Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Identity

This is a reprint of a post I wrote that was originally published at hopefellowship.blogspot.com.

Identity- 1. the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another. 2. condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is.


As a pastor, one of the things I love is getting to know people. It’s one thing to be acquainted with someone so that I can say hi when I see them, but it’s even more fun to me when I get to know who they really are. I have been fascinated over the years by the number of times I have been surprised by the beauty and depth of people. There have been instances when I’ve been forced to admit that I had made snap judgments about them that proved completely wrong in the end. It’s apparent that God has carefully crafted each and every one of us, and that His handiwork is never shoddy. The funny thing is, I think it’s easier for us to believe this about others (Well, most others…) ☺ than it is to believe it about ourselves. I have met so many people who think that they have nothing to offer. They have started to believe the snap judgments of others; those who haven’t stopped to recognize the beauty within. It’s so disappointing to see people settle for less than their true identity. Here is what I have found. I must accept and acknowledge that God created me and designed me for a purpose, and that I am who I am not by accident, but because God specifically chose my unique qualities. I love the words of Psalm 139:13-15 in The Message:

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God-you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration-what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

It’s incredible to think that the God of the universe, who created the entire world, also cared enough to shape each one of us, both inside and out! So today, whose voice will you listen to? Who will shape your identity? “God, today I pray that I will see myself the way that you see me. Help me to also see the beauty in others, and see your craftsmanship in everyone I meet. Amen.”

Frequency

I know that my postings have been missing for several months, and for that I apologize. I'm not going to make a lot of promises, but I do intend to resume writing at some point. In the meantime, you can keep up with what I'm doing by following me on twitter at www.twitter.com/marklunsford. Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Obnoxious Texans

Before I moved to Texas, I believed that all people who lived in Texas were obnoxious.  There is no other state in the country whose flag is the primary decoration in most people's homes.  I just could never figure it out.  When I lived in Tennessee, a lot of the people I worked with had ties to Dallas, and that sealed it for me.  I mean, I was from Florida, the best state in the union, but you didn't hear me whooping and hollering about how great it was.  Well, I'm not sure what has happened to me, but I really do like it here.  In fact, for my first year anniversary I even bought a shirt that says, "Everything's better in Texas"!  I'm wearing it like a proud, obnoxious Texan.  I'm still not sure why everyone thinks it's so great, but I'm not fighting it any longer...so count me a proud member of the obnoxious Texan club!


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Growing Up and Hearing God

My daughters are growing up too fast.  It's hard to believe that my girls are almost out of elementary school.  I recently set them up with email addresses, and so now I get cute emails and instant messages from them throughout the day.  It's amazing and a little scary to see them developing their personalities and independence.  One thing that I'm enjoying observing is their growing relationship with God.  I see them using the principles they have been taught at home and church in their interactions with their friends.  One of my daughters is especially inquistive about how God works, and has been reading "The battlefied of the mind (for kids)" by Joyce Meyer.  This is a really good book for her, as she has wrestled with fear and is learning how to ask God for strength and courage when she needs it.  The other night as Anne and I were tucking her in, she asked a great question.  She asked "How do I hear God's voice?"  At first I wasn't sure if she was asking this deep, unsimple question to prolong our visit to her room, or if she really was curious.  It became clear that she really wanted to know as she got out the book and began reading a passage that talked about hearing God.  I savored the opportunity to share with her about my own journey, and talk about how I recognize His voice in my life.  I am so glad that she is asking these questions and wants to not only learn about God, but to understand what it means to have a real relationship with Him.


So, How do we hear God's voice?  I don't have time to write a Theological study on the topic, but I will leave you with a couple of thoughts that I hope will cause you to dive in a little deeper.

1.  Be still and ready to listen- Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that He is God."  Our hectic lives leave little room for being still, but unless we stop and take time to spend with God, we might miss what He is saying to us.  When I am quiet and giving God my thoughts, will, and emotions, then I can focus on Him and become ready to receive.

2. "Open the eyes of my heart"-  There is a worship song that says "Open the eyes of my heart."  At first, being more of a literal guy, I didn't like that line.  After all, we don't have eyes in our heart! :) But the reality is that God is spiritual.  He created us as spiritual beings, with a soul.  When we can get past the distractions of the physical circumstances that we see with our natural eyes, then we can see clearly in the spiritual what God is saying to us.  In 2 Kings 6, the prophet Elisha's servant woke up one morning to some unwelcome guests, but Elisha helped him to see why there was no need to be afraid. 

"15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.

 16 "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

 17 And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

When we only see with our natural eyes, we lose sight of God's power.  He is with us no matter what it looks like on the outside.

3.  If you feel like God has spoken to you, make sure that it doesn't contradict something God has already said in His word.-  For instance, I told my daughter that since the bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God has not given us a spirit of fear, she can be confident that any thought that causes her to be afraid is not from God.  Since He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we must make sure that we don't attribute something to God that doesn't line up with scripture.

3.  Finally, hear what God says and do it!-  When God speaks, take action.  James 1:22 says, "Don't just listen to God's word, you must do what it says, otherwise you are only fooling yourselves." 

Open up the eyes of your heart today and hear what God speaks to you! 


Saturday, September 6, 2008

iphone mania

Okay, boycotts can't last forever right?  This weekend I ended my ipod boycott by buying an iphone.  Something of an early birthday present for me.  I've been very vocal over the years in my support of the subscription model for music and have begged and pleaded with Apple to offer subscriptions as an option.  (You can read more about it here and here.)  I actually struggled with the decision for a while.  I've been using a Samsung Blackjack for the last year, and I have been extremely happy with the phone.  It offers everything needed in a smartphone-email, web access, and oh yeah...makes calls too.  But I saw iphone owners doing all kinds of cool stuff with their phones, like playing games, using location based gps, watching movies, and I wanted my phone to do that too.  So...I created some great rationalization for my purchase.  :)  My decision to purchase the iphone was made based on all of the things it offered in spite of  the fact that it was also an ipod.  In fact, I'm still using Rhapsody (although I'm switching to Napster because I like the interface better) for music so that I can download whatever I want, whenever I want for one set price per month.  I just wish that I could use one device for everything.  My trusty Dell DJ will still serve as my primary music player...for now.  Maybe one day Apple will hear me and offer subscriptions as an option.  But until then, I'll just keep playing tap tap revenge, cowabunga, labryinth, and all the other time wasting applications that are now available to me on the iphone!  

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Church Stuff

As most of you know, I serve as Executive Pastor at Hope Fellowship in Frisco, Texas.  I've been here over a year now, and I can tell you that I've never been more excited about the direction of our church and the potential we have for making an impact in our community.  A lot of people ask me, "so what is it that you actually do?"  I pretty much do whatever is needed. But more specifically, I work alongside our lead pastor, John McKinzie, in developing the vision and strategy for the future.  On a daily basis, I oversee all the finance and business management, lead our life group ministry and weekend ministry teams (ushers, greeters, parkers, connect, and coffee).  Since some of the readers of this blog are also involved in ministry, I thought I'd share some of the tools that we have implemented recently that have been a tremendous help in our ministry.


Planning Center Online is a tool that we use to schedule all of our volunteers.  As a church grows, communication can be a challenge.  This site has helped us to streamline the process of scheduling, and close the loop on communication gaps.  For instance, the monthly usher schedule is put together by the ministry teams assistant on staff and is sent to the ushers.  In the email that they receive, they click a button that says "accept" or "decline" the request, and that is immediately noted in the schedule.  Now, when the usher leader, ministry teams assistant, usher service leader, or I log into the site, we can all easily see that usher's response.  Without sending emails all over the place, everyone can be in the loop.  It has taken some adjustment on everyone's part, but I think it's been a great step.

Last month, we moved our church management system (database) from Shelby Systems to Fellowship One.  This was a big deal, because we had to migrate thousands of records to the new system.  I've done database conversions in the past, and it's always been a huge headache.  However, this one went really smooth.  Their team helped us through each step, and everything got converted with no real hiccups.  This new system is all hosted offsite, and so staff members can access it anywhere they have a web browser.  Now we don't have to worry about backing up the software, and I don't need anyone to manage Microsoft SQL on site.  It also gives us better ability to do child check in on the weekends, and has allowed us to offer online giving and online event registration.  I had been watching Fellowship One develop over the last few years, and felt like this was the right time to make the switch.  I'm very happy I did.

Another cool thing about working in a growing church, is seeing new buildings go up that enable us to minister to more people.  Last week, they raised the walls!  We are expanding our sanctuary to seat 1000 people instead of the 500 it seats now.  We are also enlarging our children's ministry area to meet the needs of families.  It's great to see what God is doing!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Donald Miller and the power of Story

I heard Donald Miller for the first time about three years ago at the Catalyst Conference. I was really impressed with his conversational style of speaking, and his ability to break subjects down to their core. After hearing him that first time, I read his book, Blue Like Jazz. That book really made me reconsider some of my core beliefs about what it means to be a Christ follower. It was a really good stretch for me. I still have a very different outlook than he does on a number of issues, but I appreciate the perspective that he brings.

Last week at the Echo conference, I had an opportunity to hear him speak again. He talked about how he has been studying writing for movies and television, and that his study of developing a story has changed his perspective on life. When he looked at his own life, he realized that his story wouldn't make a compelling movie. He talked about how the bible is full of compelling stories, and that all great stories have some common elements. The first element is a character; a character who wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it. He then talked about the fact that we are all characters in our own stories that are yet to be written.

There are some characteristics of a character that will cause us to cheer for him or boo him. One is that the character is not what he thinks or feels, but what he does. He gave an example from the latest Rocky movie, where Rocky starts off by befriending a single mom, rescuing a dog, and basically showing that he is a good human being. In a good story, the hero can't think more of himself than others, if he does he will cease to be the hero. In a good story, the hero always wants something. But it's not very satisfying unless what he or she wants is impressive. For instance, a movie about a guy who wants a new car wouldn't be that great. In fact, the best stories are the ones where the hero wants something, and if he doesn't get it, people will die. In our own life story, we should ask the question...what are we living for and what will happen if we don't get it?

Once the hero's motives are clear, and we know what he is going after, that's when the conflict usually begins. The moment when conflict gets so bad that the character thinks they're not going to make it, that's when the story is just starting to get good. As Christians, we have implied for a long time that if you are living for Christ, your life will be happy and carefree. But the truth is, that doesn't really line up with the stories of the bible. As I look back on my own life, I realize that the times that I have changed for the better have come through pain. When we go through periods where it seems like we're not going to make it, we need to remember that our story is just starting to get good. Maybe the pain or conflict in our own stories is just paving the way for us to achieve what we're striving for. In the bible, James 1:2-4 says, "
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." As we write the stories of our lives, we need to understand that pain and conflict will come. But if we keep in mind what we are trying to accomplish, and trust God to be the source of our strength, then God will use our lives to create a powerful story that will speak of His character.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Catching Up

Have you ever had the feeling that no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to get caught up? Lately I've been feeling that way. Like a greyhound chasing a fake rabbit around a circle. Well, that's the best excuse I can come up with for not posting in a month. I've been nudged by the only two people who read this blog to get with it, so here's what's been going on in my life recently.

Back on July 31, two significant things happened. My parents celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary (Yay!!!) and my daughter Samantha got her tonsils out (boo!!!). My parents are still together so I think the anniversary went well. The surgery went well too, and Samantha was a real trooper. When we got home that afternoon, Anne started to get a fever. I checked her temperature and it was almost 102! The next day, she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pneumonia! Sami's recovery went well, but she was in a lot of pain. Her doctor told us that he doesn't know why some kids experience pain and others don't, but that it happens. Anne's recovery has been slow. It has taken a long time to get her energy back and is still suffering through coughing fits. She is beginning to feel better, but still isn't 100%.

We got another bit of unexpected news when we learned that my mom (who had a double mastectomy last year) had a small lump removed and it was shown to have cancer. We were really unprepared to hear this. As a family, we have been so glad that my mom's recovery has gone so well. Even though it's been a long process, she has been feeling better and looking forward to living cancer free. We weren't sure what this was going to mean. Was she going to have more treatments and start all over again? A PET scan was scheduled to see if there was any more cancer in her body. When the results came back there was good news, NO CANCER! We were very relieved and were so glad to hear the news. We don't know if she will have to do any preventative treatments or not, but at least we know that she is cancer free! Thank God!

One more bit of craziness to add...the girls had to go to the dentist on Monday. The dentist came out and told Anne that Samantha (poor girl) needed to have EIGHT teeth pulled! For some reason, they were not coming out on their own and her permanent teeth didn't have room to come in. But the dentist said that he couldn't do that many at once. We figured if we didn't do them all at once, we may not get her back to the dentist to get the others out. :) He said he would see how it goes and how she was feeling. After he took the first four out, he gave her the option to come back later, or get the others out. She told him to go ahead and take them out, so he did. The dentist had never taken out that many teeth at once on a child before. Samantha came through it with no problems and didn't really have any pain either. I think she was glad to get it over with!

That's a little bit of what the last month has been like, and I didn't even mention what has been going on at the church (which has continued to grow and do well). Maybe I'll give an update on that later.

Just remember...even if you don't hear from me every day, we're still friends!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Power

Last Monday, a construction worker was digging with a backhoe on our property preparing the foundation for our new church addition. I don't know if he just wasn't paying attention or if he didn't see the warning flags, but he got a jolt when he hit the main electrical feed to our building. Fortunately, he wasn't injured, but the damage to the power line had been done. The construction superintendent told us that they had to turn off our electricity while they got the line fixed and the office would be without power for the rest of the day and even the next morning. As the lights went dark we started to realize how dependent we are on electricity. Since there was no power to our email server, no one would be getting email. Since the phones have to be plugged in to work, nobody could talk on them. The offering from the day before couldn't be processed because it had to be done on the computer. Basically, the day was over. Everyone went home because we couldn't do much without power.

It occured to me that electrical power is something we often take for granted. In the U.S. our power supply is pretty stable and we don't wonder if a light is going to come on when we flip the switch, we just know that it will. As I was sitting in the dark that day in my office, I realized that there is another power that I often take for granted. Acts 1:8 says "
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere..." As a Christian, I have access to the greatest power in history, and I truly believe that Jesus can make a difference in the everyone's life, but because I have become so accustomed to His presence in my life, I sometimes lose the awe and wonder that I should have. It wasn't always this way...

I Kings Chapter 8 tells the story of Solomon dedicating the Temple. The priests brought the Ark of the Lord's Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple-the Most Holy place. When the priests came out of the Most Holy place, a thick cloud filled the Temple. The priests could not even continue their service, they were so overwhelmed at the Lord's presence. Clearly, they understood that God had chosen to inhabit His Temple and they had nothing but reverence and awe for the power that represented.

Now, because of Christ's sacrifice, I have the opportunity to pray to a God who is present and not distant. I have the opportunity to access power beyond all description.

God forgive me for taking you for granted. Thank you for your presence in my life. Give me the power that I need to live for you daily, and to tell everyone about your love. Amen.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Trip Recap

I wanted to take some time to reflect on how blessed I feel to have had the opportunity to go on vacation. The five of us in our family had some much needed “together time,” and we were able to connect and catch up with a lot of our extended family and friends. I’m grateful that I work in an environment that values families and allows me to take off of work to recharge my batteries. I won’t bore you with every detail, but I thought I’d share some of the highlights of our trip. So far, we have traveled 2000 miles, and by the time my family drives home at the end of the week (aided by my wife’s parents) we will have logged more than 3100 miles on the Odyssey. By the way, the Odyssey drove great with no problems! As I mentioned before, our family loves road trips and this was no exception. The first night we had the opportunity to stay with Anne's brother's family in Little Rock. Their boys are growing up fast! Then it was on to Bardstown KY. My sister's in-laws were very gracious and hosted us in their "hill house."


We met up with my sister's family and her in-laws, my parents,
some friends from Colorado, and Anne's parents came in later in the week. The views from the house are incredible! It's is such a great location and the Kentucky hills are really beautiful.

While we were at the house, the girls enjoyed fishing for the first time.



There is an amphitheater in Bardstown where we saw "Stephen Foster-the musical". Stephen Foster was a famous songwriter in the 19th century who wrote "My Old Kentucky Home", "Suwanee River", "Oh Susanna" and a bunch of other songs that are a part of our heritage. The girls dressed up in period costumes and got a picture with the performers.



We went to a July 4th parade in Springfield, KY and made quite a splash with our fashionable hats. In fact, this picture ended up in the local paper.



I had fun driving an RTV all over the hills!



I Can't wait to do it all again!






Break's Over

My vacation has ended and I’m reminded of a joke that my friend Rick in Nashville told me a long time ago…

A certain man died and went to hell. (That could happen, the rest of this, probably not.) At the entrance to hell, he was met by a demon who told him, “Welcome to hell, you must now choose between any of the three doors in front of you to choose your place of eternal torment.” Behind the first door was people screaming and wailing while flames burned all around them. “Ouch” the man thought. Behind the second door snakes and rodents climbed all over the people in the room. “EEww.” He had always been afraid of snakes. As the demon opened the third door, a bad odor hit the man’s nose. The people inside were standing in manure up to their waists, but they were sipping coffee out of nice cups. The man thought,”Well the smell is awful, but I think I can get used to it. Besides, it beats getting burned or having snakes crawl on me, and I do enjoy coffee!” He told the demon, “If I have to choose, I’ll take this door.” “Great,” the demon replied. “Enjoy your eternal torment.” As he waded into the room, he wondered to himself where he might find the coffee maker. At that moment, a loud voice boomed over the intercom and said, “Okay everybody, break’s over. Back on your heads!”

Sunday, June 29, 2008

VACATION!!

Today we are starting our vacation!! We are packed and ready to go. We are going to be seeing all of our family as we make stops in Little Rock AR, Bardstown KY, and then on to Tampa. By the time it's all said and done we will put 3,000 miles on the Odyssey. It's a good thing our kids like to travel. In fact, they love getting in the van and going on the road. My mom says they must have got the traveling gene from her. My daughter Morgan told me, "My friends think I'm crazy, but I looove road trips!"

Vacation here we come!!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another Way to Get Here-MarkLunsford.net

Today I realized something that was so obvious, I can't believe it's taken me this long to figure it out. When I started this blog, I didn't know if it's something I would really keep up, so I set it up with a regular blogspot address. The problem has been, it's not very easy to remember. In fact, when I start to tell someone, they almost always stop me and say, "Wait, can you write that down for me?" It just doesn't roll off the tongue...God dash Life dash Stuff dot blogspot dot com. Ten syllables!! Well, starting today there is another way to get to the site. MarkLunsford.net That's it! How easy is that! Now when I want to tell someone how to find me on this here world wide interweb, all I have to say is MarkLunsford.net. So if you're ever in a conversation with someone and it goes like, "Hey you remember that Mark guy?" "Yeah, I think he has a blog or something?" "Oh yeah, how can I find it?" "I don't know, why don't you just try MarkLunsford.net?" Guess what, that person will actaully find me! :) Now, If you already subscribe to God. Life. Stuff. you don't have to change anything. You'll still continue to receive updates whenever they're posted. And if someone goes to the trouble of typing in those dashes and spots they'll still find me too. This will just make it easier for people to find this site in the future.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Six Week Odyssey

Yesterday I mentioned that I picked up our van from the shop. Well, this wasn't just a routine oil change. Let me give you a little history...

A couple of years ago we decided to buy a brand new minivan. We wanted to know what it felt like to put the first 100,000 miles on a car instead of the second 100,000. We researched all of the brands and settled on the one that appeared to be the most reliable, and the one that would fit into our 10 year plan. We bought a 2006 Honda Odyssey. We have been so happy with our decision in a lot of ways. It's a great family vehicle. There is room for everyone, and it is great on the road. It gets decent gas mileage too, which is especially important now.

A few months ago we approached the end of the "bumper-to-bumper" 36,000 mile warranty. I made sure to take it in so that if there was anything wrong, it would get fixed. The good news was that Honda made every effort to make sure it was in top condition. The bad news was that they had to replace motor mounts, power steering pump, brakes, and a seat that was stuck in the forward position. I didn't expect that many repairs under warranty.

Then, on a routine trip home from the mall, it overheated. When I pulled in the driveway, there was liquid spewing out of the engine. I certainly never expected that to happen. I called a mechanic who makes house calls, and when he gave me the news I could hardly believe it. The Odyssey had a blown head gasket. Now I don't know much about engines, but it was clear that this was not good. I had the car towed to Honda and prayed that this would be covered by the 50,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Long story short...Honda did completely fix it under the warranty which was a huge relief. The service advisor showed me the ticket, and the repair would have cost $5300 if I would have had to pay for it. Yikes! Because they had to order a new engine and clean the oil out of the entire cooling system, the process took over six weeks! But Honda did provide us with a loaner car (an Accord) so that we would have transportation. I was very pleased with their customer service, which is the good news. The bad news is that the Odyssey has been less reliable than I expected. I just hope that the major repairs are behind us, and that we will be able to count on it for our entire 10 year plan.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

The last week it seems like life has been going non-stop. Maybe you're wondering, "What does a carefree guy like me do with all his time?" Well, I'm glad you asked. Since my last post we celebrated Father's day. I always try to milk everything I can out of the holiday. Hey, it's all we dads get right? Since Sundays are kind of busy for me, my family fixed me breakfast on Saturday morning. Waffles, bacon, orange juice, coffee, you just can't go wrong with that.

As last week began, the girls started counting down the days until "Camp Rock Day." Yes, the latest Disney Channel movie aimed squarely at kids my girl's age. On Tuesday, I was informed that the soundtrack was coming out and they just HAD to have it. I needed to keep my reputation as the #1 dad, so I bought it for them. Even kicked in for the bonus DVD! (EXTRA POINTS!) That evening I had a meeting at church with the usher leaders, and Anne had a meeting with the worship team, so the girls stayed in my office learning the new tunes so they would be "ready" for the premiere. While they were in there, they imported the cd onto my computer so that the next time I synced the DJ, it would download to my mp3 player so they could listen to it in the car. Surprisingly resourceful and geeky at the same time. I have to say I was a little proud, even if they did defile my player with their music.

Wednesday brought regular work hours during the day, and then a board meeting at night. After a long day in the office on Thursday, I was looking forward to a little rest time on Thursday night, and a day off on Friday. But when I got home, Anne thought it was a good night to buy our daughter Sydney the dresser that she's needed ever since we moved here. Even though I really didn't feel like it, I agreed that the time was right, so we loaded up and drove to Ikea to pick it up. The great thing about Ikea furniture is that you get the satisfaction of putting it together. I started the process at about 9:30. I'm sure most people could have knocked it out in about thirty minutes, but I finally got it done at 1:30am after realizing that I had put two screws in the wrong place, and then trying to get them out, and then giving up and hoping that it stays together anyway.

Friday was "Camp Rock" day. Most of the day was spent preparing for the big event. The girls were having a couple of friends over to watch it with them. They were so hyped up, they were screaming when it actually did start. I'm not sure if they liked the movie or not, but they watched it at least four more times over the weekend.

Saturday meant it was back to church for the weekend services. Since we had communion last weekend, I got there at about four oclock to help get set up. After service, we all went over to Pastor John's house to get a chance to visit with the Exleys who are in town from Africa. Sunday brought three more services, lunch with friends at La Hacienda, and then life group on Sunday evening.

Monday meant the work week started again. After I got home, we met up with Aaron and Jeanette and walked downtown to get a snowcone from the Snowcone Lady. (I had the white hawaiian, highly recommended).

Today I went back to the office, visited Aubrey and Jen's new arrival Grady in the hospital, picked up our van from the shop (a whole other story), and then enjoyed dinner at home with the family and our summer intern Courtney.

That pretty well catches you up. I have to admit, I like being busy. Especially when I feel like it's busyness with a purpose.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dr. Wood's Top Ten

In Yesterday's post, I mentioned that Dr. George Wood had shared a list of the top ten ways to know the difference between a good fight and a bad fight. Since Dr. Wood is now my friend on Facebook (along with about 1250 others), I sent him a message and asked him if he would send me the list since I wasn't fast enough to write them down as he was speaking. I was a little surprised that he answered me and sent me the list in the same day. Pretty cool! Here's the list:

TOP TEN -- IT’S A GOOD FIGHT WHEN . . .

(10) It’s not with your spouse.

(9) You don’t lose a single fruit of the Spirit before, during, or after the fight.

(8) You can lay your head on the pillow at night, having lain to rest any anger or bitterness.

(7) You gain nothing for yourself by winning.

(6) You don’t lose the war because you insisted on winning one battle, or you voluntarily lose a round in order to win the contest.

(5) You can help the other person to get back up.

(4) You fight fair even though the other guy doesn’t.

(3) You fight from principle rather than the power or prestige of your office. If you must frequently throw your weight around, you may be overweight.

(2) You still get back up after getting knocked down three or more times.

(1) At the end, the devil hurts worse than you do.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ordination to Coronation

Last night I had a chance to attend a gathering of Assemblies of God pastors from all over North Texas. They had an ordination service for new Pastors receiving their ministerial credentials. The speaker for the evening was Dr. George Wood who is the current leader of the Assemblies of God. He has been on the job for less than a year, but is bringing a lot of new, good ideas to the table.

Dr. Wood's message was geared toward these newly credentialed pastors, but of course it resonated with all of us. He started by quoting from Steven Covey's book, the 7 habits of highly effective people, "Begin with the ending in mind." It's important to know your destination at the beginning of the journey. He talked about the apostle Paul who, near the end of his life wrote these words:

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (New Living Translation)6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Dr. Wood challenged all of us to do three things; fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the trust. In fighting the good fight, he talked about how sometimes there are good fights and bad fights in ministry. He had a great top 10 list on how to know the difference.

TOP TEN -- IT’S A GOOD FIGHT WHEN . . .
(10) It’s not with your spouse.
(9) You don’t loose a single fruit of the Spirit before, during, or after the fight.
(8) You can lay your head on the pillow at night, having lain to rest any anger or bitterness.
(7) You gain nothing for yourself by winning.
(6) You don’t lose the war because you insisted on winning one battle, or you voluntarily lose a round in order to win the contest.
(5) You can help the other person to get back up.
(4) You fight fair even though the other guy doesn’t.
(3) You fight from principle rather than the power or prestige of your office. If you must frequently throw your weight around, you may be overweight.
(2) You still get back up after getting knocked down three or more times.
(1) At the end, the devil hurts worse than you do.

He talked of a time he was called in to a small church that was going through division. An 83 year old man, who had run off several pastors in the past was very concerned. Dr. Wood asked, "What are you concerned about?" "This new pastor has moved the nursery from the back of the church to the front of the church without any consultation." Dr. Wood asked him, "Do you have any children in the nursery?" "No." "Do you have any grandchildren in the nursery?" "No." Then Dr. Wood said, "Then the nursery is none of your business!" He went on to admonish the man and tell him that he should be more concerned about reaching people for Christ in the last part of his life and less concerned about these trivial matters.

He went on to talk about "finishing the Race." In the 1968 Olympics
in Mexico City, Tanzanian runner John Stephen Ahkwari was the last runner in the marathon.

He came in about an hour and a half after the winner, practically carrying his leg, as it was so bloodied and bandaged.

Film Director Bud Greenspan asked him, “Why did you keep going?” He said, “You don’t understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start a race they sent me to finish it.”

Here is the video (duration 2min:19sec): Click here if you can't see it





There is an interesting comparison between the words Paul uses at the end of his life in I Timothy, and the words he uses earlier in I Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:23-25 (New Living Translation) 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. 24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

Earlier in his life he spoke in terms of running the race and winning, however now he is saying that he has finished the work that God has called him to. Finishing is what matters most. But not only has he finished, he has remained faithful.

Dr. Wood concluded by encouraging all of the ministers to look at the responsibility of leading, teaching, and pastoring as a trust given to us by God. To hold firmly to the word of God and be unwavering in teaching sound doctrine. If we can keep the end in mind from the beginning, fight the good fight and keep the faith, then at the appointed time we can say like Paul, "the prize awaits me."




Monday, June 2, 2008

Theme Song

After my last post on the best seven bucks, I was overwhelmed with all the comments I received. Thanks!!! You've inspired me to write another post that will allow you to share your thoughts...

Whenever I drive my girls (ages 10, 10, and 9- yes, those are their ages...that's another post...) in my car, they like to grab my Dell DJ (if your a newbie, you can click here to see why I use this lame mp3 player) and crank up the tunes. Over the last several months, they have decided on a "theme song" that we must play every time the four of us are in the car together without mom. They insist on rolling down the windows and singing along at the top of their lungs. Sydney said we needed to roll down the windows so we could, "share God's love with the world around us." I'm not exactly sure if the world around us would recognize a dad driving his three tween girls around in a bright orange Element with the windows down and obnoxious music blaring as "sharing God's love," but it just makes me smile. The Theme song that they have come up with is called "No One Like You" by BarlowGirl. I have to admit, I sometimes sing along too. They will usually follow that up with something like "Rush" from Aly and AJ. I don't have Miley Cyrus or I'm sure I would have to hear "Girl's Night" or something else like it. Hey, even the Dell DJ has some limits.

So tell me, if you were going to come up with YOUR theme song that you rolled down the windows and played everytime you got in your car, what would it be? Don't let me down... :)


Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Best Seven Bucks

This week we went grocery shopping, and I saw a huge bin of seedless watermelons. (Is the plural for watermelon spelled with an "s" or is it just watermelon...hmm..) Since it's starting to feel like summer, and Memorial Day was just last Monday, I knew that we NEEDED to buy one. As I was looking them over, Anne said, "I don't think we need one THAT big." I replied, "This one's not the biggest one, but we don't want it to be too small, there's five of us for pete's sake!" She rolled her eyes and said, "Put it in the cart." I was so excited about it, that I didn't even look at the price. (That might be a first) :) As we checked out, I realized that it rang up $6.98. Walking out of the store I said to my family, "Seven Bucks! That better be one GOOD watermelon!" After dinner, it was finally time to carve it up. I realized that all five of us were only going to eat about a quarter of it in one sitting. Okay, maybe it was bigger than we needed. (She's right again, yeah, yeah, yeah...) We started eating and it really did taste GOOD. We were all eating and making noises like mmm, yum, etc. when one of my daughters asked, "Is this the best seven bucks you've ever spent?!" The question took me by surprise. I mean, it was good and all, but was it the BEST SEVEN BUCKS ever? I'm still not sure. But if not, then what was the best seven bucks I've ever spent? I have thought about it way longer than I should, and I can't think of one thing that I've ever spent seven bucks for that was any better. So I guess I'm going to have to conclude that that watermelon truly was the BEST SEVEN BUCKS EVER! I'm curious, what was the best seven bucks you ever spent?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Galaxy Drive In

Last night we took a little field trip south of Dallas to the Galaxy Drive In for a little "blast from the past" entertainment. I didn't even know there were any drive in theaters still around, but some families from the church had been there before, and they thought it would be fun to take the kids. Because it was the Sunday before Memorial Day, I think a lot of people had the same idea. I never dreamed there would be so many cars at a drive in. This particular theater has four screens and was showing current films. I was glad we were watching Narnia: Prince Caspian instead of Indiana Jones because the Indy screen was packed. Before the movie began the announcer said it was the first time that they had caused the traffic to back up on the interstate, and they turned away 250 cars! Who'da thunk it! The movie started a little after 9pm. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the original. We decided to skip the second feature since we had about an hour drive to get back home. It was a fun time with family and friends, and a great way to start our Memorial Day.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Built to Last

I just finished a book called "Built to Last" by Jim Collins and Jerry Poras. The main idea behind the book is looking into what makes organizations last for generations. They studied several "visionary" companies and compared them to other companies that started around the same time but didn't have the same level of success. They wanted to figure out what qualities separated a visionary company from the rest.

Here are some of the ideas that I took away from the book.

Time Teller vs. Clock Builder- Before there were such things as clocks, if there was a person who could look at the sun and always know what time it was, that would have been pretty cool. People would always be asking him what time it was, and would wait in awe to hear the answer. The only problem is, what happens when the time teller dies? His gift dies with him. On the other hand, what if someone built a clock so that anyone who looked at it could tell time? When the clock builder passed away, people would still be able to know what time it was. How does this relate to organizations? They found that the processes were more important than the personalities in the companies they studied.

Preserve the Core AND Stimulate Progress- Visionary companies have a distinct set of core values that they live by. But they don't preserve the core at the expense of being progressive. Rather, they preserve the core and stimulate progress at the same time. Just doing one or the other will not lead to lasting success. However, it's not a matter of balance between the two but wholeheartedly embracing both at the same time.

BHAG'S- I first heard this term when I was having lunch with Jeb, but this book is where the phrase began. BHAG's are Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. These are goals that seem impossible. Goals that would take years to attain. But these are also goals that organizations can rally around. Visionary organizations continue to set new BHAG's when they achieve the goals originally set. One instance of a BHAG achieved but not built upon was Henry Ford's Model T. He wanted to make the automobile affordable for the masses. This seemed unthinkable at the time, but he accomplished it. Unfortunately for him, General Motors took it one step further and eventuallly surpassed Ford's accomplishments.

Although this book was originally written in the mid-90's, I thought that it was still very relevant for today. Recommended.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hiding in the Baggage

A few weeks ago I was reading 1 Samuel 10 and an aspect of the story that I had never noticed jumped out at me.

The Israelites had decided that they wanted a king to rule them like the other nations. God spoke to Samuel that Saul was going to be the king, and so Samuel anointed him privately. Saul didn't mention this to anyone. When it was time to publicly install the new king of Israel, Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near. First he chose the tribe of Benjamin, then Matri's clan, and finally...he asked for Saul son of Kish. Where was Saul? Was he there? I can imagine that this was kind of an anticlimactic moment in the proceedings. The whole country was waiting in anticipation to find out who would be anointed king, and Samuel has asked for Saul, but he's nowhere to be found. I wonder if they had one of those spotlights, you know the kind at the awards shows..."Now appearing, the tribe of Benjamin (cheers, cheers, spotlight moving around the building), featuring Matri's clan (yahoo!!), and now the star of our show (drumroll, drama building) Saul!!!!" The spotlight comes to a stop and focuses on an empty spot of ground where Saul should be standing....."Um, we're having technical difficulties, when we find the new king we'll return after these messages..." Okay, I'm sure they didn't really handle it that way, but it's fun to think about. But where was Saul? I Samuel 10:21-24 says, "But when they looked for him (Saul), he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the Lord, 'Has the man come here yet?' And the Lord said, 'Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.' They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, 'Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.' Then the people shouted, 'Long live the king!'"

Saul knew what was getting ready to happen. His life would never be the same. God had selected him for a job that was way bigger than he had ever dreamed. Is it possible that he was having cold feet? I don't know about you, but it kind of makes me feel better knowing that even mighty kings sometimes feel like going into hiding. But did you notice that God was the one who told the people where to find Saul? God had chosen him, and wasn't going to let him hide for long.

What approach do you take when you feel like you are being asked to take on something bigger than yourself? I know that sometimes it can seem overwhelming. But, when you recognize that you can't do it on your own and you ask God for His help, then you can stand tall and face it. Besides, we'll come find you and pull you out of the baggage anyway. :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Friends With Blogs

One feature that most blogs have that I have not included so far is a blog roll. For anyone not familiar with blogs, a blog roll is simply a list of links to other blogs to make it easier to discover new people worth reading. I have decided to go ahead and start a blog roll of my own. As I started to think about it, I realized that I always feel honored when I notice that I'm on some one's list, and I've discovered some great blogs by checking out other people's lists. Since I started blogging, I have become aware of several friends who also write blogs. I have really enjoyed keeping up with their lives through their blogs, even if I don't get to see them very often or even at all anymore. My blog roll will only include friends that I actually know, not just people that I read. The list includes current and former coworkers, friends from current and former churches, family, business associates, and school friends. I will only include links to blogs that I currently subscribe to and read regularly. So, for those of you who typically read my posts by email or rss, take a minute to drop by the site and check out my "friends with blogs".

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Force Lives On

One of the things I love as a parent is introducing my kids to the things that I loved when I was younger. Growing up, I was a huge Star Wars fan. I was really too young to see Star Wars when it first came out, but by the time The Empire Strikes Back came out, I was totally into it. Over the last couple of weeks I've had the chance to relive my childhood through the eyes of my girls. They decided that they wanted to see the Star Wars trilogy, and I was more than happy to oblige. I guess the fact that they are getting older and hearing about it from their friends made them curious to know what all of the fuss was about. They have always been so scared of any costumes or creatures, I'm glad that they're growing out of that stage. Anyway, it was so fun to see them experience these movies for the first time. I forgot about some of the great quotes Yoda has while training Luke. "Try not. There is no try. Do or do not." I've already reminded one of my girls of that one. Or, Luke: "I don't believe it." Yoda: "That is why you fail." But my favorite momemt of all came at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Luke and Darth are fighting and this exchange takes place:

Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

Luke: He told me enough. He told me you killed him!

Darth Vader: No. I am your father.

Luke: NOOOOOOOO!!!

My girls were stunned. They asked, "Is it true??" "Can it be?" I said, "We'll have to watch the next movie to see for sure." They wanted to go to Blockbuster right then to see how it turned out. Sydney and I kept acting out the scene the next day. She always made me do the Vader voice. When we finally did get to see "Return of the Jedi" and they found out that Luke and Leia were siblings they said, "You mean Luke kissed his sister?!" I just couldn't believe how much fun it was watching these with my kids! I've already made them sit through ET. I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is next on the nostalgia train.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Lunch With Jeb

I've been busy lately and I haven't had time to post about my lunch with Jeb Bush a couple of weeks ago. I was just as surprised as you that Jeb would want to hang out, but I guess we both have the Florida/Texan thing in common and he wanted to see how I'm adapting to the new state. Okay, not really, but it sounds cooler to say it that way. Actually I had the chance attend the Comerica Bank business forum and Jeb Bush was the speaker. He was a very engaging speaker, and not afraid to say things that could be considered controversial. I thought I'd share some of his points.

- Take a Risk. He said that in his time as governor of Florida, he never shied away
from vetoing items that didn't make sense. His example was the alligator marketing fund. Jeb said, "We don't need to market 'em, we need to kill 'em." Basically, his point was that great things can't happen if you're not willing to go against the flow and take a risk.

-Ask the "Why not" question. When someone has a new idea about how to make things better, it's easy to dismiss because it's different. He suggests that any time new ideas come into play, ask "why shouldn't we do it?" It might be surprising what ends up getting changed.

-Have a BHAG. BHAG stands for 'Big Hairy Audacious Goal'. Some of his while he was in office included education, and energy security. BHAG's are goals that you can't achieve on your own. It will take many people working together.

-Stick with it. Focus on the long term, not the immediate.

-Listen before you communicate. He says in this complex world listening is becoming a lost art. Make it a point to hear what others are saying before you begin to speak.

-Integrity and Authenticity Matter. This one resonated with me. He said, "Say what you're going to do, and then do what you said." Seems pretty simple, but especially in politics it's been proven to not always happen.

I enjoyed my lunch with Jeb. I hope he calls again sometime.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Planting Seeds

This month at Hope, John has been talking about Jesus' parables and how they still apply to us today. One of the parables that he mentioned came from Luke 8:4-15, the parable of the sower and the soil. The basic takeaway is that when we share Christ (plant seeds), the effectiveness will depend on how ready the person is to receive it (good soil, rocky soil, thorny soil). In my experience, it's always worthwhile to plant seeds whenever possible. Only God truly knows if someone is ready to hear the good news.

This became even clearer to me this week when Anne received a phone call from some friends that we had in Tampa. We got to know them because our daughters were in the same class in school. Through the couple of years that we knew them, the conversation would sometimes turn to what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ. During the phone call she told Anne that her entire family was baptized this past weekend, and thanked Anne for "planting seeds." It reminded me of a lunch appointment that I had with her husband just a little over a year ago. After my lunch I sent an email to some friends (this was pre-blog). I thought I would re-post that email here.

"Today I was having lunch with a friend who is at the beginning of his spiritual journey. As I was sharing some of my life experiences with him I mentioned a time in my life when God led me in a certain direction. He immediately stopped me and asked, "How did you know it was God?!" I really appreciated the question, and I had to stop for a moment to figure out how I was going to explain that concept. Through that conversation I was reminded about what a privilege it it is to have a relationship with a God who is not distant, but is present with me and hears me when I pray. I told my friend that over the years my relationship with Christ has grown and I have learned to distinguish between an idea that I have in my mind, and something that God is leading me to do. It's difficult to put into words, but I explained that it's similar to relationships we have with other people. For example, my wife knows me so well, that there are times she knows exactly what I'm going to say before I even say it. Over the years she has learned my quirks and my tendencies and she can generally predict what my reaction will be. In the same way, as I have studied the bible, prayed and walked with God daily, I have come to know more of who He is, and what He would say about the situations that come my way. Jesus said in John 10:14-15,27 (NIV) 'I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father Knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep.' 'My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.' I believe that as you pray and ask God for direction in your life, He will answer you. This week, ask Him to help you to hear His voice above all of the other distractions that come your way."

I'm glad to know that some of the seeds that I planted in his life during that lunch began to grow. Hearing about his family getting baptized makes me excited! I can't wait to hear what else God has in store.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Nostalgia


A couple of days ago my friend Tim celebrated eighteen years serving at the same church, Faith Assembly in N. Ft. Myers, FL. Tim was already on staff when Anne and I moved there for my very first full time pastoral position in 1992. We were there a little over two years, and we became good friends. You can tell by the picture that we were WAY ahead of our time. Totally cutting edge! (I think we were doing a drama about Sunday School, but I still wear the cap occasionally). We still keep in touch even though we rarely get to see each other in person. I have a lot of great memories of my time there. We were treated very well by the pastor, Phil Goss, and the church family. One cool thing is that 3 of the pastors, including Pastor Goss, are STILL THERE!! I think that says a lot about the character of the leaders there. Anyway, as I was thinking about my time there, I was reminded of a funny story that has a moral in the end...

Tim was/is a huge Atlanta Braves fan. He was always trying to figure out how to mix his love for the Braves with some type of viable ministry opportunity. One day, he decided to organize a church outing to Miami to watch the Braves play the Marlins. When I heard about the incredible ministry that was going to be happening, I asked Tim if he needed my assistance. (Doesn't every good bus trip need to include the Music Pastor? I thought so.) So I came along and we had a fun trip over to the park. By the time we arrived and got to our "great" seats (outfield of couse, Tim spared no expense), I was really hungry. Of course if you read this blog very often you know that it's against my personal values to buy overpriced stadium food, but there was no escaping it this time...I HAD to EAT!! To my surprise, they sold large pizza's for ten bucks! Not a bad stadium value, so I got one and started in. About half way through the pizza, I was feeling kind of full, but I could still eat some more. Now you have to remember that this was a long time ago when I was pretty skinny and could eat whatever I wanted and never had to think about it (oh, the twenties....how I miss thee). That's when the guy behind me (a big guy, man's man, who was on the church board) asked, "You gonna eat that whole thing?! You can't eat that!" I said, "Oh yeah, I'm going to eat it, and I'm going to love it. Just watch!" He had set the hook, and I had taken the bait. I was in. By the time there were two pieces left, I was FULL. But there was NO WAY I was going to stop with just two pieces left. When I stuffed the last piece in my mouth, I turned around and showed him the empty box, and said "See, no problem!" I think he even acknowledged my greatness by saying, "You're crazy" or something like that. Either way, I had WON! No pizza's gonna get in my way...yada, yada. I then turned back around in my seat and my stomach started to churn almost immediately. That dough felt like it tripled in size when it hit my stomach. I sat through the last half of the game with the worst stomach ache in my life, but I couldn't let anyone see because that would cheapen my earlier win. It was kind of a miserable ride home, and I can't even remember if the Marlins or Braves won the game, but there is one thing I have remembered to this day...there are times when "winning" is JUST NOT WORTH IT!!



Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My Very Own Street


This weekend we were out and about in Plano, dropping in on a new burger place recommended by my friend mistermunoz, when I came across my very own street! I guess when the city found out that I was moving to Texas, they hurriedly put this sign up in my honor. They must have done it quickly, because I didn't even get an invitation to the dedication! I'm sure they just figured I was way too busy to be involved, being the famous blogger that I am. Either way, I'm just glad that my work has finally been recognized, and that whenever people walk down this street,they will think of me.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tech Stuff: Backing Up Your Photos

The other day I was thinking about the many digital photos that our family has taken and how they are being stored on the various hard drives in our household when it occurred to me, what happens if that computer locks up and the hard drive fails? Now, one of our computers is a Mac, so I know it will never happen (wink, wink), but I realized that we have several years worth of memories that should probably be protected. I decided to start looking for an easy way to back them up online, so that I wouldn't have to worry about dying computers ever again.

Xdrive is a service from AOL that allows you to upload up to 5gb of data for free. It's a pretty sweet deal, but I found the interface a little clunky, and it wasn't optimized for photo sharing.

Google's Picasa Web is a service that I currently use. They only give you 1gb of storage for free, but it's fairly cheap if you need to upgrade. ($20/year/10gb) I like the interface, it's easy to share albums, and it works well with the Picasa desktop application, but I wanted something even easier. I didn't want to have to load pictures onto the computer, and then manually upload them to the web. I thought there should be an automated option.

That's when I found Sugarsync. It's a brand new service that automatically syncs your pictures (or files, videos, music) to the web. Not only that, but if you have several computers, you can keep them synced as well. When you load your pictures onto one computer, it will automatically add them to other computers if you want it to. In fact, you can see them on your smartphone as well. It costs a little bit more ($50/year/10gb) but it is much more sophisticated than the other sites. And, they are offering a half price promotion if you sign up before April 15.

Try some of these out before you have the unfortunate realization that hard drives don't last forever!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Honesty

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who his the Head, that is, Christ." Ephesians 4:15

Paul's words from the book of Ephesians seem simple enough, but in reality they're a lot harder to live out. Sometimes it's just easier to tell someone what they want to hear, rather than being honest. A clear example of this is played out every week on American Idol. Paula has such a hard time telling the contestants what she really thinks, because she wants them to be encouraged. She thinks she is doing the right thing, but actually she is speaking love without truth. This can be just as damaging as her counterpart Simon who regularly shares the truth without love. So we come back to this statement "speaking the truth in love." I believe that in order to speak the truth in love, there are a couple of things that you must consider. First, will the truth that you are going to share be beneficial to the other person? What will they do with the information once it is received. Will it help them change for the better? Next, what are your motives for sharing? Do you want to knock them off their pedestal? Hopefully it's because you want what's best for them and you are sharing because you love them.

I have fallen short of these ideals many times, but I was encouraged last week when I received a call from a friend in a church where I used to minister. There was a time when I had to have a difficult conversation with him about his participation in a musical group I was leading. He called me to tell me thank you for the way that I handled that conversation. I was floored! He said that because I was honest with him, it helped him evaluate what steps he was supposed to be taking, and he has actually used that example in his life to help others. Back when I had the conversation, I took a risk. But I was willing to risk the relationship because I thought that what I was sharing was in his best interest. I know that it can be easier to just sweep things under the rug and ignore them sometimes, but in the end, you will be better off when you speak the truth in love.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Another Anniversary

While it's much less significant than yesterday's anniversary, today marks an important day also. It's the one year anniversary of God. Life. Stuff. I didn't know when I started if this was going to be one of those ideas that I would actually follow through with, or a fad that came and went. I'm pretty excited that I've made it a year! I re-read my first post and it pretty well sums up what this blog is all about. Through the first year, I have written 100 posts, and have been able to stay in touch with a lot of friends, both old and new. Thanks to everyone who reads this. I hope that this blog will continue to be a source of encouragement, fun, and information for you.

Friday, March 21, 2008

16th Anniversary


Today is our 16th wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe that we've been married that long. I am very blessed to be married to my best friend. She knows what I'm thinking even when I'm not saying anything. Someone asked us yesterday what we were doing to celebrate, and it was almost embarrassing. "Well, we went to the Cheesecake Factory last week...and...I got her a card!!" We are pretty low key about events like this. It's a good thing she's forgiving. We don't have anything special planned, but it's a great opportunity for me to share how much I love her and that she means the world to me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tech Stuff: itunes Subscriptions?

As much as I love gadgets, I have never owned an ipod. It's not that I don't like them, I've just been on an ipod boycott. The reason is because I have been waiting for Apple to come out with a Subscription service, so that I wouldn't have to buy each song individually. I have used Napster and Yahoo for the last three years instead. If you're new to this subject you can read where I wrote about it here. Last week I was going to give an update on the status of the subscription model for music when I saw this article. But today, I read this article and this post about the fact that Apple may be coming out with a subscription plan of their own. Now I know it's too early to get giddy, but it's the first glimmer of hope I've seen on this. I guess my boycott is making a difference!! I knew I had the power to bring "the man" to his knees. :) I will make this promise. If Apple does come out with a subscription service, I will end my ipod boycott THAT DAY and buy one! Until then, long live Zune, Napster, and Rhapsody!

Gracie Graduated


We are very proud of our puppy, Gracie, who graduated from puppy school last night! I have to admit, there were times when I didn't think she (or I) would make it. But sure enough, she performed like a champ at her final exam last night. She knows how to sit, stay, wait, come, down, turn, spin, and is getting better at walking without pulling us everywhere. I have to say that I'm starting to get used to our scruffy gal.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Verses to Live By

I'm a firm believer in the concept that it's the simple, foundational truths that mean the most. I've heard it said that "everything I need to know, I learned in Kindergarten." I'm not sure that's totally true, but I can see their point. In our spiritual lives, it's easy to make it complicated. We can get so caught up with the latest book, or chasing after some new idea that will take us to the "next level," that we forget the simple truths of God's word. A while ago, someone asked me to give advice to graduating seniors, and I came up with this list of four verses that serve as my life theme. I certainly don't live up to them all the time, and that's why it's always important to come back to the fundamentals.

1. Matthew 7:12 - The Golden Rule. Why is it so hard to treat others the way that we want them to treat us? Even though I learned this lesson when I was just a toddler, and I've tried to teach it to my kids, it's still something that takes work.

2. Matthew 25:22,23 - Small things matter! I've met a lot of people who complain about where they are in life, but have yet to learn this lesson. The way you handle the small things in life, whether it's at your job, the way you handle your finances, or even in relationships, will affect your ability to handle bigger things down the line. Use what God has given you, even if it's not a lot, and God will reward you.

3. Matthew 6:33 - Keep your priorities straight! Sometimes we get worried about our lives and what our next steps are. But this verse promises that if we stay focused on Him, He will make sure that we are taken care of.

4. Philippians 2:1-11 - Get over yourself! When you start feeling like you've given all you can give, remember the sacrifice that Christ paid to come to earth and die for us. Nothing we could ever do could repay what we have received.

What are some verses that you live by?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Motivation

Last week as I was going through one of my daughter's homework folders I noticed that she had received an 87 on her spelling test. Now I recognize that an 87 is not really a bad grade, but she typically gets higher scores on these tests. I wasn't upset with her, but when I looked at the words she had missed, it was clear to me that she had not spent much time studying. So, when I asked her about what had happened she said, "'nesesary' is a hard word! And besides I lost my study sheet." It was clear that she had put zero effort into this test, but wasn't really concerned about the fact that she had received a grade that was lower than her usual. To be honest, I didn't really know how to respond. I needed to tell her why it was important to do her best, but I was finding it hard to understand why she wouldn't already know that. In that moment I realized something about motivation. In my whole life I've never needed any other reason to want a 100 on a test, other than the fact that a 100 exists. My personality tells me that if there is a possibility of getting a 100, then of course that's what I want to get. If I ever got an 87 in school, it was clear to me that I needed to do something different next time so that I could get a 100. I guess I never stopped to consider that anyone would ever accept less than that if they had the chance. Now it would be different if someone was working at it and putting in effort and received that grade. But to make a conscious decision not to study because you know that you will pass anyway, is just something that never crossed my mind.

Since that happened, I've started thinking about the difference between leading and motivating. I've always felt like I was a good leader, but I recognize that I'm not the best motivator. What I mean is this...the times when I have been most successful as a leader, I have had staff that was high-capacity and self motivated. My strengths come into play in these situations by helping these groups of people reach consensus, prioritize and focus, and redirecting them when they go off course. However, I have had other situations where a staff member really wanted to be told what to do, and needed "encouragement" in one way or another to get things done, and it ended up being frustrating for them and me. I guess I am learning that I need to grow as a motivator, whether it's as a parent or as a leader. I need to recognize that different personalities are motivated in different ways, and so I need to respond to them accordingly.

Does anyone have any thoughts to add?


Monday, March 10, 2008

Backyard Soccer & Donkey Kong


The girls are getting ready to start soccer season this year. We took some time Sunday afternoon to practice in the backyard. It's nice to feel some Springtime weather.

I decided to check out some of the advanced features on the Wii. One of the things you can do is download games from older systems. I noticed that they had Donkey Kong from the original NES. Back in the day I loved playing Donkey Kong and wasted countless hours away climbing ladders and jumping barrels. I decided that for $5 we needed that game, so I downloaded it. I've had a blast reliving my youth. But it just seems wrong to have a "next generation" game console, and playing a "last generation" game.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Intervention

I think I might need an intervention. I have always been a fan of Pringles, but recently I've discovered some new flavors. Specifically, Salt & Vinegar and Screamin' dill pickle. Once I start, I can't stop. Those things must have crack in them or something. Anne caught me literally drinking the crumbs out of the bottom of the can. I gotta get off this train, I can feel myself spiraling...Put the can down....that's it, I'm never buying those again. I'm just too weak.