Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Think It Through

My wife and I are at the Exponential conference in Orlando this week receiving a lot of great information & spiritual stimulus. Both of us are motivated to do something what what our eyes have been opened to here. I recognize that we need to prayerfully process things so that we don't jump into areas without measuring the cost. I also know that we need to continue to pray with urgency. Too much time passing tends to lessen excitement and allows us to step back into old patterns of well-learned habits without taking action on the Holy Spirit's prompting. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bigger Picture

I keep feeling that there is something more than what I see and experience. Even the simple pleasures of family, friends, and faith have a deeper component to them that brings me great joy when I catch a glimpse. It's hard for me to fully describe, but it's a taste of the bigger picture God is painting for us. It's the touch of deep love, the urging to be part of social justice movements, the upwelling of deep emotion in worship, and an innate desire to make a substantial difference in another's life. It's a deep current of meaning that runs underneath everything we do, think, and feel. 

I sense it more in some times than others. I believe it's always there, but my grasp of it fades as I get distracted. Most of us recognize there is more to this life than we see, but we end up ignoring it over time. Do we stop believing in this mystery because we don't understand it? Do we lose touch with it because we don't want to see God working in every part of our life? 

Our life is less than fulfilled when we ignore the hidden beauty God is trying to show us. The deeper themes are there for us to tap into if we are willing to see what He is doing.

Monday, April 28, 2014

You're Going the Wrong Way!

One of my favorites scenes from the movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is when John Candy accidentally drives onto a divided highway heading against traffic. There are no other cars on the road so he and Steve Martin don't notice their error until a car on the opposite side of the road sees their mistake and tries to warn them. They yell out their window, "You're going the wrong way!" and John and Steve respond by saying, "How do they know where we're going?"

Obviously, our actor friends were heading down a path that was going to harm them and didn't recognize it until it was almost too late. Hopefully it makes us think about the path that we are on as well and leads us to ask a few questions.
  • Are we going in the right direction at this point in our lives?
  • Who is traveling with us and pointing things out?
  • Do these people know where we're going & are they headed in the same direction?
If we are clear on the path that we are traveling, we will make decisions that help us get to where we need to be. We won't always make the right call, but hopefully we can weather this setback and keep moving where we want to go. There will be some people who can help us stay on course, but we need to make sure to only listen to like-minded people or we'll end up straying from our intended destination. 

It's fairly simple advice: don't take directions from someone who isn't going towards the same place you are going, but listen to those that understand your intended destination.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Good Eye

A critical eye is an important tool in a leader's toolbox. It's valuable to be able to see what is going on in an organization and even in your family. Accurately assessing areas of need and seeing what other people miss separates excellent leaders from average. There is a distinct difference however, between analyzing situations for improvement and only seeing the negative side. It's far too easy to slide into cynical criticism and miss the opportunity to reward the positive. Allowing yourself to lead this way discourages the people around you and can cause you to miss the good things that are taking place.

We've got to learn to not only speak up when something is wrong or poorly done, but also learn to reward progress and to lift up positive actions. This is a necessary balance that sets the right tone for learning what needs to be corrected and also reinforcing healthy decisions. It helps us raise children who find a comfortable balance between necessary correction and positive reinforcement. It also helps us lead in a way that brings out the best in people instead of only punishing poor choices.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Big Shot

I love the playoffs in any sport. It has drama, upsets, tension, and big moments. No matter the sport, we see the superstars rise to the top, but we also inevitably see an relatively unknown athlete have a minute in the spotlight. Sometimes this occasion wins a game or changes momentum, but it is very rarely expected.

In last night's NBA playoff game between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers, a player named Troy Daniels hit a huge shot. This was a make-or-break moment for Houston as they would have most likely been out of the playoffs very soon if they lost this game. In a big moment, Troy hit a three pointer to give his team the lead. I think it is safe to say that he was the most unlikely hero last night. He had only played in five (5!) total games so far this season and yet was able to come through in the clutch.

While Troy might not been expected to hit a game winning shot it was also not the first three pointer of his life. He once made 11 3-pointers in a game in college and took 599 3-point shots while playing the Developmental League. This was his first opportunity on the big stage, but he had been preparing for it his entire career.

We might have the "opportunity of a lifetime" fall into our lap, but we have a better chance of finding that opportunity if we're preparing for it all along. Sitting on the sidelines without developing our skills won't get us into the game. We've got to be willing to devote the hours to practice if we expect to find success when the opportunity arrives.

Friday, April 25, 2014


I just finished reading a book called Papillon-the autobiography of a French prisoner from the 1930's who spent over a decade trying to escape horrible conditions before succeeding. He saw several friend die and almost lost his own life several times in the process. At the end of the book he had found freedom in Venezuela and talked about the difficulty of being trusted. He said, "it's not all that easy to step out of the chains you've been dragging around for fourteen years." When you've been a prisoner for so long i imagine it's extremely difficult to act like you're free.

I suppose that's not so different for each of us. When we have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle it is not a simple thing to change it. Our communication style, coping mechanisms, and habits are so well formed and ingrained in who we are that we don't know how to change them. Even as we take the life-changing step of committing our lives to Christ, we can still struggle to fully accept the freedom of life He gives to us.

This change won't happen in a short period of time-after all, we didn't develop it in a day, but over a lifetime.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

More of Less

I need to create variety in what I do. While I enjoy certain routines and ways of doing things I also need to change it up to find complete satisfaction. I can spend several hours doing one thing and will then need to change my focus and work on something else. While variety is good I've discovered that sometimes it leads to me taking on too many projects at once. In my passion to have expanded impact I end up managing too many different things. When I was younger I believed I was capable of handling all of these with excellence. As I've gotten older I've realized that I need to do less so that I can do more.

I'm slowly learning to change my thinking and more accurately assess what I'm capable of doing. I believe that I am a high capacity achiever, but my definition of that is slowly changing. It's not that I can do more things than other people, but that I need to channel my energies into high achievement in concentrated areas. This is where I will be the greatest benefit and find the greatest satisfaction. It's echoed in this simple quote from the book, The One Thing, "...the key to success isn't in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well."

How can you tighten your scope of concentration? What do you need to set aside so that you can have the highest level of impact and personal contentment?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Matter of Inconvenience

I was attempting to use a corporate credit card for an outreach event we have coming up and had my card
declined. In light of recent national credit card privacy issues, our bank decided it was best to flag it until they could confirm it was still in our possession. I spent 15 minutes on hold with our company waiting to clear it up and found myself getting a little frustrated with the delay. At one point I thought to myself, "This is extremely inconvenient--I wish they would just leave it alone until they hear from us." My next thought was, "Of course, if they weren't diligent in watching our cards I would be upset if an illicit purchase went through." It was then that I realized the real reason I was irritated: I had been inconvenienced.

It's much easier to remain indignant over these irritations than it is to look at the root of the problem. Sadly, that root is found in my sense of entitlement. I expect to be able to do what I need to do without interruption, but also expect that any future problems be kept away as well. It's an unrealistic viewpoint that affects more of us than we're willing to admit. It's a fundamentally incorrect belief that as long as things go smoothly according to our individual plans it doesn't matter how it affects others. That's a symptom of selfishness that is at the root of most of our societal issues. I can't fix all of those problems on my own, but I can work on it in my own life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


We hosted a community camp in partnership with another local church a couple of years ago. One of the biggest areas of excitement for our campers was the large swimming pool. They were all talking excitedly about it as we pulled up and they obviously couldn't wait to hit the water (in fact, we scheduled 6 different swim times over 3 1/2 days for them.)

After the obligatory safety speech and brief swim test our campers were released to go full speed. What we witnessed next was an interesting phenomenon. In the course of seven minutes the lifeguard pulled three different swimmers out of the deep end of the pool. Each camper had passed their swim test, jumped off the diving board into the deep end of the pool, and subsequently swam like a rock. It didn't take long for us to narrow the list of "deep end" swimmers to very few.

While each of our campers was fine (thanks to the quick reaction of lifeguard & staff) I was left wondering how this could have happened so quickly. My only thought was that they had severely overestimated their ability to swim and ended up needing rescue once they were in over their heads.

I suppose that's not vastly different than moments in my own life when I have overestimated my own abilities (and I would wager that I'm not alone in this either.) How do we end up here? Sometimes it's a matter of personal pride that clouds our perspective. On other occasions perhaps it's a reflection of our undeveloped natural gifting-an ability to do something without refining the skills necessary to succeed. Much like swimming, I then find that I am in over my head and unable to catch my breath. Thank goodness I have had solid mentors and caring people who have rescued me and taught me how to survive.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What I Want

I have ridden the changing weight roller coaster most of my adult life. I have allowed my weight to balloon to close to 260 lbs. and been in good enough shape to be 218 solid lbs. as well. I really would like to be more consistent and not wait until I am completely fed up with my current state before I do something about it. Sadly, it really comes down to me wanting change, but not wanting it enough to put in the consistent work to make it happen.

How true is this for us in the rest of our lives? We want improved relationships, but aren't willing to make the emotional investment. We desire financial stability, but not the hard work of saving & increasing earning potential. We recognize character flaws and personal weaknesses, but aren't willing to take the difficult steps of personal transformation. We would like to be a more committed Christ follower, but are afraid to take risks of faith to grow.

Identifying our areas of needed change isn't nearly as difficult as taking the first steps towards making it happen. If we aren't willing to work, nothing will ever change.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Making Sense

Working in the mission field is not always glamorous. There are times when you feel you are making a huge impact and there are times you are cleaning toilets. Both of them are important in their own way even if one leaves you feeling more fulfilled than the other.

We were working together on a project on this last trip cleaning two large swamp coolers. They were covered in tar and grime and needed to be scraped clean and then repainted. It was fairly tedious work and we spent two days trying to get them ready to paint. The first day we worked at it was a bit monotonous as it took a long time to prep. Honestly, our biggest obstacle was our motivation.

Our original (mistaken) thought was that we were doing this so they could be put back in storage for some future potential use. After asking a few questions I discovered that they had been removed from the kitchen roof and were going to be put back up there for summer use. Once we understood what they were going to be used for, it changed our motivation and we didn't seem to mind the work as much.

When we understand the purpose behind what we are doing it changes our level of energy. We now have a connection between our task and a goal that makes sense. When we understand what the purpose is for something we tend to work harder at it and find more joy in the process. Connecting the dots to see the bigger picture is a key part of fulfillment and our personal motivation.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Darkest Night

I can't imagine how difficult it was for them. To see the life that you thought you knew in complete ruin must have been devastating. All of your expectations and hopes from the previous week had been destroyed. Your confidence is nonexistent and you no longer trust anyone. I'm certain that doubt was overwhelming and fear was a constant companion. How do you pick up the pieces of your life when they are shattered and scattered all around you?

Jesus' family and friends were blindsided by the disastrous events of His arrest and crucifixion and didn't have the coping skills to deal with it. They went to sleep on Saturday night completely unsure of what to do next. They also didn't know that everything was about to change again in a brand-new, eternally-planned, destiny-altering fashion. Their darkest night was about to become their brightest morning. They thought that all hope was gone and instead they were about to experience their hope being fulfilled.

That Sunday morning perfectly illustrates the beauty of the way that God operates. He always has redemption ready when it seems like we are doomed. Even when we are completely off balance and unaware, He is ready to fulfill His promises. It's a reminder we often need to not give up, but trust that God is ready to step in exactly when we need it the most.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Protection Detail

Being a father isn't easy. I want to help my girls develop the maturity to handle situations on their own and yet I want to jump in and keep them safe at all costs. It's a tough balancing act of wanting to hang on to them and letting them go. 

My oldest daughter is heading out to prom and while I am happy for her and this opportunity, part of me wants to grab her and keep her safe in this house with us. It's an urge I had to fight to chase this young man off my porch and whisk her back into the comfortable confines our our family home. While we might protect her a bit longer if we keep her here, it won't help her in the long run. At some point we have to let her and her sisters go and trust that what we've done has been good enough. 

I want to be their protector forever and while I will gladly fill that role when they call, it won't look the same way that it does now. They will figure some things out on their own and will get hurt when they don't make the right decision. They will have regrets, but I am confident that they will also have great successes. I just pray that they know we are here for them whenever they might need us. I'm also grateful that they still need us right now as they learn who they are and who they are becoming. I'm more thankful that even when I can't be there I can trust that the Father who made them will watch over them more carefully than I ever could.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Names Matter

As I read through the Bible again this year, I found myself back in the book of 1 Chronicles today. I had settled in to be impacted by the power of God's Word and found myself in nine chapters of names and genealogy. I'll be honest and say that I didn't exactly read those chapters word for word. I know that any part of the Bible is important and that God can communicate through it. In fact, that's what I kept telling myself as I read (quickly) through each list of names. My primary thought however was that I didn't know these people. Most of them didn't have "lead roles" in the early history of the Bible and weren't taught in children's church, youth ministry or in many adult worship settings. Their names just didn't mean that much to me.

Of course their names meant something to someone when they were alive. They were important to their families and obviously important enough in the story of God to be mentioned. Each person played their part-both good and bad-in what God had done and was continuing to do. The brief mention of their name was an homage to their personal story and the contribution they made to where we are today. It may not matter much to us, but I know they matter to God.

It ended up being a more valuable lesson than I anticipated. What are the names of people around me that I don't even know? What part are they playing in the story that God is continuing to write? Am I willing to care enough to see their significance and acknowledge that our combined lives are part of God's larger tale? 

I need to remember this simple truth: every name matters because it represents a life that matters. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Life is harder than it appears to be at first. I remember being a teenager and thinking how awesome it was
going to be when I was an adult. I remember as a child dreaming of the complete control of my own life and how much better that would be. As a young adult, it was about the perfect delight of being married and the incredible joy of parenthood. In my beginning as a pastor, I imagined how grand it would be to be full-time in ministry and the powerful impact my life would have. I'm not denying the truly fantastic moments along this journey, but I will also readily admit that there are times when it is much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be.

The good news for me (and you as well) is that while I might struggle through some tough times I am not alone. There are friends, family, and fellow sojourners that commiserate with me and can also lend their collective wisdom and strength along the way. We can encourage and support each other when the way seems to complicated to navigate. If we surround ourselves with faithful people we will discover that we have the solid support we need to thrive in difficult times. We can then be that same support for others when the time comes. 

My greatest hope comes from God's perfect plan and timely deliverance. He never told His children that this would be an easy path, but He did promise that He would never abandon us. Our great Father promised that He would work things out for the good of those that love Him. He has guaranteed us that if we will turn and seek out His wisdom that He will deliver. His promises and our confidence in them are the key to our perseverance and maturity.

"It was harder than we dreamed, 
but I believe that's what the promise is for." 
Andrew Peterson, Dancing in the Minefields

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Territory

Our oldest daughter has been invited to prom this coming Friday and the past week has been filled with planning, shopping (dress, shoes, accessories, oh my) and conversations. We have great friends who were able to make the dress shopping much easier than it should have been. We are genuinely glad for Lindsay and this opportunity to go to prom. I should probably admit that it's also her first real date. Needless to say, it's a lot of firsts in one week and a reminder that our ladies are not so little any more.

We were shopping for her shoes today and it took a while to find something that she liked, that fit our budget, and were able to be worn again. I love my girls' unique tastes and personality and knew it would take a while to find the right fit. My Lindsay is so sweet that she apologized to me while we were paying for taking so long. I immediately told her that there was nothing wrong about this at all. We were all new to this whole process and it was good for us to learn and experience it together.

That's a fairly accurate description of parenting right there. Every day we keep entering into new territory, but we get to do it together. We are walking this path as parents and children while we learn together. We show each other patience, offer forgiveness, keep talking honestly and openly with each other, and spend a large amount of time in prayer. It's a newness that excites me and also scares me a bit. I don't have all of the answers, but we'll do this together in love and I feel pretty good about us growing in unity along the way.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Genuine Sorrow

"And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city (Jerusalem), he wept over it"  Luke 19:41

I read where a pastor and author described this verse by saying "Jesus wept over his zip code." He certainly possesses great compassion because of his nature as God, but I believe it was more than that too. Jesus was filled with sorrow over the plight of this city, the lost people, and the pain of their decisions. He recognized their problem and knew that He was going to be their only real solution.

Do we identify with Jesus' level of compassion? Are we genuinely sorrowful over the conditions in our own community? Are we truly heartbroken over dysfunctional homes, abuse, poverty, ignorance, and sin? Genuine concern is more than an emotional response that leads to philosophical discussions. If we truly care we have to ask: what are we doing about it?

  • Pray: nothing can be done without this
  • Repent: realize that we have ignored our community's problems for too long & resolve to change
  • Invest: use our resources (time, energy, money, abilities) to help address some of the physical problems our community faces
  • Share the good news: while we have a responsibility to help with physical needs, the church's greatest calling is to share a life-changing relationship through Jesus Christ. Without this transformation we are merely providing superficial patches to deeply ingrained wounds.
We will either be part of the solution for our community or we are contributing to the problem. If we claim to care about our people we have to take a risk and do something to make a difference.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Control It

I've been thinking a great deal about my productivity lately and how I am getting things accomplished. As I have often written about here, I believe in planning and being organized with tasks and goals. The tasks that you put your energy into should directly feed your goals which help move you toward your preferred future. The dilemma that I have noticed lately is that I often feel as if I don't control my schedule, but my schedule controls me. There has to be space for random (and not so random) interactions, crisis intervention, planning, thinking, writing, and spiritual disciplines. Gaining control over my schedule is a matter of recognizing how the things I do feed into the larger vision for my life and ministry and then learning to say "no" to what distracts from that fulfillment.

There are important people who have influence on my schedule, but the final authority still rests with me. I need to do a better job of aligning my day to the vision for my future. It will help get me towards my preferred future more quickly and leave me with a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reflections: Pray Anyway

One of the most unexpectedly powerful moments from our trip to Arizona happened on the last day. We were working with Apache Youth Ministries and going out to spots on the reservation for prayer. Our first location was a local liquor store that was stuck off a side road. The place looked pitiful as we pulled up. It was a tacky, old building sitting in the middle of beautiful scenery. We got out of our van and talked about the power of alcoholism on the reservation. Just as we were about to pray a man started walking over to our group and motioned for me to come closer. When I approached him I could immediately tell that he hadn't been sober in a long time. His state of inebriation was deeply embedded in him and yet he was asking for prayer. I listened to him for several minutes as the rest of our group gathered around us. We all ended up laying hands on him, praying for him and his companion, and inviting them to the local church. He thanked us all with hugs and handshakes and then proceeded into the liquor store to make his purchase.

I wasn't surprised that he continued to his intended destination. I don't doubt the power of prayer, but I do understand the strong grip of habits and addiction. Our group could have ignored him or brushed off his request, but our responsibility is to be faithful when the opportunity arises. We can't guarantee success or even the authenticity of his desire. We simply choose whether we will do what is right.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reflections: Hopeless

It's difficult to comprehend the level of hopelessness that we see on the reservation. Even with our years of experience working out there, we are still unable to completely grasp the severity of their existence. My wife and I grew up very differently and I am more familiar with living in poverty, but there is still a level of despair that I don't entirely associate with. I always knew that there were other possibilities for me and sadly that same level of vision doesn't exist for many on the reservation. It's why we see absurdly high alcoholism rates, rampant gang involvement, and heartbreaking suicide numbers. They are a people nation defined by the lack of hope.

When you see a people facing that depth of despondency you wonder what impact you can have on a short term trip. I'm not entirely sure how strong our influence is to be honest. I do know that the only way you can rescue those that are trapped in hopelessness is to show them that hope does exist. It isn't an easy process and we are fighting years of tradition and oppression. Abandoning them to a dark fate isn't an option as far as I'm concerned. We are either part of their solution or part of their problem. They may feel that they don't have choices, but we certainly do.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reflections: Consistency

I have friends in ministry who have been on many more mission trips than I have. They have traveled throughout the world and can tell fantastic stories about their adventures. Their passports are well worn from use and multiple destinations. I applaud my friends who serve in this fashion and I am grateful for their willingness to travel to so many places and serve different people. My personal mission philosophy is a bit different, however.

I decided early in my ministry career that I wanted to focus my energies in one place. I am a creature of routine in many ways and wanted to invest my resources on one mission field. It doesn't meant that one area is better than another, but that I wanted to have the maximum impact over a long period of time. By continuing to visit one people group I have earned the right to say certain things and have consistently been part of the goals of one organization. I have had a part in the transformation of mission groups and have established friendships that last longer than the week we are on the mission field. My prayer focus has changed as my family (and many friends) have established bonds of trust and concern that don't diminish with distance. I view it as a life-long commitment to one place that will hopefully bear fruit in the lives of the people we serve as well as benefiting us.

We each have to decide the approach that works best for us and then be active in transforming the world. Inaction isn't an option for a true Christ follower.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reflections: Family Tradition

I have been serving in Arizona for the past eleven years and my wife has been part of it for nine. For most of our children's lives we have headed out west each spring while they spent a week with their grandmother in Tennessee. They knew it was a special time for them, but they also came to appreciate the work that we were doing as we shared stories and pictures with them. I think that they have always understood how important this trip is to us and how much we care for the people we get to serve alongside.

The sharing of our trip has changed over the past two years as we have started to bring our daughters out with us. It has always been a rite of passage to observe as they had to wait until they were in high school before they could come with us. Our oldest daughter made her second trip this year as our middle daughter joined her (our youngest will make her first journey next year.) It's a place that we have been eager to share with our girls and we couldn't be happier about the impact it has had on them.

It is the fulfillment of my own personal dream to have our family serve together and to do it in a place that means so much to us is especially valuable. It's a part of raising our girls that shows them the contribution they can make to people around them and the great value in consistently serving those in need. I can't guarantee the results, but I feel confident in the lifelong lessons we are teaching them and hope that they maintain that passion as adults.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reflections: Encouragement

We always accomplish a great number of things on our mission trips to Arizona. In some years that has included large projects such as building decks, completely demolishing trailers, graveling entire roads, and resurfacing gym floors. In recent years, one of the most powerful things that our team has been able to do is to encourage our long-term missionary friends.

We are able to come into their territory with fresh energy and perspective and see the impact they are having on a daily basis. Part of our great joy is to make sure they know how much they appreciate them and what they are doing to change lives. It can be lonely on the mission field as you endure tough circumstances, unexpected loss, and seemingly hopeless situations. Our goal is to remind our friends that they are not alone and that what seems mundane and routine is making a substantial difference. We might be separated by miles, but we are all in this together. I am grateful for the chance to lift the spirits of good friends, but even more grateful for their obedient sacrifice and commitment to serving others.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Reflections: Mission Minded

I am still processing all that I experienced on this year's trip to Arizona and will need a little more rest and think-time before I am ready to take action. While I still need to sort through everything there are two over-arching areas of thought that hit me most:

1. What can I do to help in Arizona on a continual basis between trips? 

2. What did our experiences teach us that we can put to use here in Milledgeville?

Those two questions form the framework for positive mission work in my humble, but accurate opinion. It's a powerful thing to be affected by a mission experience, but the greatest impression is felt when it lasts longer than the trip itself. If we truly intend to be committed Christ followers we need to dedicate ourselves to supporting the distant and the local mission field on a consistent basis. I don't have the complete picture of what that looks like, but with passionate team members and God's guidance I am certain we'll find a way to move forward.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Perfectly Suited

Each year that we have traveled to Arizona is unique in our experiences and the team we take with us. There are certain things that groups have been able to accomplish that would have been impossible for another team to finish. This experience has taught me to never question the group that chooses to go, but to instead look forward to what God will do in and through this particular team. I have found that each year we are able to accomplish exactly what we were brought together to do. Each interaction, act of encouragement, work project, and prayer is fulfilled by the people that needed to be there to make it happen. It's proof that when we open ourselves to what God is willing to do through our individual personality's and gifts we will never be disappointed at what we accomplish.

This is the reason that I confidently say that each special group is perfectly suited for what we needed to do. I am grateful for our team this year and their willingness to be the perfect solution God asked us to be.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Top Reads #7: Economy of Time

I am out in Arizona on a mission trip and have chosen to highlight the most-read posts from this past calendar year while I am gone. Check out the previously posted blog below.

Earlier this morning I was reflecting on my career of nine years of athletic training/high school & now ten years of ministry. I hit me that it has been 19 years since I left college at the age of
23-a year later than I expected since I took time off for financial reasons. I didn't think much about it then (it just seemed necessary,) but now I see a year that could have been used for other things. I understand the perfection of God's plan and that it was simply part of my story, but it makes me think very carefully about the time I have right now. 

I don't want to waste the moments that I have been given--each day that passes is another day closer to my children leaving the house and the decrease in my direct influence in their lives. Each day that passes is another day of preparation for the future that is gone--whether I used it wisely or not. The people that I pass by will not be in that same location again--not in the same moment of need. Each interaction is uniquely crafted by God and we can either speed through & waste it or invest our full energy into downloading the most potential energy from it.

Time is one of our most precious commodities--it's interesting how callously we treat this valuable resource that we say we are eager to protect.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Top Reads #6: Doorkeeper

I am out in Arizona on a mission trip and have chosen to highlight the most-read posts from this past calendar year while I am gone. Check out the previously posted blog below.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper 
in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. Psalm 84:10

Even though the action required to open a door may not seem like much, it takes a special spirit to do it right. It involves a genuine sense of humility that is reflected in the willingness to faithfully serve without seeking higher honor. This position requires a passion for people and for making them feel welcome. It takes devotion and a dedicated heart that is willing to do even the smallest task for the sake of a bigger cause. Most importantly, it reveals an intense love for God and a deep desire to share that truth with everyone who passes through that door.

I have had the tremendous pleasure of serving with a man who not only understood this calling, but lived it out through his generous spirit. Even as we celebrated his life today and grieved for our loss, we recognized how many lives were impacted by his simple yet intense desire to hold the door. Thank you for humbly leading the way my good friend. I'll look for you at the door in God's house when that time comes.

*The flowers pictured were placed at Henry Sheppard's door this weekend in honor of his incredible service & life model.*

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Top Reads #5: Desire

I am out in Arizona on a mission trip and have chosen to highlight the most-read posts from this past calendar year while I am gone. Check out the previously posted blog below.

In my different areas of calling (restaurant, teacher, athletics, ministry) I have noticed a common theme in most people that I interact with--they possess an innate desire to be better. I think that it exists in all of us,
but some people simply choose to ignore it. When it grips us we find ourselves torn between the reality of our current state and an ideal that we are striving to live up to. It can be an ambition for personal/group success, the drive to be a stronger leader, or an overwhelming passion for becoming a better parent and spouse. It can be measured in sales and income, athletic records and championships, relationships with other people and transformation in demeanor and expressions of personality.

The dividing line of success and failure is found in those that refuse to overlook this inner tension, but are willing to create patterns of life change that appease this hunger. Conquerors of mediocrity will seek the counsel and accountability of others to help them through the process of transformation while being actively involved in personal, disciplined behavioral changes. 

Addressing the desire for improvement is merely an appetizer to the main course of diligent, directed faithfulness that facilitates growth.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Top Reads #4: Limited Resources

I am out in Arizona on a mission trip and have chosen to highlight the most-read posts from this past calendar year while I am gone. Check out the previously posted blog below.

If I gave you $113 you probably wouldn't have a hard time spending it. There are bills to pay, things to be repaired, needs for our kids, and groceries to buy. You might choose to go shopping, take your family out
for a good meal, or blow it all in a poker game. Whatever you choose to do, you would have a lot of options and probably wouldn't debate for too long- especially with an amount as small as that. 

At midnight tonight there will be 113 days left in this year. They are a more valuable resource than money and have the potential to change your life in a more powerful way than $113. Much like a windfall of cash it can be gone very quickly with only fleeting memories of how we spent it or we can choose to leverage what we have to create the best opportunity for growth and personal change. It won't happen accidentally or by some random chance either--we need to plan carefully and step into action to see the results we want. 

Only 113 days left in 2013. What will you do with them?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Reads #3: The Hardest Task

I am out in Arizona on a mission trip and have chosen to highlight the most-read posts from this past calendar year while I am gone. Check out the previously posted blog below.

I've had several different jobs in my life ranging from outdoor maintenance to fast food, telemarketer, professional theater, caterer, waiter, manager, teacher, athletic trainer, and pastor. They all have had their inherent challenges and levels of difficulty. i honestly say however, that the most challenging thing I have ever undertaken is the role of a parent.

Nothing stretches my prayer life more, reorients my thinking, or teaches me patience like being a father.There is a constant balance between my initial reaction and what is actually best for our kids. I carefully consider my responses to new circumstances as I think of what is best for them and what I should do to help prepare them for their future. We are striving to teach them the better way to make personal life choices and to carefully consider where the path they choose will lead them.

I do worry about them and not because they are "bad children." I worry like any other parent would about the influences that will be around them and the constant questions that I ask of myself: did we do the right things in raising them to prepare them for this world? Did we show them enough of the beauty of the world around them that they can see all the wonder there is to experience? Did we give them enough confidence to be who God has created them to be? Will the hold fast to their upbringing in Christ and deny the influence of those that would pull them off of this path? Through our flawed parenting and many (many) mistakes have we done the best we can to set them up for God's preferred future for them?

I can't completely answer those questions. I do know that my wife & I trust that God will fill the gap between our hopes & the reality of what we have done. It's the best we can do as parents.

First Position

I first discovered Stovall Weems when I read his book, Awakening, and was challenged in
unexpected ways. When I found out that he had written another book I was eager to read it and hoped to be pushed spiritually and mentally once again. After finishing, I can easily say that I was not disappointed by his latest book, The God First Life. I found myself underlining multiple passages and writing notes in the margins as his words stirred my thoughts and spirit. Stovall has a way of writing that presents things that I already know to be true, but they are phrased in a way that often causes me to murmur in verbal agreement as I read. It's a solid, spirit-filled presentation of fundamental truths that reminded me of where my focus should be centered-on God alone.

Stovall begins his book by adding two simple words to a common phrase, "your life, God's way." It's the addition of these words that challenges our allegiance and directs our hearts to seek God above all else. These flow out of Matthew 6:33 and the command from Jesus to seek the kingdom of God before we seek anything else. This is the most essential directive from Christ and the foundation of the book-nothing should be in the highest priority except for God himself.

The book proceeds to take the reader through the fundamental parts of the life of a devoted Christ-follower. Stovall carefully takes the reader through a pathway of deeper devotion and discipleship that is all centered on God. It all makes sense and yet is presented in a way that stimulates thought in new ways. None of this is a brand-new revelation, yet it still pushes me to think carefully about my own pathway of growth in Christ.

I would feel extremely comfortable recommending this book to new believers as well as the more seasoned Christ follower. It's an excellent guide for initial discovery and an impetus for mid-faith growth and refocus. We all need the reminder to make sure that each part of our faith is centered on seeking God above all other things.