Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Just wrote the first draft of a letter we will send out to a lot of friends in the next days about where we are and to solicit any prayer and input they might have that would be helpful.
And then it hit me: you are a great circle of faithful friends.
So, here, in its unpolished glory is the letter. Thanks for listening to His voice while you scramble through my words:
With the changing events in our lives during the past few weeks, Jackie and I decided to wait until now to greet you at this season.
First…we hope you had a great Christmas and are entering this New Year full of faith and energy. We had a wonderful Christmas. With up to 14 family gathering, it was one of the best family seasons for us ever. Micah (home from Afghanistan) with Sarah & Ella, were with us for 10 days. It was special indeed.
About the “changing events” in our lives: on December 10th, out of the blue, the word came to us that the District was not finishing the year in budgetary strength as had been hoped and that further belt tightening was needed…in specific, the Church Development Department would have to be closed early in the New Year. In fact, we will be in the office until the end of January and then on the payroll until the end of March. Relationships here are great, (there were tears) but the financial crunch is making what could be done at the peak of District income, impossible at this point.
We have not/are not panicing. We have felt rather strongly that the Lord has a further assignment time for us….and that we should let our circle of friends in on this so that perchance the Lord may give us some wisdom through their feedback and prayers. During the four years here we have coached, taught, mentored, assessed, counseled and helped churches get going, filled pulpits, written (our blog has almost 5,000 hits now – rmdc.org + blogs + just between us) – and stuff I have written has been featured in the last three months, in editions of the Evangel…and a number of times in their daily blog.
Providentially, two Districts had already asked us to minister among them in ‘10 – Montana and North Dakota. We do personal health stuff, avoiding burnout, church health stuff, work with boards, help people dream bigger, help churches define process and policy. These years at RMDC I have received a lot of training in coaching and have coached and trained others in coaching. I have worked with men – both at a State and local level. Together Jackie and I have ministered in marriage weekends, and grief recovery programs – both of us were widowed some 16 years ago. We are at this time, filling in at a large AG church – on weekends – and it is going well, unified, and in fact, increasing in attendance.
A great joy during these past years is seeing pastors become so much more equipped and at ease in pastoring the Presence of God when their churches gather. In our ministry in Lincoln for 30 years (from plant at 22 to 1400 in three services) …this was a hallmark of the church gathered – the live, orderly, health-producing – presence of the Spirit among the people.
Thanks for the times you might pray with us. Thanks for any ideas you have as to how we can be a blessing. I am sending this letter to various persons who we might be very helpful to. We are hoping so.
Thanks for being our friends.
David and Jackie
Monday, December 28, 2009
NEW YEAR - NEW ME
Need some change?
It seems that at this time of year lots of us think about it....and out comes a new stream of resolutions....to stop eating turkey with all that gravy :), to take exercising more seriously, to get into the word with more consistency and depth, to take more time to be with family, to be more constructive with that spare time, to be more of a servant and a whole lot less self-focused....and on it goes, we make resolutions with good intention...and then......well we both know what so often happens then....
So, I take a lot of comfort in the words of Paul (a highly intentional guy all of his life) who writes:
"What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another,
doing things I absolutely despise.....I obviously need help!
I realize that I don't have what it takes.
I can will it....but I can't do it.
I decide to do good,
but I don't really do it.
I decide not to do bad,
but then I do it anyway.
My decisions don't result in action....parts of me covertly rebel,
and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I've tried everything and nothing helps.
I'm at the end of my rope."
(Romans 7 - slected - The Message)
Making progress? - yes.
Nearing perfection? - you kidding?
Sometimes frustrated? - yes.
If that's where you are.....I am too.
However, here are some ideas that can help.
- Be brutally honest...about where you really are. Tell yourself (and one or two really good friends.) where you really are.
Not "out of shape" but "in really bad condition"
not "sometimes tempted" but "really blowing it when I am alone"
...use the words that contain real honesty and personal risk with them. Only truly open hearts can beat with renewing life.
- Take responsibility, doing something to build strength in advance of the next time of testing....throw out the stuff that tempts, pull the plug on the TV when you enter the motel room, call your partner and be accountable when you feel weak (instead of just when you get preyed upon effectively), spend a longer time in quietness and prayer when you feel drained or especially vulnerable.
Ideas 3 &4
- The method Paul suggested...what helped him live as an apostle.
Read Colossians 3:1-15.
As you do, watch for the two main movements of wisdom that he puts in focus in his words: put stuff off and put stuff on.
I like this simple approach because it matches what all of us do in another realm in a 24-hour cycle. We put off soiled clothing and we put on clean clothing.
Paul says we should regularly put off (:5ff) impurity, anger, lust, greed and more.
And his list of "put ons" is wonderful - "things above, Christ, love, peace, the word, the name of Christ, the Spirit."
Read the passage over and over, slowly and thoughtfully, out loud and silently, until the "offs" and "ons" start to root in your mind.
What is neat is that there are 3 "offs" and 8 "ons" in the passage.
It's true, change happens to all of us most effectively when our focus is not on "don'ts" but "do's."
By the way, this blog jumped 245 (to 4738 hits) since we last checked. Running super strong all through the Christmas season. Wow! Your interest is truly a blessing! Be sure to check out the last entry for what is going on in our lives.....and thanks for your prayerful support.
God bless you!
See you next year!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It's that time.
Time for change.
Several days ago our Superintendent broke the news to me that the budget of the District is stressed again and they are going to have to take more steps to cut expenditures. He indicated that they (the Presbytery) have decided that they will have to phase out my position, which will formally shut down at the end of January. I will have a bit more severance time than that, but the decision is made.....and made with tears and very kind affirmations.
We are not alone....our culture has literally millions of people who are entering Christmas with this uncertainty and concern. There has probably not been a season like this, where God's love can be so wonderfully shown to so many. I hope you will engage beyond the normal. It is in giving that we receiving...and in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And we are not alone....because God sees us and cares about every part of the pathway of our lives. I am not just writing this....I have had strong faith in my soul during these days to really believe this.
So....we are listening and cultivating fresh sensitivity to the Spirit of God.
We are praying.
We are journaling carefully.
We are sharing with friends (like you!).
And we are asking God to use us any way He chooses to advance the Kingdom of God through us.
Some ideas are beginning to emerge...and in due time we will most likely be able to share some with you.
We covet your prayers and your listening with us.
We promise to stay in touch by this means....and will open up another sight in due season when the path before us changes and developing another site becomes possible.
The many months we have shared in this manner (with 4537 hits as of this moment) have been enriching to my soul and indeed, been used by God greatly in my own life.
Feedback from many of you has kept me going....and I promise we'll keep this going into the future.
For right now, the next few days will be a big scramble with Christmas and family - and I still have to go shopping! :)
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas....remember it is not about presents...but Presence...the very Spirit of Christ showing up in your place of residence as you speak to Him, and to one another in ways that invite His love to go beyond the normal.
May you have a Christmas so full of His life that you will never forget some of what He does among you.
Thanks for being my friend!
I'll be back, hopefully on the 23rd...or right after Christmas itself.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
- it's a unique hebrew name that simply means, "God with us."
Unique indeed...my desk dictionary with "60,00 entries and hundreds of new words" has no reference to it at all.
Unique indeed...because it describes something that is almost beyond imagination:
*That God (visible, tangible, human, interactive, present now) could actually be here among us. The God who made the cosmos?
The God who thunders from heaven?
The God who was and is and is to come?
It took something special...God acting as father, and a virgin acting as the bearer of His special presence, and a young man willing to believe and be the human representation of father as they together would carry a God-man infant to birth and through childhood. (Check out the precise and careful language of Matthew 1:1- "of whom"- feminine, singular)
And that is exactly what happened.
It took a Joseph (see prior blog) who would act as stand-in earthly father and believe that what was happening to his fiance was indeed an act of God for a God-sized purpose. It took an entirely humble and resolute man who would let scurrilous words fall to the ground and angelic words prevail...and all his hopes for a "normal" life disappear suddenly. It took an immense spirit to live out "He must increase and I must decrease" dynamics from the point of conception onwards and daily.
It took a young woman (between 12-13) who would believe, allow herself to be an instrument of divine impregnation and then carry this God-person in gestation and until delivery. And then raise Him and watch Him embark on a God-sized mission and give His life for it.
Read again the birth narratives and the life of Jesus....and ponder the dynamics that Mary and Joseph had to deal with regularly that Immanuel might come and live out His name.
And suddenly it dawns on me that it takes these dynamics still for Immanuel to presence Himself in our homes and churches. It takes humility, steadfastness, faith, self-denial and so much more - daily - for Immanuel to feel welcomed among us.
"O come, O come Immanuel".........this Christmas.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
We tell the story of his journey quite frequently in our family.
It was awful. He was in a terrible jam.
Joe had planned his future so carefully.
A quiet guy, he had approached his family and hers and asked for her hand.
It was granted happily and formally, and he had made copious promises to treat her well, and remain pure until the time of their formal wedding.
And now this.
She is pregnant....and beginning to show.
And she vows that she has not had intimate relationships with anyone. But she is only 13, so who knows what the real story is.
And they haven't been intimate together...he knows that for sure.
It is all so angering, confusing....and sad.
And no one believes either of them, no matter what they say..
Every time they are with people, there are the stares...and the whispers.
And his folks have given him stern words and wept with disappointment.
And now there is awkward distance.
He has considered his options:
Option 1. Protect himself - and get rid of her for good - and do it publicly to clear his name.
Option 2. Protect her and himself a little bit. Divorce her privately...that way it is a little bit of win for them both.
Option 3. Protect her totally. Believe her. Accept the cannot possibly be true...pregnant without intercourse. Go ahead and marry her - bearing with the public words and family reactions as they come. And have a birth and childhood that is so much less than desired.
And having thought of it over and over in the night, he decided to go with Option 2 - divorce her privately....and save what could be rescued of the situation for them both.
And that's when something incredible happened. God spoke to him so clearly that he could not doubt it and told him he was choosing the wrong option out of fear and disbelief.
God told him to exercise Option 3 - marry her publicly, protect her and trust God.
the child went full term and was born
and shortly thereafter they left to live for some time in Egypt.
And nothing too much was heard of Joe again.
It is believed in the family that he died early.
So Joe lived in a jam....and Jesus was born.
And what He did with His life, has forever changed the world.
And thank you Joseph.
Because of you (too) I get to be in God's Family (with you).
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
(For more of the story, read Matthew 1 & 2)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Years ago I remember a quick joke line was: "Have you heard about the new book that is out? It's titled: Humility and how I achieved it."
Recently I have had a number of experiences that moved me rather strongly towards that book title becoming a reality :) ...but I want to speak of just one.
I came across a web site - www.nasa.gov - that features pictures taken by Hubbel the incredibly powerful telescope that continually prowls and shoots pictures of deep space. One particularly caught my eye (crab nebulae, I believe) and for a time I focused on it - infinately far away, ablaze with blues and greens, and sprays of million-mile red gasses....and whose size means that our galaxy would fit nicely into one small corner of it.
I just stared and got transported into a new realm....that of overwhelming, living humility.
Oh, God, if all this is out there -
and on this speck called earth, I am but a miniscule group of atoms called human.
Oh, God, how can I ever rise up with anything but a soft spirit before You and my fellow pilgrims?
How can I ever live in a spirit of less than wonder?
How can I ever worship You without giving you my whole heart and mind?
And then it was like the words from a hilltop (at night) started calling to me....written by one who sat night after night watching over his sheep....and whose heart and wisdom propelled him finally to the highest ranks of his land as King.
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (See all of Psalm 8)
So my first Christmas wish is that we like wise men of old, may take time to marvel at the heavens, look up and wonder, and live in a state of humble servanthood while on earth.
Jesus coming was signaled from the cosmos.
May we live in the light of what the cosmos was meant to do in us.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Yesterday, Bob Moore (Restoration Church) spoke on the subject, "The Pathway of Brokeness." It was on target and very challenging.
The response was strong.
He said the pathway of brokeness involves these stages:
1. We start in carnal competence
2. Calamity comes on
3. We enter into a time of conflict - and wrestle
4. Character is developed in us
As he ministered, I got caught up in the main text of reference - Jacob's story of wrestling and encountering God - especially Genesis 32:22-31. (Bob's Point 3)
And I began to scribble down some fresh thoughts about this wrestling match.
1. God arranged the match, the place and the time.
2. God brought a "foe" to Jacob - and this "foe" was one who could have crushed him in one blow.
3. God limited the "foe" so he could not do the crushing...but let him wrestle titanicly.
4. God let the fight go on for a very long time - all night - the longest match ever?
5. The match never had a formal end, nor a winner declared.
6. The fight changed Jacob forever..... a/ The "foe," finally convinced he could not win, "touched Jacob" and Jacob's hip was forever out of place..he would "limp" for the rest of his life....the sign to everyone, all the time of the big story in this man's life - ("here's the man who struggled with God and prevailed" "he's limping here, but not up there")
b/ God changed Jacob's name - it was kind of like the
fight had birthed him again:
Jacob (the conniver) became Israel (he struggles with God)
..in my free sense: (he went from "he get's his way by pushing and pulling"
- to "he labors before God and God does incredible stuff through him")
And everthing in the Bible....flows from there.
And so I ask myself today:
>Am I earnest enough for more of God to just keep wrestling on an on?
>>Will I tap out and quit fighting and walk a distance from the life of His blessing?
>>>Am I so hungry for Him...that I will "limp" for the rest of my life, if that is what it takes?
>>>>Do I want His name for me (Christ-follower)
...or my name for self (successful, well-regarded)?
The buzzer is sounding....
will you leave your corner?
Will I leave mine?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The title is intentional.
In this week of Thanksgiving, I am personally hoping to make it far more than food and football. (And I really love them both.) (Did you notice I left out shopping? :)
Somehow deconstructing that word (Thanksgiving) and putting "Giving" in the foreground, helps me think and act more clearly.
'cause the real stuff of this week comes from initiative not just appetite.
And letting "Thanks" stand alone, makes it somehow clearer.
Giving Thanks is not just a mumbled "good food" as everyone gets up from the table...
Giving Thanks is a clear, from-the-heart expression of appreciation and regard to someone that is meaningfully expressed and well-received. You can tell when you are in that realm because it is often the realm of watering eyes....and trembling lips.
And it is the same with God....you can't go very far in expressing a depth of thankfulness to Him before your heart is so full that a holy meltdown can be drawn very close.
This piece, in fact, got triggered in me by a recall of Romans 1:21 -
"Though they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,
but their thinking became futile and
their foolish hearts were darkened."
No wonder there are so many (100+) references to the example and benefit of giving thanks in the Bible. Somehow it feels to me like Romans is saying: one of the signs of darkness within, and a creeping darkness at that.....is an absence of giving thanks. (Withold the thankfulness that should be expressed....and the darkness creeps in a little further.)
So in the days of this week (and beyond) may we give thanks clearly and lavishly.
Not just for a wonderful meal.
But for a sunny day, a cool breeze, a multi-colored sunset, a warm bed, a smile that cheers, a partner who stays, a child who delights, a job that provides, faith that lifts, grace that forgives, courage that just keeps going, and stars that humble, birds that mystify, and rocks that solidify, and memories that bring jollity...and...
We are surrounded by a thousand things (really) for which we can speak our thanks.
So may we find times this week to be deeply giving thanks
......to God, to friends and family.
In fact, I suggest that you plan a time of Giving Thanks for the gathering and celebration you will be a part of.
Have someone take the lead and invite people to engage one another, or the group as a whole in a time of giving thanks....let it go long enough so that it will have time to become very real and include everyone in the group.
Then follow that up with a time of prayer to God, Who in His great love and mercy "has given us everything richly for our enjoyment." (I Timothy 6:17)
Have a wondrous week...
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Lots of shifting going on these days.
People moving, changing jobs, dropping "unneccesary" stuff, adding "what really matters."
Watching their commitments.
Looking for stuff that will help them manage the pressures and tightness of life AND
dropping stuff that "really isn't helping," but instead is just draining energy and using up time.
It seems that in a lot of places people are more restless...unpredictable....less resilient...less committed.
I think of recent stories of long-time members just disappearing, people who made promises seeming to forget them quickly.
Result? Pastors feeling abandoned and overloaded....too much to do, and too few to do it.
A tough situation
but not a new one.
(Wasn't it Paul who wrote, "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world" - II Timothy 4:10? Or as The Message renders it, "Demas, chasing fads....went off ...and left me here."
So how can we get a hold of some glue that will make the church more cohesive?
Here is a short list of ideas on getting more Glue.
Glue 1: Be clear on the issue of commitment.
If people sense that we are committed without wavering, it will increase their likelihood of being committed as well. Have you told them these times challenge you too?...but you have heard from the Lord to stand firm? Sometimes churches have had such a history of pastoral change and instability that they must say within, "why should I hang tough here?"
Glue 2: Regularly encourage those who are sticking strong.
Everyone is drawn to stability and continuance as they sense that what they are doing really matters. If you are leading them, one of your big responsibilities is to see that they know they matter and are appreciated on a regular basis. (Not just once a year in a formal manner!) Be lavish in your gratefulness to people. All the time. Get creative here too....have fun, and celebrate faithfulness.
Glue 3: As a leader, share your life with those you lead.
Jesus walked hundreds of miles with, foraged with, ministered alongside, struggled with, and risked with his followers. It was life that drew them in, not just words. It was not meeting-based...it was life-based. (And He lost a few too.)
They were in on His life and it motivated them greatly. It increased their love for Him and their willingness to die for Him.
Glue 4: Always try to relate even the smallest of tasks to the big picture.
People need to know that cleaning up a room is critical to the larger picture of people being a part of the Family of God, living in an orderly and appealing manner. Even the smallest strokes of the brush are part of the whole picture.
Glue 5: Make sure everyone knows the protocol of coming AND going.
Disengaging is a process just as coming and engaging is. Did they suddenly leave because they had no idea how to do it otherwise - and their discomfort made that an easy choice? (Incidentally, being willing to be open here, will draw most people towards you. It will also build character in them for their business and life relationships.)
Glue 6: When people complete a term of service or big task, be sure to debrief with them and thank them.
Sometimes people lead poorly...and then live with an internal negative backwash and that adds to the desire to leave and escape the whole scene (ie church). Debriefing will help greatly.
Also, don't let leaders just go on and on and on letting people serve...that sometimes precipitates an exit when a sabbatical from leadership would be so much better for everyone.
Glue 7: Make sure Jesus is on board actively with you.
His presence is truly the greatest cohesive plus in any church that would be strong.
Paul put it this way: "Everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible...
everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body." Colossians 1:17ff.
Finally, don't beat yourself up when people leave. That will only take precious energy away that is really needed. I remember counting over 200 who had moved, left, disappeared in just one year when the church was otherwise thriving. (But more than 200 had come - :))
Keep adding the glue....and when that is not enough, don't accept the gloom.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In our travels, for many weeks now, one theme has emerged large in our conversations with church leaders.
The challenges of economic belt-tightening.
It seems that no community is exempt from the pressures being faced all over the country due to the economic downturn.
Pressures indeed.....salaries cut, offerings down (in many situations, not all), ministry support being reassessed, people moving to get jobs, businesses closing, retirements postponed, cars driven longer, community programs trimmed or shut down, restaurants with lots of space, parks in disrepair.
It seems like it is everywhere you look.
It is a sober and anxious time and one that calls for reflection and response.
And that is where I begin to gather faith...in the fact that this is not an isolated thing.
Everyone around us is feeling what we are feeling.
It is not your church that is somehow singled out...it is all of us.
We are not alone.
And most of all...we are not alone, because God is with us.
He specializes in showing up when things are difficult...and we feel so dependent on Him.
It is in these times when He especially seems to delight to put His fingerprints all over our lives.
God IS with us.
This season is not surprising Him.
In fact, I am convinced more and more that He has a specific intention in mind in what is happening all around us.
In Acts 11, the same chapter that says believers were
"scattered by persecution" and
"severe famine was about to devastate the country"
these words also are found:
"for the first time they were called Christians" and
"the community grew large and strong in the Master." (from the Message).
God does not drop in and out - with us in the good times, and away in other places in the bad times - His secure pledge to us is this: "I will never leave you or forsake you."
He is with you right now as you read and think about these words...and with me as I write them.
So our challenge is to pray,
"Lord, show me Your presence,
and what I can do to respond to this crisis,
and how my life in the midst of these times can show others who are living in great anxiety what a difference it makes to know you as my Friend."
And here are a few of my ideas - hopefully to prime your pump and tune you in a bit more to what the Spirit of God might say to you and your circle of believers as you listen to Him:
Five Community ideas...
1. How about a more purposeful sharing of meals together? Not asking the cooks among you to wear out, but perhaps building a rotation that frees cooks up from some nights each week and brings believers (and non-believers?) into a more purposeful (and money-saving) relationship.
2. How about sharing tools? appliances? and building/repairing energies?
3. How about sharing living spaces? (Wow, do you remember the community movement of the 70's? We had community houses - with a total of about 30 living there - as a part of our church and it really was used of God.)
4. How about pooling care-giving to children, and the elderly?
5. How about establishing a resources response team to oversee the development of all of this within the church? And a way for all to communicate easily....so that the responses can become more timely and effective?
God, thank You that You are with us. And You have a plan for these times.
May each of the communities You have placed us in become stronger in these days...not faithless and fearful.
May many look and see tangible evidence of Jesus' people standing in practical and loving strength in the midst of challenging times.
And may this kind of response bring many to want in on this Family, and trust You with their whole life.
Could this time be a setup?
For instance, just one chapter in Romans offers
Monday, November 9, 2009
I pushed my chair back from the desk and began to pray fervently.
I had just received word that Fort Hood was the site of violent activity
and now was on complete lockdown.
Where were our kids?
The lockdown was to last for 6+ hours,
and after it, 13 were dead and c40 were injured.
Micah heard the sounds of gunfire, but was in a building about one mile away.
And now our prayers shifted from the issue of their survival,
to "God do not waste this moment in their lives."
Jackie was especially focused in this way.
In the hours that followed here is what happened:
was asked to deliver possessions of a fallen soldier to his mother who had been flown in because of what had happened. It was a very sober assignment
and he would have Ella with him as well.
Would this even work?
When he came to the room where the mother was, he did so with, Ella in arm.
The mother came to the door and he expressed his deep sympathy and that of his fellow servicemen
....and the mother began to weep.
With that, Ella (aged 2) held out her arms to the mother
and in a moment she was being held by the grieving mother and providing comfort to her.
was asked to provide some keyboard and vocal leadership at a Fort Hood vigil Friday evening. She did so, and her ministry to several hundred mourners, was wonderful.
The head chaplain of the Army gave her a special gift honoring her for her for her service.
3. They both ended up in the media coverage of the events at Fort Hood.
4. And since, there have been further signs of God at work in them.
And I think back to the times of decision about enlistment
....to the times of stress and danger in Afghanistan
....and to the patience required now relative to current placement and progress.
And then this happens
and we realize that God's placement process is so much more complete than ours
....His ways are higher.
If we will stay the course,
with open hearts to listen and obey,
He will extend His Presence and Life through us.
And only heaven itself will reveal the infinite impact of it all.
His placement is perfect.
may you and I bloom where He has planted us.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
November 5, 2009
They entered the water in ones and twos.
It was 60 degrees in the water...a bit warmer on land....with a landward breeze.
We sat at a table near the window, watching, and eating, and murmUring at the site below.
The final beach preparation:
stretching, and putting on a wet suit and a bright colored head covering.
Then it was into the water and a long, long swim. Over waves and across the long arms of seaweed. The floating course markers went out almost as far as eye could see. Until the splashes from the swimers seemed like raindrops on the horizon.
They swam for close to an hour and then returned....some at considerably slower pace. But many driving hard for the finish.
I asked a local: "Who are these people?"
"Triathletes, preparing for the next olympics."
So, this far off,
a race before the world,
and the hope of a medal and raised arms on the victor's stand
is what IS propelling these people forward day after day.
Ah, I think I understand.
And I wonder - what is propelling me?
What is calling forth endurance in my life?
"Do you see what this means?
- all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?
It means we'd better get on with it.
Strip down, start running - and never quit!
No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in.
Study how he did it.
Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever.
And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith,
go over over that story again, item by item,
that long litany of hostility he plowed through.
That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!"*
In the swim...with you!
*Hebrews 12:1ff...The Message
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
About 30 years ago, The Seven gathered on the hills of Texas to meet in a comfortable setting and do some very important team-work. Our assignment was to draft an enduring core philosophy of Chi Alpha, the international campus ministries arm of the Assemblies of God.
Dave Gable - remarkably engaging, disarming, and on point - national leader, prophetic
Brady Bobbink - discipler par excellence, and clear thinker, and fun, and abandoned to Christ
Jim Hall -passionate for evangelism and with much intense commitment
Dennis Gaylor - a make it happen guy, with energy and joy and can-do to share with all
Harvey Herman - a straight-ahead campus lifer, with depth of process and total commitment
Hershel Rosser - a wise, loving, committed, humble man
and....Dave Argue - (I won't try the descriptives)
And we took some pics....all smiles, and bearded, and 70's clothed. :)
And we worked really hard....over phrases and philosophical fits and big principles...and went back and forth until we couldn't do it any more. Teamwork. No-egomaniacs. All we wanted was Jesus on campus. And in a few days we were all somewhere between exhausted and satisfied.
And between the seams, it was fabulous food, and play in the Guadalupe River, and stories that had us all in fits of laughter. (Shoot Blue!! :)
And a few days ago we met again as a group in LaJolla, California, to remember, and see what would happen. Lots of the hair is white, and lots of it is gone, and we're moving a bit more carefully and there are war stories that bring tears to the eyes.
And the work of the 7 remains...in fact it is an anchor in the training materials to this day.
And along with that....the fierce hugs and laughter, and deep affection and open-heartedness remains as well. It seemed to all that getting back to the way it was 30 years ago, was almost effortless. It really is an eternal Kingdom.
And I think it has helped me believe even more, that when the relational stuff leads the way, the work will remain. When there is truth at the core and passion on the edge...the product will be good and endure. When there is God...whatever is done lasts.
And heaven looks even more wonderful.
And I pray for you, my friend, that you may have a "7" time in your life. Where a foretaste of heaven will break forth and you will feel so at home...so a part of something that lasts.
And maybe just reading this is the Spirit's way of moving you towards a hunger....and times of living that will surround you with God's love.
Just think....the best is yet to come.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
VALUES - PART 3 - CORPORATE VALUES
Well, "a big snow storm is moving in"...and who knows what's going to happen to the hours just ahead. So here is a pre-blizzard blog. (The next entry will be November 4 - after Jackie and I return from a Chi Alpha/Campus Ministries trip to California.)
Incidentally, in the last two days, this site has been hit almost 60 times.
Hey everybody.....your zeal and commitment in this is wonderfully heartening to me.!
You're going to keep me going, and going, and going..... :)
(Actually....more and more I sense God's Presence in all of this and I feel in the process I am actually discovering an important part of myself for this season of life.)
...and now, back again, to stuff about Corporate Values.
The Seven Corporate Values that served us so well were/are:
Creedal unity of faith anchors our fellowship together. (See last Blog)
Interdependence with other churches of like faith is valued over independence competition, and absolute congregational sovereignty.
*Always seeking to be a unifying presence wherever we went.
*No pride trips privately or publicly.
*Instead, humility of heart and action...and looking out for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ....and the community at large.
*Staying with the creedal, bullseye, (see last blog) unless the relationship is far enough along to begin little debates...:)..."speaking the truth in love" and growing in Christ.
Lengthy times of both worship and teaching are essential in the formation of a people of God - as against - brief and culturally-bound programs.
*At the start, our services would go nearly 2 hours.
*No pigeonholed piety...or conveyor belt Christianity.
*As we grew, into the hundreds of people and multiple services, even then, we refused to push worship and teaching into smaller and smaller boxes. We kept having a strong offering of christian ed stuff...and leadership development stuff.
*Worship, we discovered, enters the realm of reality best when there is time for everyone to catch up in spirit, when there are non-structured moments, time to "be still" together, and time for the Spirit to breath His unique dimensions of life into the gatherings.
Informality, approachability and creativity are valued
over formality, propriety (got a dictionary?), distance and predictability.
*Chairs in arked formations....staff seated with the congregation....no one seated on a platform....time to linger after with one another and talk and pray.
*Staff mixing freely with people all day vv programmed into move faster and faster
*Almost as much space in the foyer as in the auditorium - with coffee ++
*Lots of people late coming into worship because of so many in the foyer?..could be sign of revival!
Volunteerism and wide participation (even by the "untested") is valued
over professionalism, spectatorism, and hiring for ministry.
*Our first staff hire was a family life coordinator....who wrote activities for families to learn together each week and helped us with our parenting and spiritual leadership with the very young. Children and the young do need special care. (That first staff person is now one of the city's best educators.)
*But, we refused to go pro with much else...weighing in on the end of trusting the Spirit with His choices and gifting.....and we conciously chose to go with less quality and more reality and accessability
Pastorally overseen spiritual gift expression and (often) consequent ministry development and formation is valued above top-down program construction, recruitment and slick organization.
*Every Sunday (virtually) was a time for listening and responding to the Spirit's prompts.
*Time and a clear and orderly process was allowed to facilitate naturally freedom with order.
As that came into place, we found that some people drove up to 50 miles (one way), because they sensed their lives so addressed by the Spirit of God.
(This is a whole other process which we will hopefully get to address here at some point. If you can't wait call 719-339-7746)
Personal uniqueness and freely chosen commitments are valued and to be protected from the natural pressures of corporate institutionalization. We will seek to stay as clear as possible from overt or covert manipulation.
*"What I sense God is calling me to do," must be kept ahead of "what we need you to do is."
* What are your gifts and joys?, where do you sense God's presence in your life? - ahead of - going on and on with a fading sense of purpose, and non-fruitful ministries perpetuated, thus "you must."
(This led us at times to stop ministries, just not start them, and feel affirmation and peace when a long-term leader said "enough for now:")
* It also led us to stumble into letting things be experimented with "that just might be God."
And now beginneth the practice.
Remember, Values are only of value (sorry!) if they are kept before a church as living ideas.
This can be done we found, if they are put in written form with occasional bulletin insert or handout.
They are only of value if the pastor/leaders take them in hand and periodically ask the hard questions - where are they clearly in play in what we are actually deciding and doing?
So what are the actual values of your fellowhip right now?
And what is reading this blog and listening to the Spirit pushing you towards?
Hope you engage seriously in these questions as a christian leader.
And that you will sense as you do that you are being led in the process to fresh life and strength.
May your values be His....and may every bit of your energy be focused well.
Feedback welcomed. firstname.lastname@example.org
See you again on the 4th.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Values - Part 2
In the last blog entry we focused on the Foundational Values:
the work of the Holy Spirit and
I recommend that before you read today's entry...you go back and read that blog.
They are intended to go in together.
The church that I am using to illustrate these truths was begun on the campus of the University of Nebraska and always had a strong representation of students/faculty from there. That naturally pushed us to lay the kind of foundation I am describing briefly here....with a clear set of values that we considered frequently to sort out corporate and even very practical decisions. They kept us on track when discouragement or success could have tended to push us off course.
Here are the Corporate values we lived with.
(Corporate values are local church-held values - while
foundational values are more universal Church-wide values.)
Corporate Value #1
Creedal unity of faith is the truth formulation that anchors our fellowship.
This value helped us navigate with openness and clarity in a thoughtful environment.
Here's a quick explanation.
Imagine a bullseye with three rings.
(I draw this on a scrap of paper in a coffee shop setting frequently....and label it "Truth 101."
I recommend you try this out even as you read.)
The center of the bullseye I label: "Creeds"...and refer to the 2nd century Nicene Creed as a great point of illustration. In that center circle I also write "Jesus is Lord" - the simplest confession of faith always in the New Testament and in the early church.
In the second ring I write: "Doctrines" - which is important contemporary church formulations of truth - like, how, when, who and by whom do you baptize? How, when, who takes communion?
In the third ring I write: "Convictions" - like, what does it mean to live a holy life?
All the rings represent truth to be held with integrity, but all levels of truth are not of equal ly strategic importance.
Then, I write three other words about how I hope to manage those levels of truth on a corporate level. On the third ring: "dialog." On the second ring: "debate." And on the center - the truth of Jesus Lordship - "die" - it is refusal to flinch on this level of truth that has through the centuries produced a great number of martyrs. It is at this level of truth that we are members of God's Family, or not.
This helped us keep truth more clearly in view...keeping a firm grasp on what is truly critical truth, respecting each other's convictions, genuinely loving and accepting people no matter where they are on the journey towards life-giving faith. And not "killing" people for what is not credal truth itself.
Hope so. This diagram is truly part of the truth that "sets me free."
I'll resume with Corprate Values number 2 and beyond - next time.
For deeper absorption...
1. Draw the diagram and then try to place in it where you are in much more detail.
2. Share the diagram with someone - see how you do explaining it and what questions they have. 3. Look up the Nicene Creed and study it briefly noting how it handles the Trinity.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
With a core group of people, years ago, I helped to start a church.
Though so many of the excellent church-planting stuff that is available was not around then, we were a collegiate group that wanted it to go well....and so we did a lot of the stuff naturally that is taught today as a good way to plant.
The church began public meetings in an Episcopal chapel, moved within months to a nearby bingo hall and then on to a Seventh Day Adventist church. We had outgrown three facilities in just a few years.
Quite a ride!
(I'll bet you can tell that one of our core values was not "to have a contemporary, well-located building!")
All the while it grew and grew until we had gone through three building programs, and were into three services each weekend with over 1300 people attending on average.
(I'll bet you can tell that one of our core values was that people matter to God...and we should do everything reasonable to reach them.)
Actually, though, as we began, we could sense the great need to be clear about our values. It really is the best way to be good stewards of time and resources, to avoid conflicts, and to spend your time welcoming people and developing strong teamwork.
This blog and next....at least.....I want to briefly set forth what those values were/are.
They helped us greatly....and perhaps in some way they will help you as well.
You are welcome to incororate or adopt these as seems best, and I encourage you to give me a call so we can talk about them together and I can coach you as to how you might best proceed. 719-339-7746 - cell
Value #1 - The Bible
"What the Bible says is the most essential single ingredient to the description of values, personal and corporate."
A key to finding the answer to any question for us was finding out what the Bible says.
A large focus of every gathering was to study the Bible together.
A large amount of time on the part of teaching staff was spent in study.
And wherever possible we wrote out study materials, outline sheets and papers to make clear what the Bible says about various matters of special interest to our church.
You could not be around us for many days, till you sensed: the Bible really matters here.
Value #2 - Jesus Christ
"Jesus Christ is the most important personal model to emulate in living out values."
Though our times and cultures have changed greatly, we concluded that Jesus came "in the fullness of time" - the time carefully chosen by the Father to teach us "everything pertaining to godliness," and that the way He lived within time was for us a key model to how we should live. The pace, the attitudes, the love, the relationships of Jesus - and much, much more are a model for us to study and absorb as ours.
Value #3 - The Holy Spirit
"The work of the Holy Spirit in His gifting and power is the key to being equipped so as to value what God values and actualize the same."
Getting filled full of the Spirit and living that way, we sensed is the key to responding well to life's challenges. Stuff just changes when a full dose of the Spirit is applied. So we made teaching about the Spirit, Life in the Spirit Seminars, Sunday school classes on everything we could think of about the Spirit, and regular Sunday laboratories of the Spirit a regular part of our life. We taught new members about the Spirit and made books on the Spirit required reading for leaders.
Value #4 - Prayer
"Prayer is integral to any meaningful progress being made in any area of our life together."
So we were always strongly in prayer when as a church we gathered. Our services had much focus on prayer, corporate and individual. Our altars were always active. We had a prayer line by phone where people could call and receive immediate prayer and prayer teams and special times of fasting and prayer. And frequently there were testimonies given about answered prayer.
I have always been better at praying without ceasing than praying for an hour at a time (get it? :)....so my strength or weakness there became a cue to the whole church. We had occasional all-night prayer meetings, but those were rare...and fighting the fight against sleep seemed to be a prominent as the fight of faith. However, when you came among us, you heard people in prayer, saw people in prayer and were drawn into prayer actively. Some gatherings seemed to become almost an extended conversation of us all with God Himself.
We called these first four values our FOUNDATIONAL VALUES because they simply were a part of everything we were and did....they were the stuff of every recipe....like flour, and water, and salt.
Are these the values of your life? your ministry? Or have they become givens but tack-ons in what you are doing or who you are. Are they flour or frosting in your recipe called church?
I urge you to strengthen up by refocusing on these Foundational Values and watching God begin to take over your life more and more - corporately and personally.
More next time when we focus on CORPORATE VALUES.
These were what we called our Foundational Values.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
THE JESUS STYLE
I've been reading John's story of Jesus lately.
It is amazing - and strengthening -and clarifying - and challenging - to keep reading and keep picking up insights. I don't think I will ever get enough of the Gospels.
As I read I am using a dark brown pencil :) to underline phrases and expressions that tell me something of the timing Jesus lived with. And the pace and the processes of His life. This is easily seen in lots of the text, but often "hides" due to our traditional points of emphasis on other things. Sometimes I have been very guilty of looking only for doctrine and not life. Words, and concepts rather than behavior and relationships.
For instance, picking it up in John 4:40 - "So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed...After the two days he departed for Galilee....so he came again to Cana in Galilee.....and after this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem." John 4:40-5:1 - excerpted.
What is clear if the text is looked at carefully is that during these brief verses, about 130 miles is travelled......and all of it on foot. With no motels, no cars or fast transport, no McDs, no support systems of almost any kind. No bottled water or hamburger stands. No phones. No computers. No highways. No.....(keep going - and see how many things you can think of.....)
So what do you do when you have to go 130 miles in that environment?
In a 24 time frame this weekend....Jackie and I went about 300 miles. And that was just the front and back ends of that commitment to ministry. We didn't even think about it as we zoomed down Highway 71.
Join the Jesus group and the 130 would take you days. All done by foot.
All done in dependence on people....foraging for food, and a place to sleep. You made friends everywhere because they were the support system on which you depended. And with Jesus it was a 24/7 deal....
And so what do you process in that kind of schedule?
Everything. Everything that matters at all. Everything that comes to mind as important at all. All the questions that have ever bugged you. All the fears that have ever tried to stop you. Everything.
Doesn't this line of thinking make you yearn for just one of those walks with Jesus?
And somehow, lots of us (me too) have often got our spirituality reduced to a big gathering, for :90 on a weekend.....all put together by polished people....with greeters at the doors and all the words spoken with careful thought. Often it can be a group of very independent people meeting like porcupines all in reverse. (sorry!)
And then it is panicsville for the rest of the week....and we drive ourselves and everyone else around us crazy!
Hmm. Not quite the Jesus style.
So, how do we move more into the Jesus style?
No one can shift styles very quickly or without some pain....so if you are a pastor reading this, go slow. You make the shifts personally first and then pray a lot about what to lead your people in.
As one voice, I think the Jesus style would move more into our lives if...
1. we took more walks...literally - hey, how about creating a neighborhood walking club? (I saw a wonderful church campus this weekend and encouraged them to closely measure the perimeter of their beautiful property and make it available as a walking path to seniors.)
We would move more into the Jesus style if...
2. we turned off the noise more and more - TV, radio, IPods..whatever is dulling the precious silence out of which we can "be still and know" the voice of God.
We would move more into the Jesus style if...
3. we made eating together a more community and more relaxed quality time of conversation (and food) - and not the Bronco's (ok...don't quit reading now!)
We would move into the Jesus style if...
4. if we found a hill near our home and climbed it to pray for awhile
5. if we prayed for those needing God's intervention wherever we found them - the Jesus style includes His delight in doing big stuff in popular places like Safeway and Target.
6. Can you keep adding to this list?......
What the world needs is Jesus. Living in us, and speaking rescue and life into the panicy stuff that is often around us.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I thought about where I am.
At this point I continually have to watch for horizontally growing hairs, and unseen uglies. At the dentists I learned that I need to floss daily and mouthwash twice per day, along with brushing. Ah that makes the list of morning rituals long enough to stretch towards 10 - not really, but is it ever a trip, learning to travel through the stages and journeys of life.
All this (and more!) led me to scribble this down.
(Pardon, the very few minutes I spent on it.)
(And how is your journey going??!!)
Ah....sleep on, sleep on.
No day no night
No meals, no worry.
No cold or harshness
All is soft and warm
Is there any? It's just all blurry.
Hey man...stay up, stay up.
Enjoy the night...not up early.
Eat a lot and often...and live in flurry.
Scant clothes, rough edges.
All's exciting and in a hurry.
Who knows? Its just all scurry
Press on, press on.....and often into the night.
Sleep in fits and worry.
Eat too much and starve to make up...
Cover unkempt places...and scaley traces.
All's business and unbroken fury.
Never enough...to get er done.
Slower and slower...looking for meaning.
What is day?...nap and puzzle time.
Nothing tastes good. Snacks and pills to make it all up.
Disappearing comely places...freckled traces.
Looking for business in measured paces.
More and more...to get what done?
And I thought too of this verse:
"He's God, our God, in charge of the whole earth.
And He remembers, remembers His covenant -
For a thousand generations, He's been as good as His word."
Psalm 105 - The Message
Whatever your place in the journey.
Invite God to be in charge each day.
Monday, October 12, 2009
We travelled in the mountains for a bit this weekend, and twice I saw something truly breathtaking.
First a kestrel...a smallish, orange and blue hawk with round dark ovals on the sides. The size of a dove, and hovering probably 30 feet off the ground.
Then much later, a hawk...much larger, white and dark brown - streaked boldly....with very dark tips on wing.
Both doing the same thing - hovering.
When a bird hovers it is because it wants to stay in one place and has spotted something that might satisfy its hunger right below. So it hovers...wings going back and forth, rather than up and down....in a very constricted pattern, designed to move air just the right way to keep it in one place (even in the wind). And all the time, it's head is bent over tightly with fixed gaze at the ground.
It will hold that pattern for a number of seconds and then perhaps turn quickly into a dive to the ground below to lay hold of its vision.
It is an amazing moment of flight....and a God-designed process in the cycle of need and supply and overall balance in nature.
And I thought about the first hovering
....of the Spirit of God over a formless earth, dark and watery and lifeless.
"And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light..." Genesis 1:2-3 -
Ah, so the Spirit of God was hovering when it was all chaotic darkness....waiting to bring forth light, life, order, people, process, meaning.
He did not wait until everything was in order before He began His presence process.
He appeared in the darkness and turned it into light...into the formlessness and gave it intricate meaning and design.
Hovering over....intently watching, astonishingly purposeful.
Holy Spirit, would you hover over me today?
Would you dive into my day, over and over, to satisfy the hungers of my heart?
When my attempts at form result in void, would you change it all and make it God-like?
Only when You are hovering, Lord, do I truly experience life.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
October 7, 2009
"Come see this, hon. It's the biggest snake in the world."
Jackie was sitting with her Apple (selah! :))...viewing a short clip someone had sent her on Facebook.
I approached, bent over and peered into the screen....hmm...a fat smoothe body on a very long ledge, long, long, long......looks like an anaconda, I thought....and the camera kept moving until it got to the head....beady eyes, retractible jaw.....and suddenly it hissed loudly and lunged at the camera, no...it was lunging at ME.
I jumped back, literally, startled....heart racing, prayers of repentance coming from my lips (just kidding).
"You've got to see it again," Jackie said.
I said, "OK." and leaned over again, telling myself, this time I'm cool. This isn't real...I know where this is going. Not to fear.
And once again this huge serpent passed before my eyes. And lunged again at the camera....and again I leaped backwards, now thoroughly embarrased at my instincts.
Instincts deeply ingrained by too many National Geographics and TV Amazon trips.
Instincts deeply ingrained in me - by God.
It was that way in century one. Paul, shaking off a serpent that had biten him. Power given to believers to withstand the attacks of serpents. The snake in the first garden - with his bite translated into an apple. The snake on the pole, prefiguring Christ, Whose only ever death and resurrection would forever offer the snake threat and snake-bite cure to all of us.
And I remember the time I literally drew breath and jumped back...as though it was a snake I was facing.....but this time it was venom on the screen -sexually corrupting images - intended to poison the sex-life and moral purity of anyone who would linger and be mesmerized by its steady evil gaze. Any person, if not "jumping back," would be wraped up, coil by coil intil the breath of life would leave them....and the final bite would be eternal death.
So thank God if/when you jump back. Praise God for the racing heart when evil looms large in front of you. And get out of there. Turn it off, turn away, run.
Stay clear of the snakes....they are under a lot of rocks along the pathways we travel.
With you in the racing-heart-and-jumping-back club.
Monday, October 5, 2009
21 WAYS TO RELIEVE STRESS
I did it again this morning….took a reading of my blood pressure. Ah, below 140/80…sign of a good weekend just enjoyed. Not always the case…then I take one of those oblong white things….just to be sure.
Cause…stress is "the silent killer."…..and I don't want to go, and if I have to, I don't think I would prefer silently.
Do you get stressed?
When you are experiencing tension or anger or stress, here are some suggestions for seeking relief. Try them all. Note the ones that work for you and use them over and over. Above all, avoid popping pills to reduce stress.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise dissipates life's tensions well. The threshold for aerobic value and overall wellbeing is :20 minutes of vigorous walking – the kind that ends up putting a glistening on your forehead.
- Give yourself permission to express your feelings with crying, or forceful speech. You'll usually feel better after letting it out.
Talk it out. Discuss the tensions with a friend or family member.
Breathe very slowly and more deeply. Concentrate on slow, deep breathing patterns counting to ten each time as you inhale & exhale completely.
Get a massage. This helps to relieve partial muscle contractions and induces relaxation. What a gift to give and receive to/from your married partner. Ask me about foot rubs.
Take a hot bath and just linger lazily in it.
Redirect your mind. Practice the art of pondering, thinking carefully, meditating on something of beauty.
Get in touch with friends. Relational time helps to buffer or alleviate stresses.
Take up a hobby that occupies your mind & takes you to new places.
If you are overweight, start to daily reduce your level of body fat.
Cut back on sugars and get your diet focused on healthy eating.
Practice relaxing. One by one, focus on systematically tensing and then deeply relaxing your muscles. 10-15 minutes will do wonders.
Worship. Put on some uplifting music, or if you can, play an instrument, and open up your soul to the greatness and sovereignty of God.
Reduce the noise all around you (turning stuff off?), slow down (if you keep up this scramble and rush you will arrive all of 2 minutes earlier) and let a quieter, softer, lights-down environment soothe your soul.
Journal to think a bit more clearly and treasure your day. Just this morning I wrote down all the good things that happened this weekend. It was a treasure in so many ways and I did not want to forget. If it is tension-producing stuff, I have found that just writing things down often helps with feeling a bit more in control and less panicked.
Make a list of all the things you are thankful for, big and small, distant and nearby, personal and global, recent and a long time ago. Review & add to often.
Soak yourself in Jesus…read the gospels a lot. He said: "I will give you rest." And what mental peace comes when we have scripture deeply enough within to be able to whisper it and let its security put arms around our hearts.
Affirm and give thanks to people – notes, cards, e-mails, gifts. Giving lifts the heaviness and tensions. "It IS better to give than to receive."
If you are tense because of a hurt or wrong done to you, be radical – just forgive them from your heart – not because you have to or want to but because "Christ has forgiven you" freely and completely. Give it completely to God. Hands off.
Read/watch/tell something funny. Push away the tensions with laughter… because the world is a lot bigger and God is a lot more loving and in control, than your tensions were trying to make you believe.
And the #1 choice of married men – make love to your wife!
Monday, September 28, 2009
Yesterday I heard a lot about some very dangerous men.
Story goes....it all started some months ago, when on a Saturday morning they met quietly in the church basement for breakfast, giving every appearance of being godly and fair-minded....and then suddenly, after eating....they simply tore the kitchen of the church completely apart.....nothing was spared, not the cupboards, not the appliances....everything went under their blows and prying.
The next month they did it again...but this time it was the carpet in the church....they tore it out completely. Gone...not a trace left.
Dangerous men indeed.
Thankfully though, their actions did not signal destruction, but the outset of a months-long process of refurbishing the kitchen, and indeed, the entire church in Brush, Colorado.
And some of the MAPS people showed up on four different occasions to "attack" other parts of the building, especially the outside.
You should see it all now....fresh tile on the floor, the smell of new carpet in the air, paint in soft tones on so many walls, some old walls removed for a bigger look, and a fresh outside touch as well.
Calvary Assembly, Brush, Colorado.
We were there yesterday in a service given over entirely to celebration. (I spoke from Ezra 3)
One of the "dangerous" men was presented with the "golden knee pads award" - you should have seen it! Another worker received a "golden paintbrush" - for you-can-guess-what.
Over $20,000 was given and hundreds of hours were volunteered.
And the impact of it all is being felt already - in the love and unity in the church, the faith that is palatable and the people crowding the facility - more during the week than on the weekend!!
Way-to-go Pastors Don and Wendy Lott....and the great family of God that have worked with you.
...home to some very dangerous men.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Wildfires are a terrible thing.
Everything affected...the ground, the air, trees, flowers, homes, people, pets.
Only ashes left....and smoke....and rubble.
Memories, peace, life, comfort - gone.
Wildfire in a person's life is just the same.
So, building a firewall - a perimeter that provides safety - is a great idea.
>Establishing personal boundaries and maintaining personal strengths can go a long ways to protecting marriage and families and ministry.
>Open confession, accountability measures with self and others is just the same.
Here are five firewall standards that I (and church staff I have overseen) have practiced and found helpful:
1. No one-on-one alone contexts with the opposite sex (or troubled same-sex) including in the following situations: a. driving a car or other mode of transportation
b. eating with a person of opposite sex - even in a public place
c. making visit/s to a person in a place of residence
d. responding to emergencies in private locations
e. meeting a person in the office when the offices are closed.
2. If you have to meet someone when the office is closed, do so with a third party present, or near enough to be have their presence felt.
3. If married, at all times your spouse should know where you are and be able to reach you.
4. No touch....even in public places, exercise extreme caution. This is tinder for many fires.
5. If your mind rehearses immoral constructs....confess that as sin and plainly to God, and take that as a warning that you need to build an even stronger firewall.
"God wants you to live a pure life.
Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.
God hasn't invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life, but into something holy and beautiful - as beautiful on the inside as the outside.
May you (and I) be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God...."*
* From I Thessalonians 3&4 - The Message
Monday, September 14, 2009
"In the last analysis it was (George) Washington
and the army that won the war for American independence.
The fate of the war and the revolution rested on the army.
The Continental Army -
not the Hudson River or the possession of new York or Philadelphia
- was the key to victory.
And it was Washington who held the army together
and gave it "spirit" through the most desperate of times.
He was not a brilliant strategist or tactician,
not a gifted orator,
not an intellectual.
At several crucial moments he had shown marked indecisiveness.
He had made serious mistakes in judgment.
But experience had been his great teacher from boyood,
and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from expeience.
Washington never forgot what was at stake
and he never gave up."*
(*Concluding assesment of David McCullough
- Pulitzer Prize winner - in his account of "1776.")
Leadership has always been the key.
The kind of leadership that..
Learns from experience...
Remembers what is at stake.....
And never gives up....
(at least until Jesus says, "enough.")
Keys to greatness.
Deep inner qualities of person....past the showy, easily seen stuff.
May we be full of that kind of greatness.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I received this e-mail several days ago.
"Music is pleasing not only because of the sound
but because of the silence that is in it:
without the alternation of sound and silence, there would be no rhythm.
If we strive to be happy by filling in the silences of life with sound,
productive by turning all life's leisure into work,
and real by turning all our being into doing,
we will only succeed in producing a hell on earth.
If we have no silence, God is not heard in our music.
If we have no rest, God does not bless our work.
If we twist our lives out of shape
in order to fill every corner of them with action and experience,
God will seem silently to withdraw from our hearts and leave us empty."*
May your life and mine be full of the rhythms of grace.
*From: Through the Year with Thomas Merton
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
We traveled over 2000 miles by car in the last week. To Houston and back...plus some zig zags.
Listened to some radio during. (and some Garrison Keilor sp?)
Some of the christian stations were playing hymns...some in the original style, some instrumental, some vocal, some with contemporary edges.
Hymn: (Webster) "a song in praise to God." That's ok for starters and most basic definition, but I would prefer to add, "normally with verses, rather thematic focus, and most often with a memorable chorus."
We were in church on Sunday morning - a deep south, rural, small, pew-and-pulpited Texas church - and they sang hymns. To a quick tempo, with twangy words, and guitar to match, nodding heads and deep heart expressions. I had discovered a new style of church - Texas style.
Our family shared several days all together - days of rich conversation, good food and lots of laughter. (And some NU football.) Part of the family is now on the road to Florida....so we cherished this time to all be together in a special way.
And just before we said "good bye" we sang hymns. Mom had requested it and so we circled up and sang in parts, and I for one had to drop out quite frequently because it touched me so deeply inside. At times as we went deeper into the verses the clarity surrendered to jumbles of guesses, but the choruses....ah the choruses!
The youth among us stood willingly with us, but it seemed to take the adults to know the hymns by heart. And it occured to me so strongly that so many of our children are not learning hymns. What will they do when they need a hymn?
Jesus needed a hymn on the night he went to his death - "they sang a hymn and went out" - Matthew 26:30.
The early church saw what it did to Jesus and decided they did too. (See too Acts 16:25)
Paul, told us all that the Spirit energizes and equips us through hymns within us - "singing to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." (Eph. 5:19)
And Paul praised the Corinthian church for their gatherings that contained - "hymns" - I Corinthians 14:26.
Seems to me for thousands of years the people of God have been greatly strengthened (and catechized) through hymns.
Do you sing hymns?
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
We met for the first time in an old eatery.
I was a church- planting pastor looking for a place for the flock to meet.
The on-campus Episcopal chapel location was moving to an end and we needed more space.
Marvin was the head of a fraternal order, the Knights of Pythias….and they owned an old bingo hall just blocks from the chapel we were already meeting in…Lodge #14.
The Marvin information was being given to me by someone I had met with to seek ideas. And that person was telling me about Marvin and the Lodge and "maybe they would let you rent it on Sundays. They have bingo on Saturdays, but perhaps…– You need to contact Marvin. He is in charge, but he is really hard to get with" - and then they paused and said…"well, could you believe it, there is Marvin right over there." He too was getting food.
And so we met, Marvin and I.
A crusty, stocky, button-nosed middle-aged man with guttural voice and a fearsome reputation in the business community. Hair flying in all directions and a few warts to boot…with story after story of wheeling and dealing, profit and loss. Glee and anger.
And me, a young church planter, thin, with tenor voice and a smallish nose and knowing nothing at all about business.
And he rented the Bingo hall to us – gave us a good deal…and after a time started dropping in on our guitar-led, half-circled, long, long services.
My first understanding of how he really felt about us was when he attached us to the Lodge in a formal introduction…and did so with evident pride.
And when the Lodge just didn't work for the church any more, we found a Seventh-day Adventist building – aren't you glad they worship on Saturdays? – and Marvin followed us there.
And finally we outgrew that place too, and now 10 years into the life of the church we were trying to buy land. And Marvin emerged again to help us negotiate and contributed greatly to the process.
And when the building opened he was there…..with his wife, Dorothy.
And on some days he would wipe tears. And sometimes he would just get angry over something. And I remember one day when he raised his hand.
And on some days he would write his own version of beatitude: "blessed are the gruff for they shall take the earth by force."
And after so long there were occasions of prayer.
And on a cold windy day, I conducted Dorothy's funeral.
And this week………………………………………..I have paused long knowing someone was doing his funeral.
And I marvel at the intricate journey of life….
The way God uses people, all kinds of people, to build His church.
The combinations of people He puts together to provide the chemistry that ignites.
The way He rescues the ignorant and insecure J and surrounds them with strength.
The orchestration of inches that produce miles of progress. (1400 people, 15 acres, a huge building)
It is after all, all about….
Monday, August 31, 2009
August 31, 2009
– Dateline yesterday.
I had been on the church campus for over two hours already…prowling the grounds, looking at the building, watching the day accelerate from start and now well into the second service. I decided to go back out the front entry and just see what I could find of interest. And I found a lot that I think will help the church be even more effective in opening up ways for people to come towards Jesus.
We were there yesterday to look the church over and do an evaluation of everything on Sunday morning.
From the parking, to point of entry, to the facility cleanliness and the strength and effectiveness of worship and teaching it proved to be a great church.
And now it was 11:15.
As I re-approached the entry, I saw four teens standing together, nicely dressed, but looking uncertain as to what to do. One stood a bit apart and I approached her with a friendly, "Hi, I'm Dave. How are you doing?" Her response, a very shy - "Ok, I guess."
"Are you new here?"
"Yes, it's my first day."
"Can I help you figure this place out a bit?"
Almost in a whisper…."Yes…thank you."
I moved towards the three standing nearby her…and discovered that all of them had never been here before either. They didn't know where to go, what to do, how to respond…..but then it hit me, how much they must be hungry for God to come and risk (as teens!) and enter a new (and mayby crazy!) world!
(The music was sounding strong from the auditorium, worship was in full swing.) There were only a handful of people left in the sweep-around front corridor….almost everyone had gone into the service and the place was almost full. One of them saw us and came over with a bulletin to give. That helped.
They seemed to relax a bit and smile more genuinely as I offered to take them up a flight of stairs and make sure they found a place to sit.
And then I left them in the hands of an usher, ready to find them a place to sit, and in his kindness to help them begin to discover what God is really like.
And I wonder if they were among the eight at the end of the service, that indicated a desire to encounter Jesus personally.
And I thought of what a great compliment He had paid to all of us in bringing such special people into this community.
And in my heart I volunteered to be a greeter until I can't stand on two feet or shake hands any more. J
…shy, but hungry.
And Jesus, only Jesus, can make them into world-changers and family-builders and prophets and teachers….and heaven-dwellers.
And some of us get to be the first to say "hello."
If you are a pastor reading this, I hope you have a greeter's ministry that really connects with people. Anyone can hand out a bulletin – and some do as a task, a have-to, a I hope-this-gets-done-soon job - but what a difference it can make if they learn to reach out and quickly love people, to see people as Jesus sees them…and make them start to feel like perhaps they have just come home. If they see what they are doing, not as volunteer service, but as a critical pre-birth ministry it will make a great difference indeed.
I hope that your greeters won't just get done, and then leave the entryways too quickly. I hope that they will realize that visitors probably come a bit late (at best), and often have to take the furthest away parking places (?) and navigate to the entry (if they can find it) and enter a new world (will it be ok?). Maybe they have come late to avoid too much crowd…and just sneak in unobtrusively. Jesus ran a welcoming ministry, but remember, they came to Him often "by night."
Ah, they have been brought there by the Spirit of God…but the final steps into life in Jesus will have to be by becoming part of the world of some people who know Him well, and just can't wait to introduce one more person to Him.
May the front doors of our churches be so full of sensitivity and love that people just can't wait to go all the way into Life with Christ.
Monday, August 24, 2009
My son-in-law returned from Canada recently and produced two (count em) two Coffee Crisp chocolate bars for me to savor. One is gone already….and the other, well, there is a bit of strategizing going on here…considering the options as to how to enjoy it fully.
Coffee crème…crispy wafers…and chocolate all over and around it.
Voila! The Cadbury people have produced a long-standing savory treat indeed.
And then there is white chocolate, chocolate bark, hot fudge, and a bunch of other cacao magic intended to make the moments even more palatable. (And who can withstand the allurement of chocolate fondue?)
Decadent? ……….("falling into moral degeneration")
Devilish? ……..… ("yielding to satan's intrigues and temptations")
Another sign of North American church decay?
Just another cause to get more Biblically sound (and culinarily happy).
"Nothing to excess."
Nothing to bulge the "temple."
"everything to richly enjoy" - I Timothy 6:17
part of the "everything to be received with thanksgiving" – I Timothy 4:3-5
So line 'em all up
….the slugs, the leaves, the shiny rocks, the penguins, the star specs, the sunsets
Called in some places…theobromine….literally, "the food of the gods"…not devil's food!
So the next time you have some in your grasp…
…give thanks, enjoy it richly, but don't eat it muchly.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
And so today, the reports and video accounts are coming in of women, many veiled, voting at small, cardboard voting stations
....risking their lives to express their opinions.
Some are not veiled
...refusing to be cowered into oblivion.
Men who refuse to remain in their homes, but vote to express their hope that their rugged land will move thereby towards order and well-being.
And in our home there were tears.
The evil seems to be being pushed back
...and we will see what the lasting results actually are.
Hopefully, a system of peace and order can come more into place.
People can live their lives not captive to the evil prince of darkness and terror.
And even, in the midst of it all, somehow, encounter the Prince of Peace....the One who bestowed such dignity upon women for all time and played freely with children. And Who gave the entirety of His life for the redemption of the world.
And who turns and by grace restores all who look to Him in faith.
Jesus...Savior of the world....and Afghanistan.
Thank you to our men who have and are serving the cause of peace.
You have spent your energy doing something that truly matters. Look on and see your shaddow falling across the paths of the people who today walk bravely towards a new and hopeful life.
We are all thankful today as we witness the progress.
Watching this day with a grateful heart.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
WE WRESTLE NOT
The three words above would in some contexts be taken as a complete statement of fact. We do not wrestle -would the sense.
I am lifting these three words, however, out of St.Paul's letter to a church in a very pagan city. As originally written it was this way: "We wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against rulers of wickedness in heavenly places." (Ephesians 6)
IE - we (the whole church in Ephesus and by extension, all of us who are followers of Jesus)
we are in a wrestling match, all of us
- but it is not people that we are matched against.
It is the evil powers behind them that are really casting the slurs and putting the moves on us continually....seeking to wither our faith, discourage our spirits, sap our energies.
Somewhere, a long time ago, I saw a comic rountine (the three stooges?) where some in the ring were not wrestling but while seeming to wish for less, were being tossed here and there around the ring.
Funny - if it's the commedian - but not if its us.
Recently I felt myself to be very much in a struggle....intense and mind captivating. Fear-producing and withering. And I fought back not heeding this verse, but in murmered prayers for help and waiting for the moment to pass.
In a sense I resisted, but in a true sense: I wrestled not.
And it was really a hard time.
This passage is calling us to wrestle against the powers set to do us in.
Here is a handful of helpful ideas for spiritual wrestlers:
1. Speak the name of Jesus out loud and with force. His is the name above every name.
2. Resist the enemy and he will flee. Attach "no" to what you are saying...and "get out of here " and "be gone"...whatever words put force from your spirit into the match, making things clear to all concerned.
3. "Stand"...do not get lured into his tricks or dazzled by his "moves." Just stand devoting your energy to the building up of your faith and focus.
4. Keep reminding yourself, no matter the ups and downs, that "greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."
5. And remember, in a hundred years, we'll all be in an eternal place, Jesus will still be reigning and none of us will even remember this which now seems so huge.
Wrestling...on the team with you.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Yesterday I was contacted by the Evangel, a weekly publication reaching most of our churches nationwide with the assigned topic of writing a brief article on Healing. This morning I wrote the article on what happend to Micah some time ago and I am letting it be my blog for today. Your feedback is welcomed....and pray for it to be a blessing to many and spark healing graces of our Lord all over the place.
Micah is our youngest son.
He was playing in a summer softball league….and broke his foot.
A trip to the doctor confirmed that it was broken – x-rays to substantiate.
And now the worries.
In just a few days he would be facing the extensive final medical clearance process which would clear him (?) to enter the army.
With a broken foot?
He came to see us for a final visit prior to the medical process.
And before he was to leave, it “seemed like a good idea” that we pray over him.
He sat in the big, easy chair in the living room….and two of us knelt by him and began to pray softly – and with very limited faith…at least that is what it felt like to me. It had been a family time entirely, and now it was mostly a farewell moment.
Faith? I sure could not sense much of it…..just obedience, doing what Jesus told us to do as His followers.
As we prayed, invoking the name of Jesus over him, suddenly he came up out of the chair with a shriek. (I am embarrassed to admit it, but I thought I had done something wrong….or “laid hands on him” too firmly!)
After all, I thought we were just following the directive of scripture: “lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Lord, do I need to apologize to him?
Several days later he called us, having just seen an army doctor and explained the situation to him. The doctor took fresh x-rays and in a few minutes came back into the room, both sets of x-rays in hand. And he began the consultation with this question to our son:
“Are you a religious man?”
Micah’s answer: “Yes, Sir, I am.”
The doctor then said: “Well, I am too, and from all I know, I am holding the evidence of a miracle in my hands. In this set of x-rays your foot is broken, and in this set, it is healed. Your foot is fine and I have no problem clearing you to proceed with your plans to enlist.”
The shriek from Micah as we were praying over him was the bone being reset: God’s “hand” under ours.
(The pain he still felt to some degree in his foot, was simply the foot adjusting to the new wellness, and in several days, as the doctor predicted, the pain disappeared.)
Micah was cleared fully, enlisted, shipped out, and just weeks ago returned from a full tour of duty in Afghanistan.
No foot problems.
I reflect often on what happened….how easy it would have been to have not prayed, and instead told him we “would be praying” for him.
How often I have waited for a feeling inside of me, of inspiration or faith or energy, actually, I can see it now, falling into the trap of thinking that is something in me is the key to healing happening. How often I have tried to measure my own faith or preparedness so as to merit what is actually and fully God’s gracious action.
I so easily get it wrong.
More and more, I realize that healing occurs because God loves us, “knows the plans He has for us” and has an infinite measure of health to pour down upon us. He is full of grace and mercy…and surprises. And, as in the process of salvation, “it is not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Most (about 75%) of the healing moments in the New Testament are recorded as occurring in an informal setting…the “store,” the home, the business places, the seaside, on the road, in “the restaurant”…rather than in the more formal settings - the temple, the altar, the courts - church.
So often we limit the healing process to the formal settings, the prepared, the controlled, the predictable, the bright-light events. Could it be that we would enhance the in-breaking of the life of God in healing all around us, if we would not put limitations on His activity and plan? Yes, yes, yes.
So, my objective is to listen to the Spirit everywhere.
To acknowledge it is all of God…and so little about me at all.
To be in the laboratory of His life and activity every time it comes to my mind to do anything like Jesus.
And take the healing graces of our Lord with me everywhere I go.
“’These are some of the signs that will accompany believers….they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.’
And the disciples went everywhere preaching,
the Master working right with them,
validating the message with indisputable evidence.”*
*From The Message – Mark 16:17-20.