Monday, June 30, 2008

Please, Don't Come To My Church...

I found the following post by Nicholas Gray to be thought provoking. I'd be interested in hearing your reaction to his request: "Please, don't come to my church."

If I had it my way I would do away with outreach events. I would get rid of every event we hold at our church building that is geared towards bringing non-Christians to our church building. Let me explain.

Non-Christians are non-Christians for a reason, and they don't come to church for a reason. Ninety-nine percent of everyone here in America has been to a church, has been invited to a church, or has been witnessed to... and there are still those who want nothing to do with the church.

Why do we think that inviting them to a "Murder Mystery Night" will get them to change their mind? I'll tell you why, we want it on our turf, we want to call the shots.

Okay, let me rephrase my opening comment, I would get rid of them until we are doing our job by going to them first. We like being comfortable, we don't like confrontations, and boy to do we hate not being in control. This is because we are human (and Americans), the moment something happens that is out of our control we run away, we hide in the familiar. That is why the church loves holding bake sales and pot luck dinners, we are in control and comfortable, nothing is unexpected.

I think we have forgotten how important communication is. People don't like to be talked at, they like to discuss, ask questions, and unfortunately we don't give that type of atmosphere at the church. There is a preconceived notion among non-Christians that when they are at church they will be talked at. We don't give them a whole lot of evidence the other way either. If we go to them, they are comfortable, they are in control. In that situation, they can ask questions and even leave if they want to.

I don't want to beat a dead horse here but I need to say it, we are called to GO. Paul is a perfect example of this. You read throughout the book of Acts of Paul going into other people's territory. He was never in control. The first thing he did in each city was visit the synagogue and talk with them. He would talk for days, months, even years. He was run out of towns by angry mobs, he met them on their turf no matter how hard or uncomfortable it was. He never sent out fliers for people to come to his place, he went to them.

Now that being said, outreach events have a time and place. Outreach events are great for those who are already looking into churches, who already have there mind in that direction. They will get something out of that. So, I am not saying never hold a pancake breakfast ever again, just be sure you are going as well.

Friday, June 27, 2008

God Will Keep At It...

I was having lunch the other day with Matt at our favorite place to grab a bite and have a deep conversation: Sharky's. As we ate and talked, a mentally challenged young man made his way to our table... numerous times.

I knew the young man, so he just nodded and smiled at me each time he came to our table.

But not knowing Matt, the young man introduced himself and asked Matt's name each time he visited our table. And after each introduction, he would stick out his hand in order to gain a handshake from Matt.

This happened four times over the course of an hour. And each time Matt looked the young man in the eye, smiled, introduced himself, and shook hands.

No sarcastic comments, no put-downs, no "go away, kid, you're bothering me"... just kindness. My friend Matt graciously extended kindness and respect.

Near the end of our lunch, Matt commented to me that he struggled at times with feelings that he wasn't a great example for Jesus. He was concerned if his life expressed that he was a follower of Jesus.

I smiled at Matt... and let him know that four times over the past hour he had radiated the love, example and compassion of Jesus to me by the way he responded to the young man who repeatedly visited our table.

And what struck me me was that Matt hadn't noticed the grace and kindness that he had extended... but he had zeroed in on what he perceived to be his shortcomings in living for Jesus.

Another God lesson learned at Sharky's... even when we think we're not getting it, God through His Spirit reveals that He is at work in us. And that our nature can and does become more like the nature of Jesus... even though we may not realize that change is, and continues, taking place in our lives.

Thanks, Matt, for showing me Jesus.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
Philippians 1:6, The Message

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Taking A Break...

Over my years in ministry, I've occasionally heard ministers indicate they are too busy to take much time off. This has both concerned and perplexed me... as I fear for the potential harm these ministers may be doing to themselves, their families and their churches as a result of this sense that they just can't take a break.

Here is a glimpse at a list I'm compiling of the significant benefits that flow to ministers, their families, and the churches they serve, by their taking time off.

- Two consecutive weekends off is ten times better than just one weekend off.
- Time off makes “time on” much more effective.
- Ministry is "people intensive." Emotional tanks need refilling, or burnout becomes a real issue.
- Even if I don’t feel like I need to be off, my wife needs me to take off in order that I might focus completely on her.
- Most people are supportive when you take care of yourself.
- Staying in town when you’re off doesn't feel like being off. (Someone always needs something.)
- Speaking somewhere besides your church is not a relaxing weekend off.
- Going to church somewhere else when you're vacationing is a huge blessing.
- Churches that provide sabbaticals to their ministers are making a substantial statement of, and huge investment in, their concern for the minister's health and well-being.

What can you add to this list as to the advantages of taking time off? What works for you?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vacation Reading & Watching...

I'm packing my suitcase for our vacation (we purchased our tickets prior to June 14, thus avoiding American's $15 per checked bag/each way surcharge)... and I'm lining the bottom of my bag with the following:

Lost- Season 3
Martian Child
Across the Universe
Deep Water
In The Shadow of the Moon

(Books... I usually take a break from ministry related reading on vacation)
A Voyage Long and Strange
What Got You Here Won't Get You There
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Old Glory: A Voyage Down the Mississippi
Buying In

I'm afraid I won't be able to fit them into my suitcase... but what books have you read recently that you'd recommend to me?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Life After Church...

I spent a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon reading the first few chapters of a book by Brian Sanders titled Life After Church: God's Call to Disillusioned Christians. While not agreeing with all that Brian had to say in the chapters I read, I was significantly challenged by a great deal of what he shared. I'd encourage you to get a copy of the book... as I'd like to get your take on it.

Here's an excerpt from the introduction, in which Brian describes a portion of his personal spiritual odyssey:

I still needed to "find a church." So I did. And I liked it. But the more seriously I took the Bible, the more I saw in Scripture a very certain call to proclaim a gospel of transformation, a revolutionary gospel, the more I saw what I was doing on Sunday mornings as, well, unrevolutionary.

We simply were not impacting anyone by sequestering ourselves in a building and preaching to each other truths we all already believed. There were parts I still liked: seeing my friends, the music, listening to the Word. But I began to wonder about the nature of church, and I began to see church as extraneous to ministry.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Churches Are Strange...

One of the books I'm currently reading is Challenging The Church Monster by Douglas Bixby. Here is an insightful post from Bixby's blog that points to a central theme of his book:

One of the things I like to say to other ministers going through difficult times is that “churches are strange.” Some times it is hard to understand why things happen the way they happen in our churches. And I am convinced that it is not usually bad people, but rather bad structure that is at fault.

Many of our churches have complicated systems that are hard to understand. This can lead pastors into complicated situations that are hard to handle.

Many times the people in these situations (including the pastor) are set up for disaster. Simplifying our church systems can help us to simplify some of these situations.

Our churches should not be filled with chaos and confusion. The system should allow us to deal with issues and each other in a straight forward manner. This is why my general advice is to simplify.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Real Beauty...

I have a lovely wife and two lovely daughters. They all three possess a beauty that flows from who they are.

I regret that the message our culture sends to females is to strive for an unattainable, perfection in beauty that leaves many women convinced they cannot, and will not, ever measure up.

This well-done clip by the folks at Dove reveals the artificiality behind the myth of attaining beauty perfection... a myth that, as a youth minister, I saw crush the spirit of far too many adolescent females.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Hmmm... I must have been sick the day we worked on this coloring sheet in Sunday School... because I'm sure I would have remembered this.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bee Aware...

Alabamian Joshua Mullen meant to kill the bees infesting his utility shed when he used gasoline to douse a rag pile around which they were swarming.

But a pilot light from a nearby water heater ignited fumes from the gasoline... causing a small explosion, burning the shed to the ground and causing about $80,000 in damage to Joshua's home.

"Looking at all this," Mullen said, "there might have been a better way."

I'm thinking there's a parable tucked somewhere in Joshua's unfortunate bee experience. How many of us have attempted to deal with a difficult situation by dousing it with an "inflammable substance," only to see things blow-up in our faces?

Yep... there might be a better way.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


One of the realities I'm coming to terms with as a neophyte blogger is the challenge of opening oneself up to "comments." Most commenters say nice things. Others offer kind and constructive criticism. A very, very few impugn my motives, question my intelligence, and doubt my love for mothers, apple pie and Sunday School teachers.

Indeed, the advent of the Internet signaled the dawning of a day and age when
anybody can say anything and the criticism is global, instant, and permanent thanks to Google.

To all who have, or will become, the focus of t
he electronic slings and arrows of the outrageous and outraged, Rick Warren shares the following wise counsel:

If you wrestle with a pig you'll both get dirty."
Define yourself or others will."
Bless those who curse you."
fact from opinion."
"Hurt people hurt people."
"Insults are insecurities."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Who Are We Willing To Offend...

Scott Hodge recently posed this question: "Who are we willing to offend?"

Here's how Scott framed the question and his response:

Someone just asked me, "How can a church embrace diversity without offending someone?"

My answer: "I don’t think it can."

Everything a church does will offend SOMEONE. I think the question has to be, "WHO are we willing to offend in order to reach the people we're called to reach?"

Do you agree or disagree with Scott?

Monday, June 16, 2008


A few months ago I signed-in to Twitter and started twittering. The uninitiated reader may ask, "What's Twitter and twittering?"

Twitter is like a mini-blog that allows you to post quickly throughout the day and to easily follow others too. It's a brief answer to the question "What are you doing right now?"

Now some of you are thinking, "Doesn't Vann have anything better to do?" Good question! But new technology fascinates me... and I like to stay near the edge if possible.

If some of you who are a part of SoHills are interested in twittering, let me know. (Check-out how the Buckhead church in Atlanta is using Twitter.) I'd like to see if this technology really enhances community or not. And if you are interested in following me on Twitter, click here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Father...

My father, Wayne Conwell, was part of a generation of dads who left the house each morning in a suit, white shirt and tie... and headed to the office Monday through Friday in order to put in a solid 8-9 hours of work. My dad was the "breadwinner" of the family, which allowed my mom to stay home and be available for my brother, sister and me. I don't recall my dad ever discussing this arrangement with my mom, perhaps he did... but for most men of his generation that's just what they did--they went to work and the wife stayed home and took care of the kids.

Over the years this division of labor between my dad and mom contributed to my perception that my mom was the emotional hub of our family. Mom was the one we went to with skinned knees and bruised feelings. Dad was most often the dispenser of discipline ("You just wait until your father gets home!") or the source of specialized counsel in regard to matters relegated exclusively to the masculine domain (car repairs, sports, and cooking food on the grill).

As a result, sons (that would be me) of fathers from my dad's generation had the tendency to make bold claims as to how we were going to be different (read "better") fathers to our children. None of this chained-to-a-desk, cog-in-the-system, stuff... we were committed to spending quality time with our children--and sharing the parenting load with our wives (who were in many situations now working outside the home).

It was easy for me and many men of my generation to be smug... we loved our dads, but were we confident in our ability to rise above what they had been and be not just fathers, but pals to our kids.

As I sit writing these words on Father's Day, I feel that by the grace of God and through the loving support of a terrific wife and fellow parent, I've done an okay job at being a dad. But today, I have a renewed appreciation for my dad, and the other fathers of his generation, who made substantial sacrifices by working hard at jobs that put food on our table, a roof over our heads, and penny loafers from the Spiegel catalog
on our feet.

I may have become more self-actualizing as a father (a term my dad would have scratched his head over), but my dad taught me lessons through his life and example that I'm just now starting to realize.

I wish I could call you up and say all of this to you, Dad... but you died several years ago while I was still in the process of figuring it out. So...
thank you, Wayne Conwell, for being a great father... and especially for being my dad. I am in many ways the man and father I am today because of your influence. Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Whole Lot of Shaking...

I experienced my very first earthquake (at least that I'm aware of) in the early morning hours of April 29, 2003. My house and everything in it, including the bed in which I was sleeping, shook for about 10 seconds.

By the time I was fully awake, the earthquake was over. But even if I had slept through most of it, I had just experienced a genuine earthquake and lived to tell about it!

News reports later that day informed me that the people who study earthquakes had determined that the earthquake I’d experienced measured 4.9 on the Richter scale. (I’m thinking Richter must have been some guy who spent his whole life experiencing earthquakes and then writing down a number as to how they made him feel: “Wow, that was a biggie; I’m giving that bad boy a 7.9.” “Shucks, that earthquake was nothing… I’m only giving that sissy a 2.”)

Apparently, the earthquake that woke me up was not considered to be all that big. And that was okay with me. If you’re going to experience an earthquake, there’s no doubt that a little one that everyone can laugh about the next day is the kind of earthquake you want.

I realize that people who live in certain places, say California, experience earthquakes all the time. In fact, I get the idea that the earth shaking is no big deal to many people… kind of like the way I feel about a foggy day, or when pollen turns my car yellow. It’s just one of those things that happen.

The Bible talks about earthquakes. Earthquakes often occurred in the Old and New Testament when God wanted to make His presence known. God also seemed to shake the earth when he was upset: “The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.” Psalm 18:7.

All this pondering about the earth quaking and trembling got me thinking about how shaky so much of what I trust in really is. Here I went to bed expecting to sleep through the night, and I awakened to my house and bed shaking.

And the shakiness doesn't stop there. How often have I seen things that I thought would never move start to quiver like a bowl of Jell-O. Relationships, sports, jobs, money… all have let me down through the years.

But in Psalm 18, the same Psalm which talks about God causing the earth to tremble, we read: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.” Psalm 18:2.

I have experienced an earthquake and lived to blog about it. Recalling that time has reminded that when everything else in my like is quaking, God isn't. When I’m looking for something solid to stand on, God is my rock.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Gift of Time...

I met a guy named Chris the other day. Chris told me about his six year-old son who loves to play baseball. It was easy to see that Chris loved his son and that he wants to be a good dad.

Chris mentioned that his next door neighbor has a son who likes to Jet Ski. His neighbor's son had already burned the engine out on one Jet Ski, and Chris couldn’t understand why the dad keeps shelling out thousands of dollars on this kid. Chris told me his neighbor is divorced, and doesn’t spend much time with his son… but he keeps buying his kid stuff.

I can never understand when and where and why God drops me into conversations like this one with Chris. I picture God chuckling and saying, “Let’s see what Vann does with this one.” Chris has already told me that when he came home recently to pitch batting practice, his 6 year-old smacked him on the forehead with a line drive. “Why didn’t you get out of the way, Dad?” Chris smiled as he told me that story. It was clear he dearly loved his son. And this other dad wants to buy his kid everything… and not give his son what he really needs . . . his time.

There’s this one student I know, his name is Tim. And whenever Tim sees me at church he comes over and gives me a hug. And when he hugs me, for just a moment, Tim puts his head on my shoulder. It’s like he’s thanking me for this moment, for a little bit of my time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Terrifying Turtle...

A lady visiting our house the other day wanted to know if our turtle was "aggressive."

You've never known real terror until you've been chased around the Conwell's backyard by our aggressive turtle!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Running Scared- Part 2

I'm about half-way through Edward Welch's new book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. I wanted to build on my earlier post and share some of Ed's insights that have really spoken to me:

What is God's most frequent command?

The answer is: "Do not be afraid." (Here's a sampling of the over 300 occurrences of this command in the Bible: Genesis 15:1; Genesis 21:17; Numbers 21:34; Isaiah 54:4; Daniel 10:12; Matthew 1:27; John 14:27)

There are two things to remember about fear or worry. First, like any strong emotion, it wants to be the boss. It claims to tell us how life really is, and it won't be easily persuaded otherwise. Fear doesn't trust easily.

Second, when fear escalates, it wants relief and it wants it now. Fear is impatient.

One of the first steps in combating fear and worry is to slow down. "Be still" (Psalm 46:10) is another of God's exhortations to fearful people.

The odd thing is that fear and anxiety are running away from something, but they don't know what to run to. They know danger, but they don't know where to find peace and rest. If fear slows down for a minute, it realizes peace and rest can only reside in someone rather than something.

Fear calls out for a person bigger than ourselves.

The problem is that our worries and fears remind us of our own smallness, so to rely on ourselves takes us back to where we started. If you are jaded because you feel as though God has been unreliable, look at it this way: there are no other choices.

So here is the proposal: let fear point us to the knowledge of God, and let the Spirit of God teach us the knowledge of God.

Think of the Bible as the unfolding story of God's revelation about himself. As such, "Do not be afraid" says something about God even before it speaks to us.

Scripture assumes that we will be afraid and anxious at times. What is important is where we turn, or to whom we turn when we are afraid.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Attention: Church Hoppers...

Not that we ever have to deal with this issue at SoHills, but if we did... Kelly Adkins has written a great open letter to a church "hopper."

Kelly and her husband, Mike, are part of the leadership team at Grace Fellowship Church in Orlando, Florida. Here's Kelly's letter:

Dearest Career Church Hopper:

I met you again on Wednesday, the same person smiling at me through a different face, telling me that you've been shopping for churches for months now, and that darn it, you "just can't find one (you) like." The music's too rocky at this one, you said; the preacher too funny at that one.

The latest one might make the cut, though: you'd had the pastor and his wife over the previous evening for a little "dinner audition" -- your words, not mine -- and he said things that made you feel good and comfortable, things that you already agree with, so you're thinking about sticking around. At the very least, you could get your teaching from this church and your worship from that one.

I'm sure we'll run into each other again, but before we do, I'd like to suggest some things you could perhaps think about before you move on to the next church, as I'm sure you will, whether this weekend or next year:

* Christ didn't bleed for the Church so you could treat your search for one like an episode of Survivor, deciding who to vote off the island this week.
* The Church was not commissioned by Christ to meet your needs. You ARE the Church, and you've been commissioned to meet the needs of the world.
* Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). Quit treating his bride like a Jesus buffet where you can pick and choose what you like, hedging your bets against the pain and sacrifice of making a commitment.

* Per scripture's instructions to use your gifts in service to the Body of Christ -- and its lack of instruction to search for a church that scratches you where you itch -- you might want to consider what the Church you're visiting needs from you, rather than the other way around.

* If you only want to hear things you already know and agree with, save your Sundays and talk to yourself in the bathroom mirror.


The Preacher's Wife

Monday, June 9, 2008

Friendly Fire...

Friendly fire is a term the military came up with to describe (and I'm using a pretty broad definition here) when the soldiers of an army are shooting at each other... and as a result are inflicting injury, even death, on their own.

There's an old war movie, The Longest Day, that has an interesting depiction of friendly fire. As a prelude to the D-Day invasion, the Allies dropped "paradummies" to divert German troops away from the Allies' actual drop zones. The dummies were nicknamed "Rupert" and were made to resemble human figures. In the movie, the "Ruperts" are shown landing near and among the German troops... and in the frenzied, fog of war, the soldiers start shooting at each other. There's even a scene where a German soldier calls for reinforcements--screaming at headquarters that his troops are being overrun by the enemy... Rupert.

Okay, Vann... we're trying to stay with you on this post, but you're losing us. What's your point in all of this?

Here's my point: I'm convinced that a lot of churches are at this very moment under spiritual attack, SoHills included. I'm convinced that our adversary is not of the flesh-and blood variety... but attacks with spiritual forces of evil that dwell in the heavenly realms. We're in the center of the evil one's cross hairs... but he's saving his bullets by causing us to shoot at each other.

He's dropping all sorts of "Ruperts" among us. The "Ruperts" have been crafted to look like the real deal: doctrinal purity, adherence to Biblical tradition, remaining true to our church heritage... but they are diversions to keep us from a realization of where the attack is really coming from.

So, we... the army of God... shoot at each other, inflicting casualties, and scream for reinforcements because we fear we're about to be overrun. Which means more and more of our resources, time, and energy are devoted to fighting each other... and then attempting to care for the very people who are being shot.

Our adversary is a cruel and cunning opponent.

Here's my challenge: Stop what you're doing (okay, finish reading this post first), grab your Bible and read Ephesians 6:10-20.

Next, get on your knees and pray. Pray for your church's leaders... especially those you've been talking about, criticizing and attacking. Pray for those people in your church who have been wounded, bloodied, and alienated as a result of the friendly fire that's been inflicted upon them. Confess to God your part in that friendly fire. Even if you weren't pulling the trigger... if you stood by and silently did nothing as it happened, you played a part in the bullets flying.

Finally, trust God to give you the eyes to see what the evil one's real targets are: our marriages, families, friendships, offices, schools, and churches. And vow to God that you will trust Him to reveal to you going foward who and where the real enemy is.

Please... we must stop shooting at each other. We are not the enemy.

Friday, June 6, 2008


This information was posted on the blog two doors down from mine on Blogger. (You've gotta love the picture... this is one unusual-looking dude!) I've got to ask the SoHills' contingent of Malagasy students if they could get someone back home to send me an Aye-aye.

Here's all you ever wanted to know about this little creature called the Aye-aye:

The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a strepsirrhine native to Madagascar that combines rodent-like teeth with a long, thin middle finger to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker.

It is the world's largest nocturnal primate, and is characterized by its unique method of finding food; it taps on trees to find grubs, then gnaws holes in the wood and inserts its elongated middle finger to pull the grubs out.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Inattentional Blindness...

I just had another one of those moments when you know someone is either reading your mind, or listening to your conversations. Mark Batterson posted some thoughts on his blog recently that resonated with me, and paralleled discussions I've had with several people over the last month or so. Here's what Mark had to say:

I am spending the next two days with a church consultant. Here's why.

One of the great challenges we face as leaders is something called "inattentional blindness." The way it works is this: if you see something all the time it begins to disappear until you don't see it at all. That's how you lose perspective. And that's how you lose your leadership edge.

What are the implications?

For starters, most of us totally forget what it's like for someone who is unchurched to walk through the doors of a church building for the first time. So our environment isn't as hospitable as it could be or should be.

For example, we do a disclaimer before our offering each week. If you are a guest, please don't feel obligated to give. This is just one way we, as regular attenders, worship God. You've got to let them off the hook because they have no idea what is happening when an offering bucket is coming their way. Is this mandatory? Are these weekly dues? How much do I put in? (Vann: We include the following in SoHills' bulletin each week: "Please do not feel obligated to participate in the offering. The offering is for members and regular attendees who consider Southern Hills church their home.")

I think another example is that we turn a blind eye to the chipped paint on the wall or the unevenly folded bulletin or the lack of directional signs. Essentially, we lose our excellence.

How do you fight it?

I have two recommendations. One way is by doing reconnaissance at other churches. I need to get outside my environment and see what others are doing. It keeps me from becoming a closed-system. Another way is via consultation. You invite someone into your environment to give you fresh perspective.

One way or the other, good leaders master the art of reevaluation. They are constantly reevaluating everything they do. Otherwise we start doing ministry out of memory.

Here's what I know for sure. We can have better systems. We can create better videos. We can become more hospitable. We can do a better job of evangelizing and discipling.

I think there has to be a degree of holy discontent if we are going to move toward excellence and overcome our "inattentional blindness."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Running Scared- Part 1...

I'm a third of the way through Edward Welch's new book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. I feel like Ed is writing this book to me, since every other page seems to contain an insight that smacks me right in the face.

My guess is that fear is somewhere near the top of your list of things that have the power to grip and twist your heart. Fear is "an inescapable feature of earthly life."

Ed's book, and the topic of fear, calls for more than one post--so I'm going to tag today's entry as "Part 1" which implies more will follow. Here are some of my highlighted insights drawn from what I've read so far in Running Scared:

Whatever you need is a mere stone's throw from what you fear.

Two prominent categories of fear are those fears related to money and people. Their power to provoke fear is directly related to how much we need them. If we need what people can give us, they are in control and we will fear them. If we need what money can give us, we will notice rising insecurities whenever we do the bills.

Money is believed to have unusual power to satisfy our needs and wants, so it is the target of endless fears.

With money we can get adequate medical treatment, love, respect, and care in our old age. Nothing else in creation can offer so much control and power. Without it we are vulnerable and powerless. No wonder our fears attach themselves to our net worth.

If fear were just about a dangerous world, there would be little I could do. But if it is about me, maybe there is a way through it.

Of all the different words and ideas that cluster around fear, work with "trust." Review some of your fears and ask: What do these fears say I trust in? What do my fears say I love?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Became A Christian And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt...

I've just finished reading Vince Antonucci's book, I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. Near the end of the book, Vince points to a lesson he learned from his friend Dallas: "If we want to do something for Jesus, we need to touch the sick."

Vince makes clear that there are all kinds of daily opportunities for us to touch the sick:

* Being the one person who befriends the socially awkward person everyone avoids.
* Treating your waitress (or your garbage man, or the clerk at the store) like a person who matters, rather than reducing her to someone who exists simply to serve you.

* Sitting next to the lonely. Perhaps you could make a commitment that you will not sit next to your friends in church each Sunday but will instead look for someone who is alone.

Vince wraps-up the book by listing questions which he indicates he's learning to ask himself. Here are a few of those questions:

1) If I feel most alive when I'm watching a movie or playing a video game or reading a book or watching sports, if those are consistently the best parts of my day, what does that say about my life? Shouldn't it be more exciting to live my life than to watch someone else live theirs?

2) In the Bible, Jesus led his followers into dangerous places. Do I often find myself in dangerous places? And, if not, what does that mean?

3) Despite being completely righteous, Jesus attracted the worst of sinners. Are sinful people drawn to me or are they put off by my so-called righteousness?

4) When Jesus came into contact with people, their lives were radically transformed. Are people's lives being changed by knowing me?

5) Why isn't Jesus enough for me?

Pretty good questions. Pretty good book.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Divine Intervention...

The Associated Press recently reported the story of two New Zealand pilots running out of fuel in their microlight airplane. The men offered prayers and were able to make an emergency landing in a field — coming to rest right next to a 20-foot-tall sign reading, "Jesus is Lord."

Grant Stubbs and Owen Wilson, both from the town of Blenheim on the country's South Island, were in midflight when their plane's engine sputtered, coughed and died. "My friend and I are both Christians so our immediate reaction in a life-threatening situation was to ask for God's help," Stubbs said. He added, "When we saw that sign, we started laughing."

Nearby residents provided the two men with fuel to fly their plane back home.

How do you think this story would have been reported if the plane had crashed into the sign? "Two Christians Meet Jesus Their Lord"?

Sunday, June 1, 2008


I'm a fan of Seth Godin. His keen insights and observations are pithy and thought-provoking. Seth will be one of the keynote speakers at the Catalyst Conference which takes place in October in Atlanta. I'm signed up to attend, and I look forward to hearing Seth in person at Catalyst.

Here's a recent post of Seth's that I found to be both pithy and thought-provoking:

Just wondering--do you deserve to be recognized by the businesses you patronize, the charities you support and the place you work? Would it feel good to have the barrista remember you? Or the owner of Sharky's... that place you spend so much time and money? (Seth didn't actually write that last sentence, but I thought it fit well with the point he's making.)

Even better, do you think it would be motivating (or even satisfying) to have your boss recognize you for the hard work you did over Memorial Day weekend? Honest recognition, not just a mumbled thanks.

Last question: do you think your customers and co-workers feel the same way?