Kraig Lowell Pullam

My thoughts. My reflections. My journey…. On pastoring, preaching, leading & learning.

Archive for the category “Parenting”

Pastoring, Fathering…the Journey

Whenever I come to the end of another year, I often find myself in reflection.  Today, I came across some old emails and files from my first church, Cornerstone Baptist Church of Pearland.  As I began to reflect, as I sometimes do…I can have a mixture of emotions.  Most of them good, some not so good.  For the most part, I am the one who would take responsibility for the not so good parts.  Today…I likened my pastoral experience to my experience as a Dad.  I’ve pastored 3 congregations. I am the father to 3 sons.  My first church (Cornerstone) is somewhat like my eldest son Kai.  When I think about Cornerstone, I think of how (as with my son Kai) I didn’t know a thing about pastoring.  I was so green, naive, dumb and inexperienced.  As I look back and reflect, it is humiliating to even think of my silly ways.  Now for me, these foolish things did not consist of any kind of scandal such as indescretions, embezzlement and the like.  I refer to things like time management, dealing with people and their problems, pastoral care, communication, temperament, patience, financial decisions, diplomacy, leadership and the like.  Even in preaching – I go back and read some of my notes and ask, “Why did I say that?”  I remember once doing a series on relationships.  I discussed everything from Affair-proofing your marriage to Keeping the Fire in your marriage burning.  Sounds good?  Maybe… But I didn’t even think to consider having childcare available so that the adults could safeguard their children from the topic.  Just dumb.  It sounds very logical now; but I didn’t learn the lesson, save through trial and error.  I could go on and on.  But in the same way, I parallel my first church with my eldest son, Kai.  I was 28 in 2005 when I began pastoring my first church; but I was only 24 when D’Ani gave birth to Kai, my and our first child.  We had been married only 3 years (at 21), and here I was in seminary, barely able to support a wife; and here is Kai.  I fell in love with him at first sight.  But I had no idea what to do beyond that.  Some of it came naturally, because I had a great example in my father, and D’Ani seemed like a pro.  But I was as nervous and confused as all get out.  Kai had nothing to reference, so he didn’t know any better.  But I was struggling so much with a job on staff at a church, trying to make it through seminary; and learning how to manage finances as the head of a household…I look back and wish I had savored more moments with my boy, when it was only he and I.  Again…it may not have been anything dramatic (such as abuse, neglect, etc), but it was big to me.  Now that he is 13, I look back on that time, as I do my first church…and know that if I knew then what I know now, I would have been a better pastor and father to them both.

In 2011, I became the pastor of Mt. Salem.  Boy…that was a sweet time.  Seminary was over.  I’d survived the rough years of trying to learn Cornerstone.  I was completing a Chaplain residency at Harris Health, in Houston; and finances were quite a bit better.  In fact, the year was so good, we traveled to Disney World in the summer with the boys, and then to the Chicago-area for my brother’s installation and then to Hawaii in the fall.  The financial struggles, as it relates to church-life, were somewhat in our rear view mirror.  I shifted from doing a little bit of everything at Cornerstone (cleaning, running off the bulletins, etc) to Mt. Salem, where they had learned to function a year without a pastor.  Mt.  Salem continued to grow steadily; they were okay with my commute; D’Ani was just fine with my commuting there for mid-week; the boys saw it as a field trip on Sundays; and everyone was happy.  Because of my trials and errors in trying to learn a new church and young people at Cornerstone (predominantly young adults), my greatest joy and challenge was learning a 140-year old congregation like Mt. Salem.  Because Mt. Salem had been through her own storm before I arrived, and I had  challenges at our first church – we pretty much appreciated one another.  Mt. Salem was simply a breath of fresh air.  I cannot think of a time I pulled up to Mt. Salem and didn’t smile.  I loved it; and fell in love with the people.  I was 33…so a little more laid back than I was at 28.  Because I was so ambitious and the young adults in my first church had much more energy, I appreciated the laid back persona surrounding Mt. Salem.  I absolutely loved it.  I literally saw how everything I had experienced at Cornerstone, prepared me for Mt. Salem.  Of course, like any older congregation, there were challenges with moving the church forward…  But I have always assumed I was pastor; and because of my wisdom (along with being more patient than in my 20’s) there were things I was just not led to do or change.  I now know why-that wasn’t why God called me there!!!  Ultimately, I would not have even appreciated Mt. Salem, had it not been for my first church.  In like manner, when D’Ani gave birth to Kaden (our second-born son), we were 28.  I had started back at seminary after taking a semester or so off.  We were still fledgling as a church, at Cornerstone.  But overall, things were okay.  I’d learned a little bit about fathering, so Kaden had it a little better.  Of course, Kaden was a force to be reckoned with; and still is.  His temperament was nothing like Kai’s.  Kai needed only a television or a video game.  His love language was and is gifts.  You can put him in a room with things or gadgets and he was fine.  Kaden?  He needed someone in the room with him; and his love language was and is quality time.  Just like any given church, every child is different.  And in like manner, I learned things with Kaden that were diametrically opposite of what I learned with Kai.  Fortunately, all of these things worked together in harmony, to simply make me a better father and spiritual leader.  

Now…early in 2016 I was happy.  I had absolutely no complaints, on my end.  Other than the wear and tear on my vehicles, we were okay.  Unlike 2011, in 2016 I was no longer a resident at Harris Health, but a Staff Chaplain with a nice salary and full benefits and retirement.  One of my uncles had mentioned to me an opening at Shiloh in Fort Worth, a church I knew nothing about.  I had only known of their pastor, Dr. Albert E. Chew, Jr.; and had met him only once when I was a teenager at a winter board meeting; and knew of his recent retirement and passing.  My uncle said that it was ‘a great church’ and suggested I send in my resume and biography, something I didn’t do often (Mt. Salem nor Cornerstone ever saw a resume!).  I did; and left it at that.  After all…in some sense, I had sort of ‘arrived’: Nice incomes, D’Ani with a great job that she loved; wonderful anniversary every March; and a church family that we loved.  All was well!  Fast -forward, after a national search…I was eventually called to Shiloh in Fort Worth.  Totally unexpected!!!  And I honestly believe that this is my last stop.  I’m not moving anymore…Lord willing!  I’ve discovered that SHILOH IS THE GREATEST CHURCH IN THE WORLD (no joke); and we have fallen in love with the people!!! Now that I am done with seminary, am 38…been married for almost 2 decades, pastoring over a decade and the like – I am much more patient, considerate, pastoral, responsibile and the like.  I can see, just as before…how the young days of Cornerstone and the experience of Mt. Salem balanced me out to lead the people of Shiloh over the next several decades.  Like Shiloh, our baby Karter was totally unexpected.  Between Kaden and him, we had lost 2; and had concluded we were probably done.  We were thanking God for 2 healthy, vibrant and smart boys!  But God had other plans!!!  We can pinpoint the days of conception with our first 2; but Karter?  I just know he is mine; and he wasn’t planned!  

Here is why I’m sharing all of this.  As I look and see how affectionate, patient, considerate and expressive I am with Karter, I can sometimes be taken aback and saddened by how I was a little rough, non-affectionate, inpatient or non-expressive with Kaden and more with Kai or with Cornerstone and Mt. Salem.  Life has just slowed me down.  I’m a better man now. I’m more prayerful. I’m in less of a rush.  I’ve learned what can wait and what cannot.  I’ve learned how to choose my battles and when to proceed with caution.  I’ve learned how to give people a hug and tell them I love them and when to wisely tell a person who is toxic in our church to shape up or get out.  I’m literally a sharper cat.  And then I think – it was all of that (including Kai, Kaden, my losses, struggles in seminary and the like) which prepared me for who I am NOW, in this very moment!  And then I’m grateful…that while I think I’m getting older (almost 40)….God used all of that and has brought me to a special place in my life at 38.  Romans 8:28 comes to mind – that God uses all of these things as a ‘working together’…  Nothing is wasted; and God can use even our trials, tests and experiences as treasure to propel us to our next level of purpose, greatness and His pleasure. 

It is my hope and prayer that those who read my blog can see the good that emanates out of all of the trials of your life, and specifically 2016.  That when He brings in the unexpected, we will not only appreciate what He brings; but rejoice over what He gave us before – and know that it was all apart of His ultimate plan. God bless you and keep you.  I am convinced that, if I do my part, the best I is yet to come.  I pray and believe the same for you!

The Entitlement Cure

 
I’ve just finished reading John Townsend’s book “The Entitlement Cure”. After hearing and reading several stellar reviews, along with seeing the intriguing title, I wanted this book in hand. And while the subtitle sparked my interest more than the title, I knew I needed to read it…amid my difficulty in reading all things Townsend. I don’t know what it is; but I’ve always found the writings of John Townsend a chore and bore…to the extent of having to play music in the background not to fall asleep. Admittedly, I realize this is an unfair criticism; and something I would hate for anyone to say about my writing. After all, Townsend is a well-respected author and the co-mastermind behind New York Time’s bestselling “How People Grow”, a book I have used during my days of Christian Education in our Book Club. The fact is…Townsend is not a wordsmith. But getting beyond the style, there is substance couched in “The Entitlement Cure.” Therefore, I wouldn’t 1) Discard this book as irrelevant 2) Misdiagnose this book as a prompt of any political propaganda 3) Write off this volume as being unworthy of investment. 
“The Entitlement Cure” addresses a prevailing problem that now infiltrates every vital organ in relational life as we’ve come to know it. Whether it is in the church, marriage, home-life, work-environment…Townsend asserts that we are all infected by the disease of entitlement. In fact, entitlement is a byproduct (well, he shows how it pre-dates human creation) of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Townsend contends that entitlement is the belief that “….I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment…”, and that the problems in human society stem from this crippling disposition. In this volume, the author not only analyzes, but also speaks to both the culprit and enablers of the entitled on how to jettison this attitude of being special, being owed, refusing to take responsibility and blaming others.

Hitting at the core of the book, I realized I actually love Townsend’s style of writing! Addressing the relational patterns that drive entitlement (Chapter 2), he gives the practical markers of how we often feed the entitlement monster and thereby foster attitudes of entitlement (example: praising what takes no effort; praising what is required; praising what is not based on reality; etcetera). Unfolding five principles that can restore the problem ALL of us have with entitlement (some more than others.) While all five principles are of notable mention, I do think one of the components outlined by Townsend is how denial, perfectionism and narcissism attribute to the pressure, stress and emptiness that accompany their intended. Entitlement limits our good and our growth, according to the author. I do agree! 

One of the very central themes in this volume is Townsend’s description of feeling deserving to taking responsibility. He says that there is a right way to deserve and there is a wrong way to deserve; and explains how responsibility is not only right, but the practical ways to assume responsibility (Chapter 8). One of the things I like is Townsend’s conventional use of what he calls “NHT”. In short, this means “Next Hard Thing.” Townsend argues that our NHT is the choice we all need to make that moves us beyond the difficulty. In a real sense, what separates the good from the great, the best from all things average…is the ability and willingness to move past the proverbial areas of discomfort. According to the author, this requires 1) Carving out time 2) Going against the flow of life 3) Going against other’s expectations 4) Starting a ground zero (ie – “at the bottom”), etc. In this recourse, there are two (2) specific dynamics I would like to spotlight here in conclusion. One is saying when you are wrong (Chapter 13) and facing the pain that gets you somewhere (Chapter 14). I think that these two chapters and dynamics are key to understanding Townsend’s entire point. 

In summary, I would suggest this as a read for anyone who is looking to practically stop being an enabler to those who are highly entitled; and as a practical guide to taming the entitled monster who lives inside of us all. I give the book two thumbs up; and a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. I would also suggest this as a great read for parents, couples and church leaders. 

 

Sunday Reflections

IMG_4699God be praised for another Lord’s Day!

At our church, April is the Month of Reconciliation & Forgiveness. At every teaching and preaching opportunity during the course of this month I have used as a chance to teach and preach on forgiveness. On Wednesday, God simply took over our Bible Study time and walk us through His Word and shed light on the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation with the leadership of His Holy Spirit.

It was a busy weekend! On the heels of laying to rest the remains of D’Ani’s paternal grandmother, and my former member, Ada Thomas…the weekend was filled with sports activities, a physical Saturday morning for my oldest son, Kai, who will be playing sports in 7th Grade next year…and all of the other things going on. The impression and impact Ada Thomas made upon my life and ministry go far beyond mere words. Growing up a catholic, she grew to prize and cherish her faith tradition. To see her one day join the congregation where I pastored (a Baptist church) and be baptized were a gift that God saw fit to entrust me with; and I will always cherish the memory of every moment with her and in her presence. It is surreal to know that she has departed this side and “moved on.” Until the day she left, she called me her pastor. I will not only miss her; but she will be one of the first I look for when I get to the other side. Prayerfully, that’s a long time from now!

On Sunday, we observed our Family and Friends Day, all day long. Rather than inviting a morning guest, I preached! I took a parable Christ tells to His disciples in Matthew 18 that is often labeled, “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.”

Here is my outline:

Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Subject/Title: Forgiven to Forgive
Big Idea: God’s forgiving grace towards us warrants and compels an inner desire to forgive others.

Outline:

  1. Forgiveness Should be Thankfully Received
    1. Forgiveness is Free, But it is not Cheap (Vv. 23-25)
    2. Forgiveness is Full, and it is not Partial (Vv. 26-27)
    3. Forgiveness must be Final, and not Temporary (Vv. 27)
  2. Forgiveness Should be Humbly Rendered
    1. Forgiveness Experienced Should be Forgiveness Expressed (Vv. 28-33)
  3.  Forgiveness Should Not be Regretfully Refused (Vv. 34-35)

Thankfully, I made it through the message! However, I am disappointed in the overall flow of the sermon. I preached this text in 2013; and it flowed much better. Challenging myself, I tried not to reference that sermon; and started from “Ground Zero.” Big Mistake! All of the hours I put into constructing the sermon before, it would have been helpful to go over all of my previous man hours, rather than feeling a need, in my own pride, to flex my proverbial “sermonic muscles.” All in all, you live and your learn! I thank the Father for His grace, patience with me, and humbly pray He gives me another opportunity to stand for Him in the future.

In the afternoon, it was an honor to have with us at Mt. Salem, Pastor Paul Wilkinson, Sr. and the New Light Baptist Church of San Antonio. What an awesome privilege to have them with us. One of the preaching giants of yesteryear in the area I grew up was P.S. Wilkinson, Sr. He was a favorite of many of the preachers who were my favorites. For years, Dr. Wilkinson pastored New Light until his passing. Paul is his grandson. I’ve been blessed to hear Dr. Wilkinson on recordings. I can honestly attest to the fact that Paul, who now leads New Light, is a great preacher in his own right. We were tremendously blessed by his sharing with us God’s Word.

In other news, many know me to be a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and a DIE HARD Dallas Cowboys fan. I shall never waver on my Cowboys; but the Lakers have tested me for some time. I have always liked the Houston Rockets and tolerated (and had MUCH respect) for the San Antonio Spurs, my dad’s team. My other favorite teams were Cleveland (When Lebron went the first time) and Miami (When Shaq and Wade were together); but I didn’t like Lebron and Miami together, AT ALL! My favorite team these days has been the Rockets, even above the Mavericks. I’m looking for them to pull off a victory in this first round of the playoffs. We shall see.

I would like to know…how was your weekend? What did you preach about; or what did your pastor share? Please take a moment to subscribe and share your thoughts. Blessings.

Spring Break: A Father’s Perspective

425496_10150554731494506_373487663_nThe greatest joy in my life (after being Christ’s follower and D’Ani’s husband) is being the earthly father and steward of my three boys: Kai, Kaden & Karter!  Everything else pales in comparison to the joy they bring, which says a lot!  The older I get, the more I love them for not only the fact that they are a byproduct of the union between my wife and I, and that they are my seed; but I am growing to love their individual uniqueness and worth.  They are special, in every sense of the word!

I’ve reflected on the words of Ben Behunin who said,

“There is more to a boy than what his mother sees. There is more to a boy then what his father dreams. Inside every boy lies a heart that beats. And sometimes it screams, refusing to take defeat. And sometimes his father’s dreams aren’t big enough, and sometimes his mother’s vision isn’t long enough. And sometimes the boy has to dream his own dreams and break through the clouds with his own sunbeams.” [Behunin, Remembering Isaac: The Wise and Wonderful Potter of Niederbipp]

This past week has given me the opportunity to both enjoy them and learn them.  Spring Break has never been a big deal for me, even when I was younger.  I suppose I would be deemed a ‘square’ or ‘boring’ in that I always viewed Spring Break as just that: a BREAK!  If I did nothing at all during this time, I felt I was missing nothing at all.  Even at a young teenager, I felt as if I had a book, television, a roof over my head with air conditioner, and a good meal at my disposal, I was on top of the world!  I actually enjoyed watching some of the Spring Break parties that would come on MTV thinking to myself, ‘….this is fun.  So glad I’m not out in that crowd getting sunburned or drunk!’  I can tell now – that 1) I was a weird dude and 2) my sons are pretty much a different breed.  My guess is they get it from my lovely wife!!!  The Friday before Spring Break, my 10 and 7 year old boys knew what time it was, including the movies that were out, etc.

I must admit…they are such a joy, amid my seeming inability to keep up.  I have somehow known, even as I youngster (there I go again.  I’m starting to sound like ‘older’ people who are always referencing they ‘youth’) that I should seize the moment and take full advantage of the present ride.  Therefore, I’ve always had a sense in my collective conscience at present, ‘I’m going to one day miss these days.’  I’ve felt this way ALL WEEK.  I’ve sat back and looked at my boys, observed their interactions with one another,  their response to certain things, what makes each of them laugh or get frustrated; how they remind me of me or their mother or someone else in our family, including their physical features.  It’s amazing!  I see myself in each of them – the good, the bad and….well, you know the rest!

I want so much for them to be a better man than me.  I want them to be a better husband and father than me.  I want them to be a better follower of Christ than am I.  If they were ever called to preach, I’d want them to be a better preacher or even pastor than me.  Words cannot entail how much I want for them.  I sometimes wonder if they can ‘feel’ my love, or even if I show my love to them enough.  My father did such a wonderful job of exemplifying love to me.  He both expressed it and said it.  At times I’ve felt his disappointment and even his wrath (like the time I climbed over a gate or went into a girl’s purse), but I can never recall a time that I couldn’t feel the love of my Dad.  I hope and pray my boys can feel the same way.

I can often feel I am the hardest on my oldest, Kai.  It’s just not fair for him!  He’s a good son.  But he’s also the oldest and my leader.  I would always expect him to lead the pack when it comes to looking after one another when I am gone (a long time from now, I pray).  He is the one I pray would be the example to his younger brothers in how to conduct themselves in the home, at school, with their mother, at church, etc.  Therefore, my disappointment can sometimes tend to be a little more evident when it comes to my expectations.  But I must also realize he is not perfect.  I have to understand that he is a boy!  Therefore, I am learning to share my expectations and my love for him amid the shaping of his own identity.  It has been amazing to see him grow, and to even eat us out of house and home.  My middle son, Kaden, is absolutely one of a kind.  All of my sons are so much smarter than me; but Kaden’s mind is that of an Einstein.  My conversations with him, should I say, his conversations with me, are mentally stimulating.  I could go on and on all day, including a couple of years ago when Kaden was about 5, getting in trouble with a girl who had been getting on his nerves, his rebuttal was, ‘She’s melodramatic.’  What?  Interesting!  My greatest challenge with Kaden is redirecting all of his energy, giftedness and genius in a right direction, including his attitude.  He must be broken; but he must be broken like a stallion – where his attitude is broken but not his spirit.  I am sensitive to this; and I am asking God to direct me with him.  Kai is my boy for life; Karter is my baby; Kaden is my heart.  If there is anything or anyone who can wear me out, it is him.  Lord, help us!  Karter….as I said, is my baby boy!  He is the final act!!!  He seems to be Kraig Pullam re-born.  I can’t say much about his flaws, simply because, like most baby’s in the family, it’s hard to see his flaws.

20140312-004130.jpgMoving on… I hope and pray that I can make them proud one day to say they are my sons and I am their father.  I have a lot to learn; and so much farther to go.  Often I feel inadequate as a man who wants to be a better preacher, go back and begin doctoral work, grow my church, build their college fund. etc.  They don’t care about any of that.  The most important thing to them this past week has been ME.  They’ve just wanted me.  Thankkfully, I am smart enough atleast to know this may not always be.  It has also caused me to reflect on how my aging parents must feel now that I am gone, and fail to spend the time I should with them.  My challenge now is simple: balancing all of this.  Living in an occupation where many are thriving in preaching and pastoral ministry at the behest and detriment of their families, I have seen many preachers who prioritize family and suffer in preaching and pastoral ministry.  By the grace of God, I have been fortunate in ministry, all while making time for my family.  I honor pastors and preachers who do the same.  And I pray for those pastors whose homes have become difficult places to reside.  Some, I believe, are victims even in their own homes, but that is another blog.  I thank God for a wife who has prayed for me and lifted me to become the man, husband, son, father, servant and pastor God has called me to be.  This work would be so much more difficult if we weren’t working together these 14 years.

What are your thoughts?  How was your Spring Break?

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