Thursday, August 31, 2006

Meeting of the Minds

Thanks to the folks at the Simply Strategic Show for adding a link to download the mp3 - you guys rock!!

A great "meeting of the minds" today as John and I shared some coffee, some memories and some views on politics. It's always a treat to kick back for a few minutes and "catch up" on each other's lives again. Our "souls" can rest once again...or at least for a few moments until our next meeting.

A busy Labor Day weekend ahead. The first home football game of the year at our local high school and the annual Barbarian Camping Trip for the guys. Then on Monday I have a big band gig at the DuQuoin State Fair. Not to mention the prep needed for our weekend gatherings. We are definitely experiencing great momentum (the BIG Mo'), which is typical for this time of the year. Our series on Grace has really touched the lives of many people. We continue to hear story after story which is always incredible.

Not much of an "intellectual" post tonight, just some catch up and brain dumping. More to come in the near future!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On Board the SSS

The Simply Strategic Show (fondly referred to around the office as the SSS or the SS Show) has a new website. You can check it out here. The site looks great, but they have embedded their audio files into the html and it appears they are no longer available as a straight mp3 download. Since there are still some of us out there without an iPod (please no hatemail), I hope my email to Tony Morgan will find its way into the pity party of his inbox and they'll provide a link.

Until then, I guess I'll go through SSS withdrawals. Or maybe I could keep myself busy with an hour by hour chronicle of my day a la "24?" Nah... :)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Between the Trees

Why do I dislike funerals so much? I was reminded again today how difficult it is when I attend a funeral. I realize it should be a celebration of a life past into a "new" life beyond...that part I totally get. I guess what really bothers me are the people who are still living. It's that awkward moment when you walk up to the family of the deceased, not really knowing what to say, hoping you don't say something really dumb or incredibly hurtful, and you just sort of stand there in that uncomfortable moment of silence that seems like an eternity but really only last for just a few seconds. Then a few nice words of comfort and off you go.

Has anyone ever written down the "protocol" for conversation? I realize that just "being there" for support, or offering help if needed is the best thing the family can hear in those moments, and I'm sure it means a lot. I guess the real reason I feel uncomfortable is because I've never really had to walk in those shoes before. I've never been the one standing at the coffin ushering people past with idle chatter. I've been very fortunate in that regard.

But today got me is short. REAL short. It won't be long before my mother will be the one I am standing over, and then quite possibly my own family or even myself. Does anyone else ever think about what their funeral will be like?

Morbid curiosity? Perhaps. Contemplation on life? More likely.

I like how Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill once described life (I'll paraphrase a bit). He talked about the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden as a starting point, and the Tree of Life John describes in Revelation as the ending "paradise." Rob's point is this - we all have a beginning and an ending, but what will we do between the trees? I love that analogy. Today's funeral reminded me of that journey between the trees. How far am I on that journey? How much longer do I have to go? What have I really done in that time frame? What do I have left to do and accomplish?

I'm not sure if I'll ever feel anything less than uncomfortable at funerals. I do know that I feel pretty uncomfortable about my journey between the trees right now. I also think it's important for us to stop along our journey and evaluate the path which we have taken and choose very prayerfully the path we will continue into the future. Being uncomfortable is not inherently a bad thing if it leads to resolution. Or will we end up reflecting, as Robert Frost has done, upon the "Road Not Taken?"

For me, I am so thankful of the path God has chosen for me, but I am also at a point in my life where I don't want to screw it up. Once you know the truth, you cannot deny its' existence. How will I find my path between the trees? The only reasonable response is to simply choose. Find a path and move along that path with all abandon. If it's not the right path, God will find a new one for you. I guess that's why they call it faith.

So my prayer is that we will all run down the path, embracing every step and every turn. Not looking back except to admire God's design and not worrying about what's around the bend, but simply dreaming and imagining the beauty of what God has planned next. May we all discover the joy of the journey "between the trees."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Keep Your Stuff To Yourself

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

One of the passages of scripture we focused on during our staff retreat was Acts 2. I learned a lot from this passage, but one thing that was brought out was the community aspect of this passage. Think of it this way...what would our town be like if everyone shared community together? From celebrations to meals to sharing resources - imagine the possibilites of that type of community. Some may call this a "wild dream" or a farce-like Utopia, but I really believe that in some ways we can move towards this type of community, and the church could and should be the driving force behind such a movement. If Jesus shows up in a community and nothing changes, then we have a problem right? That's a critical challenge for the local church.

Maybe part of the reason we don't like community is because we're all too partial to our stuff. I'll admit it now - I have "stuffitis." I pack, pile, stuff, rearrange, horde, hide and too many other words to describe my "stuff." I used to be absolutely insane about this, but I have begun to learn an important lesson. Jesus asked us to share life in community. He didn't say, "Go out among everyone, but keep your own stuff to yourself." But that's exactly what so many of us do. With our possessions, our time, our talents, our money.

I love how a great friend of mine, John, describes the current state of his house:
Soooo, the next problem became the "STUFF"!!!!!! What to do with it???????? Me? I would throw all of this crap that we have collected, purchased, been given.......throw it all away. "We might need that sometime" the phrase that I hear daily!! feelings are that if we haven't really put the item to use for the last 6-12 months.....GET RID OF IT!!!! But......I'm fighting a losing battle.......ugh!!!! And so, we move the "STUFF" into a new area of the be moved again at a later date!!
Does this sound familiar?? What happens when we all die (and we will) and our "stuff" becomes someone else's or worse yet, ends up in the trash? Why not part with it now and learn to live on only what we really need? Do I really need 5 computer monitors?

My challenge to you is to take a look around your house this week and REALLY think about what it would be like if you shared your stuff in community with others. Would that change the way others live? What would they think about you? How would it change YOUR outlook?

Jesus was constantly on the move, and in fact, there is very little written about His belongings or His house or the like. To me that's exactly how He wanted to live - always in community with His Father and with others. So call me crazy - but if Jesus is going to show up, we have to prepare the way.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Overwhelming Grace

I don't have the opportunity to watch a lot of tv, but I had occassion to catch the new Verizon commercial. Has anyone seen this? A young man walks up to a lady and asks why she hasn't called. She then replies that her cell phone signal is horrible. He shrugs a bit and recommends that she get a new cell phone and give him a call. Then the Verizon gang pops out and she thanks them for hiding and not giving her away. In other words, she wanted to cover up and lie to this chap.

Isn't this so much like us? To lie or cover things up so we don't have to deal with the real issues? We are so famous for hiding things, mis-stating the facts, or even manipulating the truth to fit our own needs. I know - I used to work this system with the best of them.

But at some point you get tired of the lies and the cover up. You get tired of always looking over your shoulder. You get tired of covering up the cover up. You get tired of always worrying that someone will find out. And most of all, you get tired of dealing with the guilt.

My guilt has overwhelmed me;
like a load it weighs me down.
Psalms 38:4 (NCV)

As we talked about this past weekend, the first step is confession:

Then I confessed my sins to you
and didn't hide my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my sins to the Lord,”
and you forgave my guilt.
Psalms 32:5 (NCV)

And as a result, God will wipe them away forever:

I will forgive them for the wicked things they did,
and I will not remember their sins anymore.
Hebrews 8:12 (NCV)

I can't help but to think of the overwhelming Grace of God when I see that commercial. As I continue to work on some specific areas in my life where God has been challenging me, I pray that He will remind me often of His grace. May I lay down my heavy burdens and enjoy the wonderful and light yoke He has allowed me to embrace.

Simple. Day 2

Day 2 of our staff retreat is in the books. What a great day! We spent most of the morning reviewing our structure and making sure everyone was on the same page. Bryan has done a great job of communicating our mission and vision and also making sure that we have alignment throughout our structure. I know God provided the ideas, but it takes a special leader to implement His ideas to the fullest.

One of the coolest parts of the day was the "Hot Seat." I'm not talking about the toilet seat after a night of camp food, but a chair we each took turns sitting in. Once you were in the hot seat, everyone else had the opportunity to tell you what they appreciated about you. From outstanding characteristics, to positive attitudes, to changed lives, this was truly a special moment of the day for me, and I think I speak for the group when I say it impacted each and every one of us.

We capped off the day by welcoming our spouses, enjoying a hay ride, consuming the "chuckwagon" meal, sharing a few stories, singing a few songs, building a fire, confessing our fears to God, sharing communion, more singing and prayer. A truly wonderful wrap to a great two days. I thank God for the opportunity to share life with this group of people and look forward to the impact we will have on our community and beyond.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Putting the "I" in Simple.

We just finished day one of our annual staff retreat. It's been a great day with some great reminders about why we do what God has asked us to do. We now have 12 staff - 7 full time and 5 part time. Each of us has a definite and unique contribution to the team. It was great to spend some time reviewing and analyzing our different unique gifts and personality types. We also spent time nailing down five critical success factors we need to work on this year.

The theme of our retreat this year is "Simple." Getting back to ministry the way God has designed it. We have all been reading "Simple Church" by Rainer and Geiger. While not an "eye opening" book, it's a great reminder that we need to focus on doing a few things great. From clarity to focus, the church has to all be on the same page to be effective. That's exactly what we're reminding ourselves about during this retreat.

The Leadership Summit started today, and I encourage everyone to read Tony Morgan's blog and his recap of today's sessions. It looks like some great stuff as always!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Full Throttle Experience

Okay. So, I was test driving a car on Monday - a car we are looking at for my daughter - and had an unusual, but interesting experience. My wife, son and I hopped in the car and started out on the four lane road on the business highway of Sedalia, MO. As we approached some traffic, I tried to slow the car down, only to find that the throttle had stuck full on!

The brakes would slow us down for just a moment, but as soon as I let off the pedal, we'd shoot off again. We finally found a "side" road and as we slid into a side road, I quickly turned the car off. Not sure what to do, I fired it back up hoping it had reset itself. No such luck! The car revved higher and so once again I turned it off.

By this time my son and wife are getting a bit anxious. I decided we really needed to get back to the dealership, so I turned the key and rammed it into reverse. WHAM!! We raced backward with a loud squeal and as soon as I hit the main road I jammed it down into drive and with more barking tires, we lept forward. At 60MPH down the main road in Sedalia, we quickly made it back to the dealership and explained our adventure. The guy knew exactly what had happened - a small plastic piece was cracked, causing the throttle cable to pull out of it's casing, and thus a "full throttle" experience!

Well, the short of it is this - we bought the car. It was a friend of my mom's and the price was a good one including a new windshield and new tires. I think we all need a "full throttle" experience once in awhile to get us out of our comfort zone.