Monday, October 11, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
- some less fortunate kids in the Greenville, SC area blessed my wife and my two high school kids as they spent some time with them at M-Fuge,
- an inmate's testimony about God encouraged one of my middle school daughters to do more to help people while on her mission trip to Gulf Coast,
- some Peruvian kids helped my teenage son see a bigger picture and practice his Spanish as he and 9 other teens trekked through the mountains and towns of Peru with Good News,
- some young leaders inspired my pre-teen daughters and me to greater faith at a Centri-Kid camp close to home,
- some instructors encouraged my wife at the She Speaks speakers' conference
- an aunt with cancer ministered to us (as we had intended to do for her)while we were on our vacation.
It seems to always work that way: you do some ministry, invest some time or money, or go on some mission trip intending to help someone else and God humbles you by giving you so much more than you could offer.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." - Jesus from Luke 6:38
Friday, May 28, 2010
Here is my attempt at answering this question. In staff meeting our recreation minister, John Lemons introduced the idea to us that we all have a HOME and AWAY strategy for reaching people for Christ.
We have lots of HOME events on our beautiful campus: Pumpkin Patch, Celebrate America, Easter Egg Hunt, Choir specials, Holiday events, as well as, our every Sunday and Wednesday activities. We also host a 5 day/week Child Development Center, a Community Kids after school program, and a Camp Ridgedale that bring hundreds of children and their families to our church each day. We also have the Summit Counseling Center and a host of Recreation activities like softball and all the Upward programs. This “come to our campus,” HOME strategy, is a great strategy for reaching people for Christ, but its only half the picture. Each of the things I have mentioned are wonderful activities and God has blessed us with many people who have chosen to follow Christ as a result of these kinds of HOME events.
However, we don’t have quite as many AWAY events; the kinds of events where we go out to the community as a church to be salt and light. This year, we wanted to try some more events where Ridgedale goes to where people are who may not have an inclination (at least initially) to come to our campus. Perhaps this point is best illustrated by a true story.
Last summer, as a service opportunity, Ridgedale helped build a playground for the East Brainerd community at East Brainerd Elementary School. There were volunteers from the community, local businesses, the fire department, and from other churches. Several from our church helped out during this week long project including our Senior Pastor, Brother Bill. Helping with this event was a wonderful young man and his family. This young man began working with some of the Ridgedale team members (enjoyed their fun and friendly, albeit sometimes snarky disposition) and he was invited to come to Ridgedale for worship and Bible Study. The man and his family visited several times and recently joined the church. The man had chosen to follow Jesus many years ago, but had never been baptized. I had the great privilege of baptizing the young man in April. This man didn’t hesitate to help with a Pavilion building project a few weeks ago. He recently attended Bible study and helped with our first Celebrate America this summer (AWAY event).
To summarize: we went off campus for an AWAY opportunity, met a family who had never been to our church services, invited them to worship and study the Bible (HOME events) with us, they came, they joined, he was baptized, they became active in God’s work through HOME and AWAY events. That is awesome!
So there’s one answer to the reason we are doing 3 Celebrate America events in the community instead of on our campus this year. Next year, we plan for Celebrate America to be on the HOME schedule again.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Her eyes sparkled and a smile broke out across her face with every pause in the conversation. As we stood in the parking lot on a beautiful, windy, spring day, her healthy silvery hair was blowing around her face like an aura of positivity. This lady has the rare ability to always affirm everyone just by the way she tilts her head and looks at them when she listens to what they have to say. She always boosts your esteem with comments like, “that’s great!” which make you feel like you’ve just told her the most wonderful and interesting thing ever. She makes you laugh and she lifts your spirits with witty words and Barnabas-ish quips in response. Whenever you ask her a question, she always adeptly weaves the focus of the conversation back to the person she knows you like to talk about the most…yourself!
The three of us reminisced about the antics and adventures of the yearly family vacations to the beach and an unforgettable 2 week tour of the Western U.S. with 6 kids and 4 adults in one RV. She recalled specific memorable moments from those adventures that made us all snicker and laugh and sigh with fond remembrance. As we visited for just a few minutes, I realized what a treasure this person is to those who are privileged to interact with her, especially in the corrosive climate that has become our world. She always sees any negative situation from a positive perspective and helps you see it too. Her four children enjoy the empowerment and success that comes from the lifetime of accolades and affirmations of a proud mother.
After seeing this friend again, I was glad to know that nothing had changed about her except the fact that she had become even more adept at saying the most optimistic words at just the right moment. She is an expert encourager and an inspiration to all those around her. I pray I can encourage like she does. She is a treasure to us all.
Hebrews 3:13 (NIV) ."..encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
Monday, March 8, 2010
I don’t know if it’s just their competitive nature, but girls who haven’t been able to manage a back-handspring by themselves since last year’s tryouts are able to do it again as if by divine enablement at the vernal equinox. If they can do a back-handspring now, and could do one year ago, why can’t they seem to manage it the other 10 months of the year? Maybe they are just not motivated. Maybe they talk or think themselves out of it. Or maybe the muscles just atrophy from lack of use. But many of the girls are in the gym all year around and just don’t perform up to the same level they do at tryout time. It is an interesting dynamic. It seems flip-flops (an old school term for back-handsprings) come out in the spring with the warm weather both inside and outside the gym.
But don’t we all do this to a certain extent? I remember a few years ago before my wife’s class reunion; we suddenly started eating a lot healthier, we worked out a lot more and one of us had to go and get our hair highlighted (she always looks great, but she looked exceptional!). Then when the reunion was over, it was back to less healthy eating, less regular exercise and other bad habits. We seemed to perform up to what we wanted to when we wanted to.
What if we could keep that kind of motivation all the time? I know, I know… some people perform exceptionally well all the time. They keep their weight in a healthy range, they eat healthy, they workout, they can execute a back-handspring anytime. But if the rest of us are capable of loosing weight for a reunion, or performing a back-handspring for tryouts, or whatever, why don’t we do it all the time? I’m guessing there are several answers for these phenomena, but it probably has much to do with how we see ourselves when we aren’t trying to impress someone, compete with them, etc.
Unfortunately, a similar thing happens in our walk of faith. We go through fits and starts in our spiritual life. We go to a camp, seminar, or (back in the day) a revival, and we are “on fire” for God. Or we understand some important bit of wisdom. But then life happens and we somehow loose traction and don’t live what we know to be true (we used to call it backsliding). Paul the Apostle encourages us to not go backwards in our faith walk, but build on what we have already learned. Philippians 3:15-16 (NIV) All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
I love to see a cheerleader get a back-handspring AGAIN just before tryouts, but it thrills me even more when a cheerleader can build on that skill and perform at a higher level the next year. God must enjoy seeing his children live up to what he has already taught them and enabled them to do.
Keep Moving Forward in life and faith! I want to encourage you to live up to what you have attained before. God has gifted you and enabled you to do some pretty awesome things. Keep using your gifts, doing good, and living well.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
My father carefully, faithfully, and tirelessly cares for the love of his life. She is his wife of 50+ years and my mother. This woman, who used to talk all the time, is no longer able to communicate more than just a word or two at a time.
About 8 years ago the symptoms of a cruel disease began to change my mother from a sharp, active, involved person into a woman who is now able to do little more than life’s basic functions. All her life she took care of other people. She hosted them in her home. She visited them in the hospital. She encouraged them in the nursing home. She cooked meals, kept kids, and inconvenienced herself to help other people in need in any way she could. She was always looking for someone she could help in a practical but unique way. She doted over my dad for more than 40 years, attending to his every whim. But now she is the one in need.
My father treats her as his special wife, the one he promised to care for in sickness and health more than a half century ago. In exhaustion a couple of years ago, he had to get some help from a nursing facility. However, he couldn’t stand being away from this woman who had never left his side. Every day he drove more than 25 miles each way to see her for not much more than a few minutes. He couldn’t stand the pain of separation any longer, and found an in-home assistant who could help him care for her so he would never have to be far from her.
I watched and wept as the movie, The Notebook, unfolded a story only too true to my parents. My father is the picture of gentleness. He listens as she tries to read and he reads to her, knowing she will not remember the last sentence. He uses his knowledge as a retired physician to see that she has the right meds and good nutrition. He takes care of her every physical need. He talks sweetly to her as if they were a young couple madly in love. He kisses her forehead and holds her hand. He admitted a few years ago that he was losing the woman of his dreams a little each day, but he has never treated her as anything other than the girl he begged to marry him as a young pre-med student.
Though my father grew up in church, he was not so faithful in attending, until she came along and made it clear that the WHOLE family would be in church together. She taught Sunday School for many years and she influenced him to accept ordination as a deacon, as well as, direct a Sunday School class for their peers. He still takes her to church every Sunday she is able.
Unless the miraculous happens, (and we all still pray for this) she will never recover from this disease this side of heaven. But my father, as long as he is able will love her with a giving, sacrificial love that goes beyond understanding. I pray I’m never entrusted with this kind of care for a loved one, but if I am, my prayer is that I can be as loving and gentle and doting as my father is with my mother.
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
Monday, February 8, 2010
I had one of those weekends. Looking back, it was a weekend that incites me to gratitude. He even opened up some time to invest in important areas of my life that have sometimes been neglected. As an added bonus, I felt like my family risked some healthy authenticity in areas we’d prefer to protect.
Even after the great weekend I just described, I am so tempted to dwell only on the negatives. I get so sidetracked by the coming stresses of the week I am unable reflect and be grateful. It is like Solomon’s proverbial “fly in the ointment” (Ecc.10:1). I have an extraordinary weekend, spent with extraordinary people, which holds the potential to grow me in wisdom and help me see the value in doing honorable things with good people. Yet, I jump out of bed, slide into a Velcro jumpsuit, strap on the bungee harness and launch myself backward toward the place I was months ago. In mid-flight I find myself hopeful that the Velcro has too much disgusting life lent from past launches to stick. Ultimately, I’m launched forward again to see where I’m headed and land safely where I need to be right now.
I’m ready to outgrow the negative stress and enjoy the strengthening opportunities of positive stress. So, I am choosing (with God’s enabling Power) to think about the good, the noble, the positive, the progress... I really do want the “more than” me >, in spite of my inane attempts to return to the “less than” me < in the piteous limbo of non-progress (which is also considered death to some).
The One who began this work in me will complete it.
Thanks to some extraordinary people and One extraordinary God.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
We have definitely become over-consuming, ad susceptible, materialistic squid (you know, lots of grabbing tentacles and no backbone) …funny how the “must haves” of teenage children can weaken your resolve and cause you to make even more unwise financial choices. We felt it was time to go in and try to rescue our money management skills before they sink to a point of salvage only operations.
I recently did one of those life-circle exercises that evaluates several areas of your life like spiritual, family, friends, finances, career, adventure, etc and plots them on a wheel graph (from http://darrenhardy.success.com/) … I wasn’t too surprised by the results. Based on the ways I have invested the hours, days, and weeks of my life over the last several years there are some areas that couldn’t help but grow, others, however, are like starfish stumps just starting to grow back. The self-study revealed the ways I’ve have become like a flounder, myopically focused only in one general direction, but totally missing anything from other directions. It would explain why we were so easily caught by some medical, house, and vehicle financial snags in the last year.
Even with another 8 hour/wk job, money seems even tighter. Of course we added braces, cheer uniforms, camps, cool clothes, more fuel, car insurance increases and various other pubescent necessities. But it is not like this is some kind of life surprise. (“Well look honey, those little varmints grew up. They are eating everything in sight and outgrowing their clothes every week. How’d that happen?”) We knew this was coming, but the teenage tuna net somehow it snuck up on us anyway and we joined the millions of people being dragged into the cargo hold of the U.S.S Credit Card Debt. (It is one of a huge fleet that promises to finance the dreams of many, but somehow the commodores seem to benefit far more than those on their ships.)
Somehow, just like sedentary barnacles, we have become financially complacent bottom feeders who don’t care that the build up of useless life stuff has slowed the forward progress of our life’s own dream ship, so we thought it would be a good idea to abandon ship and pay someone else a premium to tow us along, but we’re finding out they are not charted for the destination we had hoped. Like Nemo, we hope to swim against the tide and win our freedom.
We’ve prayed about it and have kept giving our tithe, but now we have to work on the self-discipline to make wise choices with the money He entrusts to us.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
It happened to me this morning after yesterday’s loss to insecurity and anger issues. The two-headed snake had slithered back into my head from the dark crevasses where it had been hiding. The venom of guilt quickly spread through my mind and even made my body hurt. But the pain, which had been much more common several months ago, seemed to hurt worse now, because the calluses of repeated regret had started to soften some. All I could do was lay awake in paralysis all night while the regret swallowed me whole.
I had been making good progress, because I learned some new Truth that had set me free. Wisdom told me to keep moving forward and acknowledge incremental improvement, but to watch out for attacks when fatigue, isolation, or neglect was prevalent; when stress was higher than usual. However, I was lured in by some of the same old lies and false promises (“go ahead yell and devalue them, that will show them you’re in charge,” and “go ahead, watch that show, the content is not really THAT inappropriate, besides you deserve it.”
It made me feel angry, because I know better, yet I arrogantly and unwisely followed the sucrose laced breadcrumbs down the self-defeating path…again. They tasted sweet for a moment, and then quickly turned bitter just like they always do. They always look like they will taste better than they really do.
I feel better now though, confessing, regaining forward focus, because Truth rescued me again, reminding me that I am more than a conqueror over these sorts of things. Truth and Wisdom reminded me that times of defeat in these areas are much more infrequent now than just a few months ago; that there is measurable progress. They also reminded me of other self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that haven’t reared their ugly heads in years!
They told me to celebrate the progress and move ahead. Celebrating the victories is like anti-venom that revitalizes you from the paralysis of regret and frees you to continue forward.
Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG) 12 I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 13 Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. 14 I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.