Wednesday, September 30, 2009
In music, there’s a term called “stop time.” It’s when, temporarily, all the music accompaniment stops in order to highlight a solo vocalist or instrumentalist. It’s not unusual for jazz artists to use stop time. For a moment, the rhythm stops, all the other instruments pull back, and the band creates space for the soloist to improvise.
I’ve seen “stop time” work with my kids as well. Instead of planning every moment of their waking hours, from time to time we push the pause button and create space. We don’t set the agenda. We give them time to do their own thing. We don’t respond to the “I’m bored and have nothing to do” pleas. We let them figure it out. It’s fascinating to watch how creative our kids get when we give them time to improvise.
I love long car trips. When the drive is long enough, my mind will start to wander. I do some of my best thinking driving down the highway. Some of my most creative moments have been behind the wheel. Sometimes I wonder if I need to schedule regular road trips just to be more disciplined about creating thinking time in my life.
In an age when email, social networking and mobile technology make us continuously available, we probably need to create more stop time. In a season when there are always more meetings and task lists and projects to complete, we probably need more stop time. If you are frustrated by the lack of creativity in your organization or your personal life, it’s probably because the rhythm is constant and the accompanying instruments are too loud and you haven’t created space to improvise.
“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark 1:35)
When was the last time you built some “stop time” into your schedule?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
A presenter at a recent conference shared the following with a roomful of church leaders: "If you don't tweet, text, or blog - you might think about quitting and getting a different job. Because that's the world we are in."
Monday, September 28, 2009
Craig Groeschel posted some thoughts recently on "the final 10%." I thought they were worth repeating:
Last year, I had two different men doing a project at my house. One completed the work as agreed. Although he did what I asked him to do, he left a big pile of trash, he left without asking me to view his work, and he never followed up.
The other man cleaned up his mess daily. Not only did he clean up after himself, but he even helped me haul off the other guy’s trash.
When he was finished, he asked me to look at his work to see if I was satisfied. I expressed my satisfaction, but he saw some small flaws that bothered him. Even though I said they didn’t matter, he insisted on fixing them.
One month after his job was finished, he called to ask if I was still pleased with his work.
The second man gave the final 10%. I’ve referred several other people to him. I didn’t refer anyone to the first worker.
The final 10% might not seem worth it at the time. Over the long haul, I truly believe God blesses the final 10% more than the first 90%.
Someone said it well, “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right."
Friday, September 25, 2009
I'm currently recruiting skateboarding, Solitaire playing friends to join me in making a similar video.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Imagine for a moment being invited to a really special dinner for your birthday. Your friends hosted a meal and they all came together in order to celebrate your life and friendship. Despite your expectations of a sumptuous feast-- your friends all decided to just empty their respective refrigerators and spread a meal made up of a bunch of leftovers.
What a let down. Doesn't sound much like a celebration, does it?
As we consider our relationship with God and our lives being an offering to Him... are we presenting Him our best, or our leftovers? Our lives should be a celebration of God's greatness and an outpouring of thanksgiving for the relationship we can have with Him through Jesus.
Have you been offering God your leftovers?
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Here's a paraphrase of a portion of Matthew 25 for a 21st century reader:
For I was hungry, while you had all you needed.
I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water.
I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported.
I needed clothes, but you wanted more clothes.
I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness.
I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved.
Either way you read it, Jesus has clear expectations for those of us who follow him.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
If you want to make an impact for the glory of God, you have to rebuke distractions. Your life has to be totally focused on becoming who He has called you to be and what He has called you to do. If you don't, here's what will happen: unimportant things become important and important things become unimportant. One of the primary reasons we aren't advancing the Kingdom like we could or should is because we major in minors. And that leads to sideways energy.
Let me touch on two kinds of distractions:
I think we have to avoid vision distractions.
I love the example Nehemiah set when he was rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. A couple of thugs named Sanballat and Tobiah are trying to discourage and distract him. Nehemiah says, "I am doing a great work! I cannot stop to come and meet with you." I love that. He refuses to play defense. He's got a job to do and he's going to do it. One of the maxims I live by is something Andy Stanley said: saying yes to one thing is saying no to something else. You have to make every decision with that in mind. You can get so busy the vision will never be fulfilled.
I think the second kind of distractions we have to avoid in church circles are theological distractions. We need to study to show ourselves approved. We need to know what we believe and why we believe what we believe. But we can get so busy arguing about theological nuances that we lose sight of the Great Commandment and Great Commission. Sometimes, when a person is endlessly arguing theological nuances, I want to blurt out: "People are going to hell!" Let's get our theology straight. And we need to call blasphemy and heresy on the carpet. But let's get some perspective.
In the words of Titus 3:9: "But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless."
True theology doesn't just lead to endless arguments. True theology leads to action.
Let's follow Jesus' example: "I must be about my Father's business."
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Serge let me know this was just a beginning effort as far as video production (the audio is a bit hard to hear), but it's nonetheless a riveting personal account of Serge's return to one of the "killing places" of the Rwandan genocide.
I'm reading a new book, God Sleeps in Rwanda, that details Rwanda's history of ethnic violence. I recommend you get this book and read it.
Monday, September 14, 2009
What fears, assumptions, or obstacles are keeping you from engaging the people who will allow you to encounter Jesus in a way you never knew him before?
Friday, September 11, 2009
The multi-talented Stephen Corbett (with an assist from the Beatles) wrote the lyrics for and directed this video.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I've found myself, on occasion, wishing that there was a one-size-fits-all method for communicating that I could employ to keep everyone in the loop at the same time. But for now, it is a struggle to stay on top of everything I need to say to everyone I need to say it to.
So here's where I currently fall on this communication learning curve:
If there are multiple ways to say the same thing to the same person or group I take advantage of as many ways as possible. (Call them, email them, text them, send them a card, set up a meeting, carve it in a block of wood and leave it on their car etc…)
I am learning that I need to:
1) Tell them the information.
2) Ask them if they need me to clarify any part of what I just told them.
3) Follow-up again down the road to make sure they got it.
There are a lot of things that people are going to get frustrated about, but being "kept in the loop" is generally not on the top of their list. And, most people aren't going to fault you for trying either.
Information is power! So, as a leader whose sole purposes are to:
1) Empower the people I lead;
2) Stay in step with the leaders I follow.
I need to hand out information as often and as fast as possible.
When I say the same thing in the same way every time I say it, it gets lost in the monotony so I try to change it up and make it interesting when I can.
Whatever information you currently have that could be remotely helpful to someone else, go ahead and give it away. If you're worried that by giving it away you may loose your edge or fall behind, get over yourself... you're not that important and neither am I.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Preach the gospel to yourself every day.
That is what we must do in order to daily, consciously appropriate the gospel of Jesus.
We must preach it to ourselves every day. Not only that, we need to personalize it to ourselves, as Paul did when he wrote of “the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis added).
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Many years ago I'd heard how Billy Graham, over the many evangelist campaigns he conducted and the countless miles he journeyed, always traveled with a male companion as an accountability partner. This person was to keep an eye on Graham to ensure he didn't get himself into a compromising situation or do something in which there was even a hint of impropriety.
I am not wanting to imply that integrity requires openness. Some leaders maintain the highest levels of integrity while functioning quite privately in their personal and professional lives. Susan trusts me and I'm confident she would be supportive of me traveling to conferences alone.
But openness does encourage integrity. When Christian leaders subject themselves to visibility and accountability, they dramatically reduce the likelihood of moral or ethical compromises. Leaders whose spouses, ministry assistants or traveling companions know their whereabouts will likely be smart in choosing "where they are about."
Hedging our weaknesses, harnessing our strengths, and wearing a life jacket even though we know how to swim are marks of prudence seasoned with wisdom from the Holy Spirit.
Monday, September 7, 2009
My sweet wife, Susan, evidenced her lovely Christ-like heart as she introduced herself to Jeremy and got to know him a bit. Jeremy revealed to Susan that he hadn't been inside a church building in years. He went on to say that he'd been reading his Bible one day last week and felt God's leading that he needed to be part of a church on Sunday. Jeremy called his mother in Florida to let her know what he'd sensed God saying to him... and she encouraged him to find a church.
God saw fit to lead Jeremy to SoHills and plopped him in the midst of our YoungMarrieds class. We discovered in further conversation with him that Jeremy had walked three miles from his apartment to the SoHills building. He joined in our class discussion (we were talking about the importance of believing the best in others when there is a gap between expectations and behavior) which was rooted in 1 Corinthians 13. Jeremy told me later he really needed to hear what we talked about in class.
Susan invited Jeremy to sit with us during Refresh... and we were soon joined by our "adopted" son, Serge. Serge and Susan explained to Jeremy what was going on during Refresh (things are never as familiar to a newcomer as we like to think).
As the four of us made our way to one of the tables to celebrate Jesus Supper, I asked Jeremy if he'd mind if I introduced him to the church during the sending. I explained to him that we always expected to have guests among us, and I let Jeremy know that introducing him would be a wonderful reminder to the church of God's faithfulness in sending people to us.
Jeremy let me know he was fine with me introducing him, and so I did.
It was very cool to see how church responded to Jeremy. He was immediately enveloped in a mass of Christ-like humanity. People were hugging Jeremy, getting his cell number and giving him their cell numbers, inviting him to lunch (he had three invites) and offering to give him a ride home.
As I stood and watched this outpouring of hospitality to one who was no longer a stranger among us I smiled. God was expressing His "Welcome home!" to Jeremy and we (church) were privileged to be the instruments our gracious Father used to deliver that sweet message.
I love watching church being the church.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Just think... the local church (your church!) being viewed as the most creative, God-possibility thinking people in town. Hold that thought and consider the value these two business firms put on creativity and possibility thinking:
Every year on March 4th, a firm known as BrightHouse holds an event called March Fo(u)rth. On that date, each employee is encouraged to do something he or she has never attempted... parachute from a plane, scuba-dive, start writing a novel. Joey Reiman, BrightHouse's founder, CEO and "thinker" puts it this way, "If we're known for anything, it's possibilitarianism."
Maddock Douglas, an "Agency of Innovation," gives an annual Fail Forward award... which is designed to celebrate endeavors both ambitious and disastrous. Last year, a designer at the firm won for an unorthodox publication design that wound up laying waste to the firm's production schedule and resulted in a costly error. "It was a total embarrassment," says Maddock Douglas president Raphael Lewis Viton. "But she was trying to do something new and different and better. She went for it, and she won an award for it."
How might your church be reaching people for Jesus that no one else is reaching if it was the most creative, God-possibility thinking people in town?
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Robert also recalled how in the hours immediately following the storm landfall I had tracked his family's evacuation exodus from New Orleans... desperate to confirm that my friend and his family were safe. He went on in his email to thank me and the SoHills church for the ways in which we had helped his church family at Carrollton Avenue get back on its feet.
As I read Robert's email, I thought back to our youth group days at the Central church in Birmingham, Alabama--and how God was bringing Robert and I together for His purposes: our co-teaching the 7th-8th grade Wednesday night class at Central during our college days, SALT talks, Susan and I helping Robert and his wife Myrna move to New Orleans (and recalling how the two of them only planned to be there a "few years"), TIME (Teens In Mission Experiences) trips to New Orleans.
All of those life events pointing us to Katrina... the storm that took New Orleans to its knees. And the way in which God revealed Himself more powerful than any storm or its devastation by reawakening churches like Southern Hills to what it really meant to be a sister congregation to a church in a storm-wracked city.
I replied to Robert that any blessing that I or Southern Hills had been to him or Carrollton Avenue has been magnified by God a hundred times over to me and the Christians here in Abilene. Every time I have visited New Orleans since the storm, and have witnessed the re-born Carrollton Avenue church (and now alongside it, Hollygrove) my faith in God's possibilities for the church has been renewed. Every time, post-Katrina, I have sat alongside the Carrollton Avene church in worship I have experienced the sweet sense of what a truly diverse church can look like.
Yes... God is good.
August 29, my dear wife's birthday, now carries for me a double reminder... the gift God gave me when he placed Susan alongside me, and the date that a terrible storm deluged a city and a people that I care deeply about. My life will never be the same as a result of either of these events. And for that I am profoundly thankful.