Monday, January 26, 2015

"you first!"--a prayer

Yesterday in gathered worship I had the privilege of offering a prayer. The gist of it is that we often live a “Me first” life when God calls us to a “You first” kind of life. As I wrote it, I strove to make it a prayer of unvarnished confession and repentance.

 I think the most telling part of the prayer was when a boy who is only two years old chimed in “Me!” right at the beginning of the prayer and a few times throughout. Meanwhile, the other children standing by chuckled in recognition. It’s a funny sort of way to pray, but I think we could all chuckle because we all know it’s true.  Even the children could relate to it—and that made me happy.

At any rate, a friend asked if I would post the prayer to my blog, so here it is. I hope it is helpful to others and honoring to God.

Grace and peace,


“Me first!”
That is how we live, Lord—
even if we don’t use those words.

“Me first!”
We want what we want out of life:
food and friends to suit our tastes and timetable,
work that is neither too hard nor too easy—
and I’ll pitch a fit if church doesn’t come packaged how I like it, too.
“I want this but not that.
I don’t want this, so give me more of that.”

Even when we give an offering,
we somehow feel that gives us the right
to make demands and leverage conditions
on “how my church should be run.”
We give with our hands
but politic in our hearts.
It’s sickening.

“Me first!”
That is how we live, Lord—
even if we don’t use those words.

Forgive us.
Forgive us.
Forgive us.
We are selfish and foolish.

Right now, we offer what we can as an act of repentance.
It is our way of saying “No” to a “Me first” mentality.
It is our way of saying “You first!”

“You first, Lord,
because you alone are the Alpha and Omega,
the beginning and the end.”

“You first, Lord,
because without you nothing was made,
without you we have no breath,
without you we are lost and alone.”

“You first, Lord,
because you gave your one and only Son to die.

"You first,
because you alone hold the keys of death and Hades.”

You first, Lord.
You first.

In Jesus’ Name,

“You first!”
a prayer by troy cady

Sunday, January 25, 2015

you first, God

I have the privilege of serving in children's ministry at our church. This morning I sent out an email reminding parents, teachers and helpers about some values we seek to reinforce in the way we approach ministry--beyond the specific content we feature. As I looked at those reflections again, I thought I'd share them here with a broader audience in hopes they might be helpful to others and stir imagination. Here's the short letter...



We structure our children’s ministry time on Sundays in such a way that minute-by-minute the children are hearing the message “You first, God” and being invited to order their lives after God’s desires, not our own.

Our time together is counter-cultural on purpose. We want to provide an atmosphere that is slow and quiet because the world we live in tends to be fast and loud. We intentionally unplug from technology because we know children get plenty of that in their Monday through Saturday. We even take care in how we cross the threshold into the children’s ministry worship spaces. In our everyday lives, we often move from one place to the next without pausing to consider what is already waiting for us on “the other side”. But on Sunday our slow and quiet way of entering the children’s ministry room reinforces the notion that God is already there. As we cross the threshold, we anticipate that we are going to be aware of God’s presence and something special awaits us in our time together.

Together. That is a special word, isn’t it? It is one thing to gather; it is another thing to truly be together. Notice how the one word “together” joins two words “to gather”.

We gather to be together. Gathering does not guarantee togetherness. For that, we need a heart-change, a reorientation of self.

Here’s how we try to nurture this “reorientation of self” in our ministry.

1. Through the reverent, gentle way we work with the story objects.
2. Through the formation of a circle in which the story of God is placed in the center.
3. Through the placement of the Focal Story (that’s what we call it) in the center of the front altar.
4. Through the marking of time each week that retells the entire Jesus story annually.

We also counter a “Me first” attitude through “managing the circle of relationships.” It is a way of being together that seeks mutual respect. We practice the dialectic of listening and speaking, making space for one another.

We are far from perfect at this, but that is why we keep trying to reinforce these things each week. Some weeks we do better at this than other weeks. That’s okay. But we will keep trying. We will not give up because we believe that in all this we are seeking first God’s kingdom, the way God wants us to live. Beyond the specific content we deliver, it is by this process we hope to instill a sense of “You first, God!” in all of us.

So, here’s some homework: consider how you can live into values like this in your everyday life--at home, at work, in leisure.  What will you need to stop doing, start doing and keep doing? Be intentional about it.  Practice yourself what the children at our church are practicing. It’s truly life-giving.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

the catalytic leader and the developmental leader

I have a friend who has written a short case study about two kinds of leaders. He labels the first type of leader “catalytic” and the second type of leader “developmental.”

In his story, the catalytic leader cast a compelling vision and many, many people were drawn to that. Others joined the vision because it was exciting and dynamic—but after a while they fizzled out because they had little support. Their inner life was given little nurturing.

The developmental leader focused on a small few and tried to build into them so that they could, in turn, build into others in a similar way. The small few kept going and, eventually, there emerged a few more of those “small few”. Leaders emerged out of this and multiple initiatives were birthed.

It is a good story since we are often drawn to the more “catalytic” type of leaders whereas the developmental types just carry on quietly. My friend asked for some feedback on the case study, its presentation and accompanying questions. I share my response below because it may be a help to someone else. I pray it is.

My context for this discussion is “ministry” but I suppose you could extract principles from this for almost any venue. I hope the context is not too distracting for some readers. At any rate, here are my thoughts on “catalytic” leaders and “developmental” leaders.


Well written, buddy! Good questions.

You asked a question about each type of leader learning to incorporate the other type’s approach. As someone with a developmental bias, I would say that being truly developmental has a natural catalytic affect (but see my caveat below on this), whereas being catalytic does not necessarily develop people (and can, in fact, kill the “catalytic” movement because of that). This is what your case study seems to indicate.

I suppose one caveat to that is this: if the developmental type of leader is building into people with the intent of reproduction, then it will be catalytic. Some “developmental” type of leaders build into people but have no vision to release those they are “developing.” I liken this approach to parents who teach their kids just enough…to stay dependent on the parent. Such mentoring is not developmental, to be sure…but it has the appearance of “development.” In the end, there is very little difference between this type of leader (the “developer” who wants to “keep everyone close”) and the catalytic leader who does not develop, because in the end…it will all cave in on itself. Of course, I would submit that the “developmental” leader who wants to keep everyone close and safe is not really developmental, just controlling. True development leads to differentiation, which is good, healthy and strong.

So, as your case study points out, the truly catalytic leader is the one who knows how to develop people truly. 

I am mindful here of something we in the missional movement are fond of saying. We like to say that “if you start with mission you get ministry” but “if you start with ministry you won’t get mission and eventually you won’t even have ministry.”

While I subscribe to a missional ecclesiology, I think that way of viewing it tends to come from a catalytic (“apostolic”) bias. I would tweak the statement and say, “With true discipleship you get mission—and the rest follows from that.”

Discipleship in the way of Jesus forms a developmental community with a mindset of mission. Mission provides the context for development (the need for development) but if you don’t have the developmental community in place mission tends to become a solo affair (as in the case of the “catalytic leader”). When mission is a solo affair, you don’t get development and eventually you don’t have mission because it is not sustainable.

That is why we see that true discipleship moves one to mission but mission (the way we tend to do it) does not always produce disciples. Disciple-making requires receptivity to being developed in community. Once we are receptive to being developed in community, we have an ocean of grace to buoy us up and the wind of the Spirit to drive us along.  But it takes a receptivity to developmental community to sustain that kind of journey. Without it, we fizzle out.

I think your question about each type of leader learning to adopt the traits of the other is a good one, but I would push the catalytic leader harder to become developmental than I would push the developmental leader to become “catalytic”. In fact, I would say that it could be that the developmental leader doesn’t need to be “pushed” at all—they already are being catalytic.

I admit that does show my developmental bias, but believe me when I say I’m trying my darndest to put that aside for the sake of this case study.

In either case, good work! It is well-presented and, as you can see, gets some good discussion going.

Grateful for you,


Friday, January 23, 2015

"and they shall be created"

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful
And enkindle them with the fire of Thy love.
Send forth Thy spirit, and they shall be created,
And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

-from The Book of Common Prayer

Monday, January 19, 2015

the land flowing with MiLK and honey

Go ahead.
Strangle me.
I still have a voice.

Twist my words
and they’ll still dance.

Call me red or pink.
It doesn’t matter.
I’ll still be black and proud.

Raise a loud
          drown out
the gunshot and smear
God’s truth reigns

for men and women,
young and old
from every tribe and language
and nation and color

yes, color
every color

will stand as one,
risen from the ashes,
free of oppression,
with only one obsession

that love wins the day.

So say what you would say.
I will be me anyway.

the land flowing with MiLK and honey
by troy cady observance of Martin Luther King day, 2015.

Monday, January 12, 2015


“When she says something, you can be sure…it’s as good as done.”

“His word is his bond.”

We say someone has integrity when there is no gap between what they say they will do and what they actually do. They are integrated—which is to say they are “put together.” They are able to integrate intention with action. It is beautiful and good when this happens.

But sometimes life feels like a process of fighting against disintegration, doesn’t it? “Things Fall Apart,” writes the Nobel prize-winning author Chinua Achebe. Every fiber of our being works to counteract disintegration, body and soul.  When something falls apart, it deteriorates; when it deteriorates, it dies.

And we are not meant for death. Every instinct we possess tends otherwise.


To match word and deed is to live and create life. We have a wonderful picture of this in the creation account found in the first chapter of the Bible.

Yesterday, the pastor of our church commented on this text in the course of her sermon. God speaks, “Let there be light”…and there is light. In her preaching, she drew from Psalm 29 as a complementary text. There the psalmist writes about “the voice of the Lord.” The phrase is repeated 7 times in as many verses; it is akin to the phrase “And God said” that is repeated again and again in Genesis 1.

We see that when God speaks, it is so. That much doesn’t really surprise us.

Being made in the image of God, that is what God intends for humans, too. But there is one key difference. On our best days, even when we do what we say we will do, there is still a gap (however small) between the saying and the doing. With God, these are one and the same.

When saying and doing are one and the same, theologians call it “kerygma.” It is the idea that the proclamation itself makes it so.

Biblical scholars ascribe the quality of kerygma to Jesus’ statement “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” His proclamation made it so. The closest we can come to describing kerygma is with the word “announcement”, but that still doesn’t quite capture it. It is, in fact, more than mere announcement. It is creation-by-word.

Practical theologians say that this is what preaching should be: kerygmatic. That’s a tall order for some of us who are filled with nothing but a lot of hot air, to be sure! I can’t say that I’ve ever actually seen it.

Nevertheless, it gives us all a pattern to follow, doesn’t it?

It is said that Native Americans understand the nature of kerygma better than most. I heard a story once about a white person speaking with a group of Native Americans: the white person said something careless and was rebuffed.

“You shouldn’t say that. We believe that the words we speak change the spirit world and the spirit world changes ours.”

Such statements belie a belief in kerygma. I suppose most of us can learn a thing or two from this. I suppose poets come closest to this. Poetry has a kerygmatic quality to it.


Creation can be a kerygmatic act. It was “in the beginning.” It can be again. The new creation (“the kingdom of heaven”) that Jesus announced is an invitation for us to participate with God in “making all things new.”  

If each day is a new beginning, what would happen if we treated our words as kerygma? Even if that is impossible, we could at least pretend like children that it is so. How would that change my words, my actions?

Maybe, just maybe, the pretending would effect a new birth in the one pretending. Maybe we’d discover first-hand the saving grace of faith.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

all at once

You are the was and is and is to come—
forgiveness for the past,
love right now,
and hope for tomorrow.

Today is short,
like a moment’s breath;
no sooner does she arrive
than she passes.

Did I stumble?
Will I run and not grow weary?
Am I walking or fainting,
resting or skipping?

Only You can do all at once—
You rested in the Father when You stumbled with our cross,
You skipped into our hearts when You walked on water,
You marched into hell when You fainted with death.

For me, one thing is too much:
sitting at your feet.
In the shadow of loving,
what happened to you
happens to me.

See me down here.
Take my tears of regret and
make them tears of joy—
as I wash your feet,
brighten my soul.

Oil of gladness—
sweet scent—
than today.

all at once
by Troy Cady