failed the Guide…  You hide in the bushes because you can’t find the words to talk to anyone.

Eventually you run out of tears.  You are hungry and lonely and you stick your thumb out at the first car that passes by.

That car has the same brake system as the car you left and you can't bring yourself to try that again, so you continue trying to hitch a ride.

After a while a limo stops.  It is luxurious, and the food smells great but the driver is separated from the passengers by a sound proof window, and you realize the intercom isn't working.  He stops to check on the passengers as often as he can spare the time, but there are so many passengers, that you never seem to be able to get his attention… All you wanted to do was offer to help him…

A tour bus pulls over and it's loaded with passengers.  You hear some awesome music coming from inside and everyone seems happy to be there.  About the time you are ready to hop on board you see a few people in the uniform of the bus company hop off, and change out of the uniform.  You see how tired they look, and you remember that feeling. Undeterred you ride along for a stretch, and after a good nap and a meal your vision clears and you see the depth of the needs all around you.  You try to help, but the system for reaching out to those closest to your heart is in chaos, and you quickly determine that it isn’t your place to try to change to a system that isn’t asking for change.

Not being the type to just ride along, you take your leave and start walking again.

Instead of having your thumb out, your hands are in your pockets.  And you soon find yourself of the road, on a series of trails.

At first you worry that by wandering away from the main road you're wandering way from the guide, but you soon realize that the trails you are walking run parallel the road you used to drive.

A few friends seek you out and walk with you for a few miles at a time. One is a friend who used to sit upfront in the car with all the brakes, another is from the first car you ever traveled in, there is also a family member, and a new friend whom you met when he stopped to ask for directions.  A guy who still loves the car with all the brakes rounds out the crew.

They are all traveling the same direction in various vehicles.  None of them have given up on cars like you have, but they are all willing hop out at regular intervals and take turns carrying your baggage, listening, laughing and occasionally crying with you.  

After months of getting nowhere, you begin picking up speed.

As you start moving your head continues to clear.  You become aware of the needs around you and stop to help.  You flip through the map and guide book with renewed interest, and your perspective is different.  Instead of everything being filtered through your need to get a vehicle moving in the right direction, you learn how to move.  Instead of wondering how to motivate a car full of people to help others, you just stop and help each time the Guide points out a need.  

You notice that the amount of time people spend walking with you is gradually increasing, some even stop to help with the needs you are seeing.

Your trail intersects with the road, and you spot the car with all the brakes, stopped again.  You smile at the people inside.  Your heart aches with how much you miss them, but you take a deep breath and keep moving.  You walk by the tour bus, stopped to refuel, and see how excited everyone seems. You pray that they will stay as happy as they appear to be, but you adjust the straps on your back pack and keep walking.  A friend pops out of the limo and offers you a ride, but you pass.  No sooner has he pulled away then you spot a friend who seems to having trouble with his load, and you shoulder his burden for a mile or two.

A thought creeps into your mind, "My new way is so much better than what everyone else is doing…"

No sooner have you thought it than you repent.

You realize that your friends traveling in the different vehicles are moving in the right direction too.  Most of them think your way is strange. After all, “Why walk when you can drive?” is a hard question to answer.  But you notice that you are all moving at about the same pace. You've all got a similar number of close friends traveling with you, you are all meeting needs that are the important, and you are all getting closer to the finish line, and day by day to the one Guiding you.

You ponder what the guide book says the broad road, and the narrow road. You wonder about those asleep in the comfort of the bus, or those pigging out in the limo, or those who spend their time with their foot on the brake arguing about where to go instead of actually going.  But a phrase from the guide book comes to mind, Who are you to pass judgment on another person's choice of transportation, The Guide decides whether or not their progress is acceptable, and they will make progress for the Guide is able to keep them moving...

As long as they travel with the Guide, they will be fine.

There are plenty of people without the Guide, who either have no map, or are using a counterfeit, and they help.  It was your desire to help them that inspired you to want a front seat in the first place.

The next time you are tempted to think your way is better (and it happens more often than you'd like to admit), you realize that there are people lost on the trails that no vehicle can reach who need the help of someone on foot, but it is equally true and there are many who would never make the journey if they had to walk it.

You start to wonder if the church isn’t the vehicle you’re in, but a road we are traveling.  A road that starts with one Gate (Jesus), overseen by the Guide(the Holy Spirit) and ends at a destination only the He knows, one we will only reach when He decides the time is right.

Maybe the church isn’t even a single road, but a direction.  There is not question in your mind that there is only one true north but the path that each of us takes to get there may be as varied as we are.

Maybe down the road, you’ll catch a ride again.  Maybe your rag-tag band of hikers will go in on a vehicle together.  After all, hiking comes with its own set of challenges.

For now you tighten your boot laces, and remember that you’ve always loved hiking, and more than anything you trust the Guide.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Order Our Days

It has been 10 months since the Sabbatical part of our journey began.  In that time Shandy and I have felt a distinct lack of momentum.  We are both task oriented people who love checking things off lists and feeling accomplished, but we have been in a season where that just hasn't seemed to be part of God's plan.  It has been a season of false starts, new jobs that didn't stick, new ministry opportunities that weren't quite the right fit, and possible church homes that we just couldn't commit to.  Through it we've had this sense of "We feel God wants us to be doing something, but we haven't been able to finger on what it is."

Shandy hasn't been working as much the last few months, and my side jobs have slowed down quite a bit. Silas graduated Kindergarten, and we've had a bit of time to breathe deeply.  Just a bit, because God had plans for that slower season of life as well.  Shandy's Grandmother passed away, and she was able to spend time with her family during Gram's last few days on earth.  She's also been able to make several trips down to help her grandfather during his grief and period of adjustment.  Also recently our 3 year old niece had a severe diabetic episode, and Shandy was able to hop in the car and drive to be with family in the hospital.  Thankfully the precious little one pulled through the worst of it, she is back home now and the family is learning how to manage this disease they didn't know she had.

We've learned, in these last few months, that God really does order our days.  He plans our times and our seasons.  It is teaching us a kind of trust and contentment that has been missing.

There are also a bunch of new things on the horizon for us.

Shandy is about to start a new job as the General Manager of a Pizza Hut.  Being a Restaurant General Manager (or RGM as she puts it) has been on her bucket list since high school, and it is a blessing to see her getting to fulfill a long term ambition.  The new job will give us new challenges and new opportunities, and we feel like it is exactly where God wants us, as we prepare for the future He is calling us to.

Speaking of that future, we have started getting together on a weekly basis with a group of friends who share our long term goals of opening a camp or other kind of ministry where people can step out of the hectic and into a haven.  We are beginning our journey together by building a good foundation. Getting to know each other and each other's families, committing to encouraging each other to read through the Bible in a year, gathering to sit around the table and talk about what we read, and being inspired by reading Radical (by David Platt). After just the a few weeks we are all feeling the urge to take big steps toward realigning ourselves with God's plans for our lives.

Even as we start to dream and build relationships that may one day result in an organized life ministry, 'haven' is happening organically.  Our housemates have provided us with opportunities to use the big house (we are long term house sitting) to widen the circle of people we can bless.  Yesterday was a whirlwind of extra faces as we took in a family in crisis, hung out with a mom and her kids who needed a break, and took a passel of extra kiddos to the lake for some R&R.  I LOVE sharing life with like minded people, and watching the little community we have made bless others.  It is happening organically, the way things should when you join your life with people who truly share your values.  I am so grateful for the blessing that living with the Bookers has been.  And I am blessed and humbled by Mark and Luanna who entrusted us with their house, and gave us their blessing to live out our vision, in continuation of their own love for hospitality.

I could go on, and talk about a new friend and the extremely refreshing conversations we've had about life and ministry, but the bottom line is that there is energy and optimism in the air that has been missing.  It is as if the wind is returning to a ship that has been adrift at sea.  I don't doubt that there will be rocks and storms ahead, but for now it is good to feel just a bit of momentum.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Another Update from the Season Sabbatical...

I haven't updated this blog in a while, mostly because I am taking some good advice.  Someone I respect once wrote, "Don't post publicly what you have not yet worked out privately."  The truth is I've drafted a half a dozen blogs since my last post.  Writing give my thoughts some tangibility and helps me process.  But everything I've written has been missing a conclusion.  Right now Shandy and I both feel like we are coming to the edge of something, but we just aren't quite sure what.  We feel like it is almost time to come out of the cocoon we've wrapped ourselves in for the last six months, but we both feel like there is one more change that needs to happen, we just aren't exactly sure what it is...

So we wait, resting in the quiet of this season, and prepare to move when God moves.

With that said, here are some updates since my last post:

For most of our marriage Shandy and I have tried to keep a weekly date night.  Due to work schedules, and having a kid in school the weekly thing hasn't happened lately, but we did get away for her birthday last month, and we've had a few dates recently that we've been able to make the most of.  We are finding that, because we aren't dating as often, we are having much deeper conversation when we do.   Lately we've been dreaming about the future, and trying to look at the things God has done in and through us in the past to help us plan the next steps.

Most of those dates have come spur of the moment, courtesy of our housemates.  We have quickly become addicted to living in community, especially to living in community with the Booker clan.  We may be sharing our place to live with them, but we often feel indebted to them for the kindness they show. Shandy and I also wonder if Amy has superpowers, because she can single-handedly watch all 6 kids (her 4 and our 2) and still have the house sparkling when we get back, often while managing to squeeze in a blog post of her own or baking something yummy...

Amy ends up watching all of the kids because her husband Kevin and I have been joining a group of guys for a weekly night of basketball, while Shandy works.  For about 2 hours we play a half dozen pick up games with a wide variety of characters who posses a wide variety of skill levels.  The first few weeks I was pretty much a warm body, but I am slowly remembering how to play and it has become a highlight of my week. The games take place at a gym about 20 minutes out of town so we carpool out with 3 other guys. The five of us all attend the church, and I have really enjoyed getting back into a routine of spending time with a group of like minded men.

Speaking of like minded men, another highlight of my week is Thursday night when my friend Lincoln comes over.  We talk about the Word, life, parenting, husbanding, and pray for each other, and occasionally play a board game.  It has been good to have a brother to hold me accountable during a season of life where I am not fully settled into a church community.

Our boys are going through growth spurts.  The height gap between the Hodsdon boys and Booker boys has close significantly in the last 3 months, and while their physical growth has been impressive they've also been growing in other ways.  Silas is learning to read, to the point where he reads and writes just because it is fun to use his new skill.  Isaac is leaving behind the last bits of toddler-hood and becoming a full fledged kid.  His capacity for learning is blossoming as only the mind of a 4 year old can.  (I think in heaven we will all be 4 years old... I don't have any theology to back that up, I just think it is the age of human perfection).  Both boys have also been growing in their spiritual thinking as well. They are asking good questions, and making connections between life situations and things we read in the Bible.  It is a beautiful thing...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

4 Months

It's been 4 months, since I started this Sabbatical, and I think I've started to turn a corner.  Looking back, The first few months were about getting my head clear, getting to a place where I could read the Bible and pray without overwhelming emotions.

New Year's Eve is what really did it for me.  14 years in a row I organized an all night New Year's party for teenagers.  This year, while my wife worked, I sat at home and cried.  It certainly wasn't the first time I have cried since leaving my church, but this time it was different, not motivated by hurt, frustration or the deep sense of loss over the relationships that are no more...  No, this time it was because I wasn't serving.

This time I cried, because I remembered how New Year's Eve was the time when something would change with the students we were serving.  Each year at this time there would be a subtle shift, something about the shared experience of being up all night, long talks and goofy experiences that paved the way for deeper relationships and life change.  I cried because that wasn't happening this year.

It was good to finally get to peal back all of the temporary earthly circumstances, and just face what's eternally important, God's mission and His calling.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another Sabbatical Update

The Sabbatical continues, but feel like I am starting to learn some of the lessons I need to learn. 

I am getting into a better rhythm of spending time in the Word, and have enjoyed unpacking Acts, Romans and Corinthians.  One of the high points of my week is Thursday night when a good friend comes over and we discuss what we’ve been learning from the word, and pray through those areas of our lives that God is trying to refine.  It has been so good to have someone holding me accountable, and praying for me on this journey through uncharted territory.

One of my biggest concerns heading into this Sabbatical was wondering where I would find people with whom I could process my thoughts.  I come to better conclusions when I can talk things out and get other perspectives.  (This desire to get other peoples’ perspectives is one of the reasons that I started blogging)  Thankfully, God had a plan for that, and had my Sabbatical start up the same time he had some of our best friends, and their 4 kids, move in with us.  The community that we are sharing has been such a blessing, in that it simultaneously has allowed me to withdraw from most things, without withdrawing completely.  I have a brother I can bounce ideas off, extra kids to love on, and people I can serve; even it is just by playing with an adorable baby for a few minutes while her momma does chores.  Having built in playmates for my kids has also given me time to exercise, stack my wood, and find quite minutes to read.

We’ve found a church where we can ‘hide’.  By that I mean we’ve found a place where we can worship, and listen to practical teaching without feeling the need to be social.  We know this is not ideal, but it is a step in the right direction for us.  Checking out churches after a messy separation feels like I imagine dating would feel after your spouse has died… Maybe it is a healthy part of moving on with life, but mostly it’s just awkward, especially at the beginning...  That said, it has been good to see my kids learning from people who are investing time during the week into finding ways to make God’s word come alive to little minds.  There is nothing quite like hearing your 3 year old tell you that he won’t be afraid because, as he says “I know God is always with me, so it would be silly to be afraid!”, especially when that was the bottom line from last Sunday’s lesson for preschoolers...

But Isaac isn’t the only one who has been learning.  I’ve been challenged by a few of the messages as well.  One talked about how much more effective the truth is when it comes from a joyful person.  This really hit home, because one criticism I received at the end of my time at Calvary Baptist was that I always seemed ready for a fight.  I realize now that this put people on the defensive and made them less likely to listen to what I had to say, no matter how right I may have been.  If the same truth had been delivered with a smile instead of a scowl, it might have been more effective.  I had lost heart and become wearing in doing good.  Because of that fatigue, I was short tempered and irritable.   

I learned Galatians 6:9 in the NIV which says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  I took the verse a reminder not to quit when I became weary” But really the verse says “DO NOT BECOME WEARY”.  The NASB says more clearly: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary”.  Hear we see that weariness itself can have a negative, even catastrophic impact on the outcome of our service to God.  There is a connection between the attitude (heart) that we bring to doing good and the effectiveness of it. 

It isn’t as though we shouldn’t be passionate.  Paul, who said “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” also said, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” He was clearly passionate.  But something kept that passion from becoming crippling frustration and bitterness. 

I am not sure what that something was.  Perhaps it was in realizing that we are responsible for our own obedience, and not responsible for convincing others to obey?  Jesus shared the truth but finally said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate.”  He knew that the responsibility to respond was ultimately on the hearer.  He told his disciples “If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  He didn’t say “find a different way to make them listen” he said something much more like “brush it off and go find someone who will listen”. 

Maybe the secret is in knowing when to withdraw and move on.  Jesus practiced this, He trained His disciples to do it, and Paul certainly did.  They all faced a certain amount of adversity, but also knew when to call it a day, and when to pack it up and move on.  Then again, Jesus faced the stress of his ministry by frequently withdrawing to lonely places to pray. Maybe it isn’t about quitting, maybe it is about finding ways to unplug and blow off steam before you boil over.  Maybe regular withdrawal needs to be part of my discipline?  Or maybe “Suffering brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint.”  Such hope, that the One who called you to do something is able to do it, even when you are not, may prevent you from losing heart when circumstances cause great sorrow and unceasing anguish…  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sabbatical Thoughts

About a month ago I started a Sabbatical from most everything except my family and my day job.  I started by going out into the woods to get a lone with God, and God was kind enough to meet me out there.

It started with a phone call to my favorite remote camping spot.  When I told the lady on the other end of the line what campsite I was hoping to get she laughed, because it is always booked, but to her surprise, it was open.  On the drive I caught the tail end of a sermon about Uzziah, a king of Judah, and the story intrigued me. (click on his name to read about him) Since I didn't get to hear the entire sermon, I started my time in the Word with his tale.  

In short Uzziah was a king who started well, doing what was right in God's eyes and accomplishing many good things, but he overstepped, and tried to do things that we not for him to do, but only for the priests.  Because of this God gave him leprosy, and he had spend the rest of his life cut off from the people and from the house of the Lord.

In my New America Standard Bible, the section heading for this particular tale reads "Pride is Uzziah's Undoing".  Uzziah had done many good things, and as he became strong he also became proud. This passage acts as a very clear mirror into my own heart... The Word doesn't tell us why Uzziah went into the Temple to burn incense, instead of letting the priests do it, so I speculate that maybe he knew what should be done (burning the incense), but never didn't consider that God had a specific plan for how it should be done. 

My mind tends to glaze over when I read the myriad rules for temple worship that we find in the Bible.  And even though we don't follow that particular prescription for worship today, one fact becomes abundantly clear as we read those rules is that God cares deeply about how we do things and why we do them.  He doesn't just plan the ends, He plans the means.  

Reinforcing this thought was a passage in Acts 13.  Here we read that some men were fasting and praying when they received instructions from God.  But it is what they did next that grabbed my attention.  Rather than jumping right up and acting on those instructions, they continued to fast and pray. When their time of prayer and fasting were ended, they carried out the instructions.  I tend to listen only long enough to get the big picture, then I rush off to do things my own way, in my own strength.  These guys in Acts, heard God while they were fasting and praying, and they kept listening before acting.  

And so my Sabbatical continues, as I strive to learn to listen.