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June 9, 2008:

DAY 19 ON nFoG WATCH: It's not any fun any more. Since I started posting, there have been few resources published in favor of the nFoG; none of them addressing the question of how the tensions that divide us would be resolved by moving to the nFoG. There's plenty of indication it could make things worse -- more regulatory -- by requiring every presbytery to create a whole series of administrative manuals and by re-opening all issues previously resolved by Authoritative Interpretations.

What should you be doing now before going to San Jose?

Here we are, about a week and a half prior to the convening of the Assembly, and you have read through all the summaries and some of the business. What now?

1. If you have not already put together a list of people at home who will be praying for you -- interceding in prayer on your behalf -- do it now. I'm not kidding about this; it is more important than any of the issues you are going to handle, more important than any of the procedures you will be going through, more important than anything else I have written. Put them together and ask them to pray for your strength, for you discernment, for your health and protection, and that you would find joy in the midst of your time in San Jose. You can ignore everything else on this list (except #10) -- but please, please, please take this seriously. Have people praying for you, together.

2. Focus in on the issues you want to work on. The best advice is that you can work on one issue outside of your own committee -- tops. Anything more and you begin to spread yourself too thin. Now is the time to study the business of your committee and begin discerning the outcomes you would like to see. Then, figure out how you might like to get from here to there procedurally.

3. Practice saying "no" in a nice way. There are so many things to do, people to see and meet, experiences to have, you cannot do it all. This is not to say those opportunities are bad -- not at all. There are more than any one person can do. If you get distracted from the purpose for which you have been commissioned, you will exhaust yourself by early in the week and be playing catch-up. That makes for a long week.

4. Begin planning the essentials you will pack. Clothes and a computer are obvious. For those of you traveling by plane, this will be an important test of discernment because you will either be very limited or it will be very expensive. Make sure you bring along something that is a treat for yourself -- think Linus' security blanket. People bring stress balls or other things to help let your mind wander a little bit when you need a break.

5. Practice walking around. I am talking about something different than simple exercise. Many commissioners and advisory delegates develop sore backsides early in the week because they feel rooted to the assigned chair.

6. Start weaning yourself off chicken. That may sound like a silly thing to say, but if you have signed up for a lot of meals the chances are good you will be served a lot of chicken. It is better not to have a worn out palate before you arrive.

7. Plan to visit the Exhibit Hall several times. Don't try to take it all in at once. The Exhibit Hall is one of the special elements of a General Assembly (and not just because of the free stuff that different groups give out). It is a terrific way to learn about resources and ministries that you would not otherwise encounter.

8. Bring a camera. This may be too obvious to be a word of advice; but do not cut this out if you are tight on packing space. This is a special time. You will be having some intense experiences with people you will want to remember. You will be amazed by the number of times you will end up saying, "When I was a commissioner..."

9. Brace yourself to hear, "When I was a commissioner..." Many observers will be former commissioners. They still want to share their impressions. They have stories to tell and you can become a captive audience. You are not bound to their story or perception, just as they were not bound to those who went before them.

10. Be in prayer yourself. Remember #1? It goes many, many times over for you. Prayer reduces anxiety. Prayer restores things to a proper perspective -- where God is God and we are not. Remember, the General Assembly will be convened for eight days; God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

I thought about doing one of these suggestions each day for the next two weeks, but that's a little cheesy. So, here they are now. I hope they are helpful.