Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pest Control - Part 2

More "musings" from Tony Morgan's Killing Cockroaches:

For communicators: Great speaking comes from the overflow of preparation. Before you can move others, you first must be moved. Many of us cheat on our preparation time and justify it by tending to all the small emergencies around us that make us feel significant. Talent can only take you so far. Preparation is what separates a good speaker from the truly great ones. (David Foster, pastor of The Gathering in Franklin, Tenn.)

Regarding leadership:
  • Leaders can't be recruited from the platform (or stage). The challenge must be one-on-one, and requires personal invitation. (p. 45)
  • Leaders don't want to be micromanaged
  • Leaders won't commit to ambiguity. You must present a clear vision. And it better be big. (p. 46)
  • John Maxwell said, "It's only the secure leaders who are willing to give power to others."
Other stuff:
  • Will the church bulletin ever go away? Do people read them anymore? (p. 47)
  • Vision attracts talent and financial resources. People will give their time and money to a big vision. Do you have a God-sized vision? Is it big enough that it involves lots of prayer and a move of God to see success? (p. 49)
  • From Don Rizzo, lead pastor at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, La. - "Whatever your area of responsibility, do not hold onto it so tightly that no one can help you do it, or even for you, so you can move on to something else. (p. 52)
  • Sir Francis Bacon: "If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must expect to employ methods never before attempted." (p. 57)
  • Who you have on your team really matters. If you don't have the right people on your team, you're not going to have success in what you do. Really. (p. 67)
  • (When considering someone for a position) You need to go on lots of "dates" with this person, and you need to give yourself freedom to "date" other people. Just like a marriage relationship, it's more likely to last because of the intangibles you discover over time rather than the details you might find on someone's resume on the first date. It's better to leave a position vacant than to fill it with somebody who's really not the best fit but just happens to be the best available (p. 68-70)
More to come...stay tuned!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pest Control - Part 1

I just finished reading Tony Morgan's book entitled Killing Cockroaches...and Other Scattered Musings on Leadership. I underlined and highlighted about half the things in the book. Tony is one of the most sought-after "experts" on church leadership in the country today. And, after reading this little ditty, I can see why.

Over the next couple weeks, I plan to post several insights from Morgan's book that struck a nerve with me. These are not my insights, unfortunately...but I am smart enough to read them and share them!

I hope you will get something out of them.
  • Success, whether in the marketplace or in ministry, breeds contempt. People say we're not "deep" enough. We don't offer this program or that program. We don't use the right music. It's amazing the grief you get when your sole purpose is simply to point people to Jesus. (p. 10-11)
  • We learned a long time ago that to try to make everyone happy, you have to be comfortable with mediocrity. (p. 11)
  • The more we become passionate about something, and move towards becoming an expert on that topic, we begin to develop our own lexicon with specialized words. And, when it's pilots talking to pilots, that's OK. When it's snowboarders talking to snowboarders, that's OK. When it's musicians talking to other musicians, that's OK. But when it's pastors or other Christ-followers talking to people who are normal folks just beginning to check out the claims of Christ, that's not OK. When we speak our foreign Christian language, normal people don't understand. (p. 20)
  • 80 percent of first-time church visitors come because they are personally invited (this was discovered by CedarCreek Church in Ohio, and is likely reflective of most modern churches) (p. 23)
  • Many companies and churches suffer from a condition called "complexity creep." Complexity creep is a situation when companies keep plugging in new things but never unplug old things, resulting in confusion with customers and employees. (p. 28)
  • One of the best ways to combat complexity creep is to develop a not-to-do list for your ministry. (p. 28)
  • It's important to remember your competition. If you are a church, your competition isn't other churches. Instead, it's everything that's competing for someone's time and attention. It needs to be something "new and different. When something is the same, it doesn't make headlines. (p. 37)
  • A few things to consider when creating buzz: (1) Figure out who you are trying to reach, (2) If you're different, some people won't like it, and (3) Different doesn't have to be big., and (4) Being different involves risk. (p. 38-39)
More to come in the days ahead!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mirage and Masquerade

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about something John Ortberg calls “Perception Management.” In a nutshell, it’s the behavior we engage in that helps to shape the way we want to be viewed by others. It’s the little white lies, the half-truths, the pretenses under which we operate. It’s agreeing with others we don’t even like because we desperately seek affirmation and approval. It’s wearing clothes we think look silly so we can be accepted into a group with whom we likely have very little in common.

These behaviors fall into two primary categories: mirage or masquerade.

Mirages are intriguing. Essentially, a mirage is an “optical phenomenon in which light is refracted through a layer of hot air close to the ground, giving the appearance of there being refuge in the distance (” In layman’s terms, it’s an optical illusion that makes something appear that isn’t really there. Does that sound vaguely familiar?

I encounter mirages all the time. Not just ones on the road, but also ones in interpersonal relationships. Unlike the ones we can see when it’s hot outside, relational mirages can lead to very real danger. People talk about what’s important to them, what really matters, how they want to make a difference, how they will get their priorities straight. And, you could swear they mean it. But, in the end, most people are creating an illusion. They simply want to be thought more highly of, and there’s no substance there. And, just like the mirage vanishes before your very eyes as you get closer, you’ll encounter similar results with people who are all about smoke and mirrors.

If you don’t see a mirage, perhaps you are at the masquerade. A basic definition of masquerade is “the concealment of something by a false or unreal show.” The difference between a mirage and masquerade is this: with a mirage, nothing is really there. At a masquerade, something IS there, but it is hidden by a mask. It’s when I believe something in my heart, but put up a front to keep you from knowing too much about who I really am. It’s the beautiful person God created me to be who is too afraid to come to the surface. It’s the small talk I make to avoid meaningful dialogue. It’s appearing tougher than I really am, or that I have it all together. It’s that craving for acceptance that leads me to do that thing in a group setting that I would never do all alone. It’s putting a Bible on my end table, so that you’ll think I love God, even though I haven’t opened my Bible in years.

Whether it’s a mirage or a masquerade, you can be certain that one thing is missing: honesty. People aren’t honest with themselves, and they aren’t honest with others. And, if I cannot be honest with myself, how can I possible be honest with others? Exactly.

In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg writes that, like an item for sale in an outlet mall, we all come with an “as-is” tag. We are all flawed. And, like that “slightly irregular” shirt you bought at the store, the flaw may not be apparent initially. But, rest assured that it will be discovered sooner or later.

So, if we are all flawed, let’s all just admit it and get over ourselves. Be brutally honest with yourself. Stop playing “make believe” and be authentic. It’s much less exhausting, and will free you up to become the “wonderfully made” being God created!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Amateur Photography

I love to take pictures. Sometimes I obsess over it. I'm dangerous with a camera in my paws. I will look at every angle, look at the light source, and toil over the proper composition and balance. But, as much as I incorporate these elements into my photos, the most important part is this: making sure the focus stays on the subject.

Probably 95% of the time, I am the one pointing and shooting the camera in our family. That's because I know how to take a good picture. I know what I want in the photo. My wife, Amy, also knows how to take a good photo, but her hands shake too much (she'll tell you that). So, I'm the photographer in the family.

Obviously, there are times when we want to capture a moment on film (or on a memory card) of our entire family. That means I have to give up the camera, and pray someone else can take a decent photo.

Most of the time, here is what happens: the person taking the photo has the four of us in the middle of the frame, from our heads to the soles of our shoes. Everything around us is also in the photo - that kid with ice cream all over his face, the mom scolding the same child, the cell phone tower in the distance, and the hot dog cart on the street corner. I only wanted the four of us in the frame, but instead the photographer crammed in everything without thinking about what matters most.

Many of us do the same thing with our time. We don't think about what matters most, so we just cram in everything, and hope the "main thing" is part of the picture. As Tony Morgan would say, the "cockroaches" of our lives take precedent, and cause us to chase down things that are not worth our time, effort, or money. It's when the telephone pole is clearly in view, but I can't make out whose faces are in the photo.

In a really good photo, we have people facing the light, not away from it. When we have people in the shot, we go from shoulder to shoulder across the frame, whether there's one person or ten. You check that a tree trunk does not appear to be coming out of the top of someone's head. When you are indoors, almost always use a flash (unless you have a tripod and can set the aperture to a higher setting to allow more light to filter in). And, always make sure your subject is in focus.

It takes intentionality to take a great photo. And, it's no different when it comes to protecting our schedules, and putting the most important people in our lives at the top.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Perhaps you are a Twittering Text-a-holic, or an Emailing Facebookie. You spend hours each day updating your status, twittering away for your followers, texting to your heart’s content, and addicted to your email – more than likely delivered to your mobile device. You have 1,532 facebook friends, 891 twits who follow you, and your unlimited texting plan is what you live for. You just can’t get enough. You’re more connected than ever.

Or, are you?

For those of us 30 and older, we can still remember what it’s like to have a conversation with someone. But, those days are seemingly coming to a crashing halt. Technology, along with mismanaged time and an overextended schedule, has led to this connected-disconnected dichotomy.

I heard someone say recently that people don’t read email anymore, only texts. Really? Or, have we just allowed the cell phone providers talk us into believing that?

A mother recently told me that when she calls her teenage daughter while she is out with friends, the daughter refuses to answer the phone. “It’s too embarrassing to talk to your mom in front of friends,” she said. So, her mom now texts her daughter, “that way, no one knows she’s communicating with her mom.”

I heard a dad talk about taking his teenage daughter and her friend to a baseball game recently. He looked over at her during the game, and she was texting away. He asked her who she was texting, and she said, “Her,” and motioned to her friend sitting in the seat right beside her!

It’s reported that facebook now has more than 300 million users. That number would form the fourth largest country in the world! I also read that between 5,000-10,000 new Twitter accounts are opened each day! But, what you don’t hear is that 60% of twits close their account within the first month, rarely - if ever - post, and don’t follow anyone. And, I think I know why.

With Twitter, it’s a one monologue. It’s one-sided. There’s no conversation. It doesn’t fill a void (unless it’s a need to feel needed).

Facebook, on the other hand, is a conversation…but it’s still relatively passive. I can chat, exchange comments, send notes and invitations…but it requires little effort or interpersonal skills. And, if you want to know my true opinion, it’s a way for insecure people to feel affirmed and validated. I mean, who DOESN’T love for people to comment when you post “Going to bed. Night night.” on your wall?

At the end of the day, I believe that technology has given us a false sense of connection. Yes, in sheer numbers, we are connected like never before. As last count, I had 450+ facebook friends. But, I probably would only consider 15-20 of those people REAL friends. The rest are acquaintances, co-workers, family, and friends of friends. And, I get an inflated ego by having more and more friends. It makes me feel and appear important. But, I’m really not investing relationally with anyone by sending them an invite to join the latest cause, or to join the next cool group, or to compare tastes in movies, or what Disney character is most like me.

Am I against texting, email, facebook, or Twitter? No. But, when we spend hours on end on these sites, and communicate with people 160 characters at a time through a text, and never engage with people face-to-face, we actually end up becoming withdrawn, isolated, and lonely.

We all know that we can be surrounded by hundreds of people, and still feel lonely. I urge you to continue to invest in people’s lives, build relationships, and connect – not just from your phone or your computer – but in person.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Simple Pleasures May Pass You By

As time passes, I can see exactly how fleeting it truly is. It really does seem like it was just a few weeks ago that I was taking all the Christmas lights off the house, and here we are just a few weeks away from putting them back up!

But, what really gets me is seeing my two little boys grow up before my very eyes. They are now 9 1/2 and 5 1/2 years old, and the precious moments I have with them are just slipping through my fingers with each passing day.

So, I have resolved to make each moment count - well, as much as my human, depraved, impatient self will allow.

My kids are always asking me if I can come and eat lunch with them at school. In years past, I have come on their birthday to eat with them and to bring cupcakes. But, now I have both kids at the same school - one in kindergarten, and one in fourth grade. So, it is much easier to see both at once.

Earlier this week, I walked into the lunchroom, and my 5-year old's eyes lit up. He was completely surprised, and began grinning from ear to ear and skipping his way to his seat at the table. It was priceless.

About 25 minutes later, his big brother came into the lunchroom with his class, and made eye contact with me. We smiled and waved, and I could tell he was excited.

A small, but huge investment in the lives of my kids.

I have heard co-workers tell me that when their middle school kids see them at the school, they hide, or walk right by them, pretending not to see them (and hoping no one else knows who they are). It's when I hear these stories that I remember that I am running out of time with them at this fun and innocent age.

Maybe you have an elementary child. If so, take an hour one day and surprise them at lunch. Or, read to their class, or show up with cookies or cupcakes. You'll delight the class, win huge points with your child, and create a lasting memory for yourself!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Props for My Boy

A couple weekends ago, I took Chaz for his skills test for his rec basketball league. After doing some dribbling and shooting, he joined several other kids on the court for a little pick-up game of 4-on-4.

Four of the kids playing were clearly All-Star caliber, launching 3's effortlessly, doing head fakes, and playing Duke Blue Devil-style defense. In the 15-20 minutes he played, Chaz was able to hang with them pretty well, but only managed one basket. And, I'll be darned if he didn't fall for the head fake every time!

But, even though Chaz wasn't the best shooter, ball handler, rebounder, or defender, he was clearly in another league in perhaps the most important statistical category: high-fives. Each time a teammate scored or made a nice pass to another teammate, Chaz immediately went over to that player and high-fived him. Chaz was the only one who encouraged and celebrated his teammates' performance during the scrimmage.

Are there things he needs to work on and improve upon? Sure. But, in the category of "best teammates," Chaz is way ahead of the curve. And, that stat is much more important to me as a parent, and will benefit Chaz in life far more than the number of times he takes crazy shots outside the paint.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thoughts from Catalyst 2009

I just returned from the Catalyst leadership conference. As always, there were some terrific speakers: Tony Dungy, Rob Bell, Charles Swindoll, Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, Dave Ramsey, Andy Stanley, Josh Hamilton, Louie Giglio, and several others.

Here are some of the more memorable quotes I took away from Catalyst.09:

  • God takes responsibility for the life wholly devoted to Him. - Andy Stanley, quoting his father, Charles Stanley

  • The medium is the message. How we communicate (the medium) is as important, perhaps moreso, than what we communicate (the message). - Shane Hipps

  • Nobody wants to be Moses. He had to wander in the desert for 40 years, leading a bunch of whiners and complainers. Church people were SO different then (spoken with much sarcasm). - Matt Chandler

  • We shouldn't be inviting God to play a role in our story. Instead, we should be available to play a part in God's story. - Andy Stanley

  • We need to be excited about treasure we already have. - Priscilla Shirer

  • Intensity causes things to move. Nothing moves unless it is shoved. - Dave Ramsey

  • I am sick of half-butt Christians. Stop slapping a fish on the back of it, and driving it poorly and irresponsibly. Do things with excellence. - Dave Ramsey

  • To the person who claims he doesn't have enough time to meet along with God: Jesus' earthly ministry was 1,059 days, and the first 40 were spent alone in the wilderness with His father. - Louie Giglio

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What is that supposed to mean?

We ran into some old friends earlier this week at a school thing. We caught up and exchanged pleasantries, and it was really good to see them!

As the conversation was coming to a close, my wife says, "Tell them what you're doing now at the church." Uhh....OK.

So, I explained that my new role is Married Couples Pastor, and that the former Couples Pastor is now serving as the Spiritual Growth Pastor. He'll be developing small group curriculum, devotionals for quiet time and reflection during the week, and creating some seminar series, such as Old and New Testament classes to help people develop a deeper understanding of scripture.

Our friend responds by saying, "You know what...that's why we left the church. There wasn't anything for mature Christians."

The program was beginning, and the conversation ended abruptly, and I was left stunned. My friend's comments echoed in my mind..."There wasn't anything for mature Christians."

What does that even mean? You want to know what I think it means for most people? It means they believe that spiritual maturity is sitting and listening and learning. Gaining knowledge.

But, is knowledge maturity? Hardly.

Ed Young, Jr. is Founding Pastor at Fellowship Church in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. He made the comment one time that it's actually the self-proclaimed "mature" Christians who are the real "babies" when it comes to spiritual growth. In Young's words, they sit at the table and cry and whine and scream, "Feed me! Feed me!" He demonstrated this in a sermon by sitting in an adult-sized high-chair wearing a baby bib. Pretty good stuff.

Ed Young says that a lot of Christians mistakenly think they are ready to wade in the deep end of the pool, but really need to continue to hang out in the shallow end. Young added, "When I can master loving God with all my heart, and loving my neighbor as myself, maybe I'll go a little bit deeper."

With so many ways to serve others - both at church and in the community - how can someone ever say, "There isn't anything for mature Christians?"

You know what? You can easily identify the truly mature believers. They're the ones on the front lines, serving and loving others. They are the ones who never complain, and who understand that Jesus' message isn't just for them. They aren't consumers. They're inverstors. They're not takers, they're givers. They aren't listeners, they're doers.

How do you define spiritual maturity? By knowledge, or by showing God's love to those desperate to find the true meaning of life?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shift Out of Neutral

Have you ever accidentally knocked your transmission into neutral? The light turns green, you hit the gas, and you’re met with a roar from the engine. Then a louder roar. You realize you aren’t going anywhere, and you have 15 cars behind you honking and hands waving out windows flashing you the one-fingered peace sign.

Believe it or not, many of us live our lives in neutral – but usually it’s by design, not by accident. And, all the while, we are holding things up – not only for ourselves, but for countless others who are ready to keep on moving.

You can normally identify the “neutral” crowd pretty easily. They may be disguised, but sooner or later, some pretty telling signs make their way to the surface. See if any of these sound familiar:

• Too much sleep – People who are spinning their wheels but getting nowhere often do nothing but sleep. They sleep until late morning or early afternoon, and are lazy (I’m not talking about people who work the night shift). Further, it’s a sign of depression and low self-esteem.
• Procrastination – A clear sign of running in place is putting things off until later (with no intention of ever doing anything). When you repeatedly hear someone say, “I’ve just been too busy, I need to wait until things settle down,” or, “I’ve been meaning to do that, I just haven’t gotten around to it,” you can bet that someone’s burning fuel while idling.
• Non-Committal – People just don’t commit to things anymore. I’ll admit – I have a ton of flaws, but when I make a commitment, I am in. I am reliable and dependable, and I take great pride in that. I am the exception nowadays, not the rule. Committed, dependable people are valuable beyond measure in today’s culture. Many people give a half-hearted effort or level of commitment to many things, fooling themselves into believing that they are over-achievers. In reality, they are spread too thin and end up hurting themselves and others by not fully devoting themselves to someone or something.
• Few (if any) friends – People in neutral may have a lot of acquaintances, but few (or zero) true meaningful relationships. Because they either don’t believe they have anything to offer anyone, or because they are oblivious to the needs of others, they rob themselves of the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other people. See numbers 1, 2, and 3 above as to why this might be the case.
• Are consumers, not investors – Let’s face it, people want what they want. They want nicer things, newer things, expensive things. Temporary things, not eternal things. You can determine the things that matter most to people by looking at their calendar (or PDA) and their bank account. The time and money we spend speaks volumes about our character and our priorities. Does any of your time and money go to serve others or to provide for others in need? Or are you only padding your wallet, or buying things that will wind up in next year’s yard sale?

If you find yourself marked by any of these characteristics, it’s time for a change. Grab the stick shift and move it into first gear (not overdrive). Get involved, get to know people, and invest in things that will last beyond yourself. Automobiles aren’t built to sit in neutral. They’re designed to get people from Point A to Point B – and to their ultimate destination. Get out of neutral, and discover the road you were meant to travel all along!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I would classify the stage of life I am in as the "Toy Stage." My life is all about toys. Cleaning up toys, moving toys, putting toys together, yelling for toys to be picked up, stepping on toys and spraining an ankle, buying toys, throwing toys in the trash, hiding toys, finding toys in odd places. Toys, toys, toys.

And, up until this morning, I have had a disdain for toys. I had lamented coming home to floor-covered toys until a thought occurred to me as I was getting the kids ready for school today: one day, I will be sad because I don't have toys around the house. Because, when that day comes, my kids will be too old for toys, or they'll be out of the house. Honestly - those are the sobering thoughts that kicked me in the shins today.

So, I am embracing toys! I want my kids to be imaginative and playful. I want to be able to get on the floor and play cars with them, put puzzles together, and step on sharp Lego pieces that cause brief excruciating pain (OK, well maybe not the last one). I want to play Wii, the Memory Game, and Go Fish. I really do!

These moments are truly precious, and they are fleeting. So, I don't want to begrudge the toys in our house. Not for a while. I'm not ready to get old, and I'm certainly not ready to kiss these fun and carefree years with my kids goodbye!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Modest is Hottest

I read that phrase - Modest is Hottest - on a tee shirt (similar to the one pictured here) worn by a college-aged girl in a magazine a while back.

You know, that message is one I believe is understated - and underrated. Most people today (women in particular) don't understand or care for the concept of modesty. One definition of the term modest states "unpretentious or humble." Another says, "avoiding being sexually suggestive, particularly in behavior or clothing."

I think if we combine those definitions, we have a pretty clear idea of what true modesty is. Not only does it mean to be humble; it means being responsible in making decisions about what to wear, and what NOT to show.

I've had a couple great conversations this week with some guys about this topic. Basically, we are all in agreement that females (in general) are entirely too scantily clad in public. They are wearing items that are either too revealing, or too tight - or both. And, not just at school, at the pool, or out shopping. They dress the same way at church!

Many ladies are "innocent" in the fact that they are simply wearing "the style" or what is comfortable. Others dress for attention. Either way, they are not only compromising their own reputations, but are also changing the thought patterns of men.

Believe it or not, men do not wake up and say, "Today, I am going to go to the store and see how many hot women I can find." In fact, most guys who are married would prefer to not see other women wearing inappropriate attire. Studies have confirmed this.

But, when girls or women strut their stuff, so to speak, guys cannot help but notice. It's in our nature. So, on behalf of all men, cover up! Wear kulats, a mumu, sweatshirts and sweatpants. Whatever.

I'm not saying that women should let their appearance go. Not at all. I wholeheartedly believe that women should try to look nice - just not half-naked!

And, even if you don't believe that "modest is hottest," you do have to admit that it's nice to leave some things to the imagination. And, remember, God intended for only your spouse to see all of you (both good and bad) - not the entire world.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vittles and Vaca

Well, it's finally happened. I am now the proud owner/editor of multiple blogs. I're thinking, "But, you barely keep up with this one!"

I know, I know.

But, I am back in the game, and am now adding another blog to the mix. It's called Vittles and Vaca, and it'll be about nothing but food and travel - two of my favorite things!!

I invite you to check it out and share your own thoughts and experiences! We can all benefit if we share information. And, don't fret...I'll still let you know "What's Shakin'" throughout the week.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Oh, it's the LEAST I could do!"

My favorite comedian is Brian Regan (I have said that before, and nothing has changed in 15 years). He does a bit about people who have the following exchange:

"Hey, man. Thanks so much for your help!"

"No problem. It's the least I can do!"

Regan goes on to examine the response. In his normally exaggerated tone and facial expressions, he reiterates..."Seriously. It was the LEAST I could do. If I could have done less, I would have."

Pretty funny when in a comedy routine. Pretty sad in real life.

Unfortunately, this reply is the norm in our world today. People, in general, genuinely want to get away with the absolute LEAST than can do.

It's as though they ask, "How little time or money can I offer to make myself feel better for doing SOMETHING, but not really have to sacrifice any more than I need to?"

What's the LEAST I can do?

Several years ago, I asked myself that very question. I had been attending NorthStar Church for more than five years, and had done nothing to serve others. I remember the first time that I wrote down my name to volunteer for something. I was invited to come to an orientation meeting to get more information on this ministry.

The entire time, I was thinking, "What's the least amount of time I can give to this without really having to compromise or over-commit myself?" But, God changed my heart.

That very night, the guy who was leading the orientation issued a challenge. He said, "Some of you in the room are thinking of only serving once or twice per month. But, if you only want to serve part of the time, you will only receive a fraction of the blessing God wants to give you."

That night, I made a commitment to serve every single week. And, for the next three years, I believe I only missed two Sundays. I was anxious to serve every week. I loved meeting new people and forging new friendships. And, God used that time to prepare me for full-time ministry.

But, it would never have happened if I had served with "the least I could do" attitude.

Today, I get emails and phone calls from people who want to volunteer and serve at the church. Some are eager to jump in and want to help whenever they can, and will serve wherever the need is greatest.

Others, honestly, only want to serve when and where it's convenient for them. The good news is that God still changes hearts, and what began as an "obligation" can still become a passion!

I challenge you to examine your heart and motives, and see where you have "the least I can do" stamped on various parts of your life. Then, sink your teeth in and make a difference - perhaps a bigger difference - in the lives of those around you!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Caring Enough to Plan Ahead

Have you ever driven along the cliffs along that breathtaking section of Pacific Coast Highway between San Francisco and Big Sur? The driver is faced with a difficult decision. He must choose between keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, and sneaking peeks at the indescribable beauty of the scenery. And, there are sections of this amazing, yet dangerous stretch of road that don’t have guard rails. Talk about death-defying driving!

Perhaps you’ve driven in a golf cart down a steep hill, and the cart didn’t have a governor to control the speed of the cart. There was no built-in safety device to serve as a precaution against hilly terrain. Ever gone straight downhill on grass in a cart? The brakes are useless!

Or, maybe you’ve been to a circus where you witnessed a tightrope walker who chose to cross the high wire without a net. I still have the image of Tony Curtis’ character in the 1956 movie “Trapeze,” who was almost killed when he fell while trying to perform a triple flip with no safety net below. Entertaining, yes. Wise? Not so much.

We could list off many more scary scenarios in which we make a conscious decision to make things more dangerous than they really need to be. And, while the rush of the danger may be exhilarating, missteps and an absence of guardrails can be devastating.

I don’t believe anyone sets out to fail. Nobody wakes up and says, “I think I am going to make a royal mess of my life and those I love the most today.” Or, “Today is a great day for a train wreck!” It just doesn’t happen like that.

You know how it DOES happen? Lack of planning ahead. No safety net. No margin.
This sounds awfully trite, but someone once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” We all set high hopes and dream big dreams. But, few people actually create and implement a plan. They don’t create the necessary margin to avoid catastrophe. Not only financially, but morally.

Instead, people say things like, “I’m going into this with an open mind.” Or, maybe you’ve heard someone say, “We’ll just see what happens.” These are famous last words for many who would desperately like to rewind the clock of their lives.

I’ve heard Mike Linch, the Senior Pastor at my church, say, “If you wait until you are alone with someone from the opposite sex to set your limitations, it’s already too late.” You’ve got to set boundaries well in advance, and you’ve got to make them even more radical than you think, in order to give yourself that extra margin.

The same goes for alcohol abuse, drug abuse, shoplifting, cutting, and a bevy of other dangerous and questionable activities that are often fueled by peer pressure or low self-esteem. If you wait until you’re with a group of people who do these things to try and make a wise decision, it’s going to be very difficult to resist.

Instead, take time to look ahead to the next 5, 10, 25 years of your life. By doing this, you will capture a vision for your life. According to Andy Stanley, a vision is “a mental picture of a preferred future.”

We all want things to end well, but it is rare that people actually choose to preserve their “preferred future” by putting the necessary safeguards in place. Yes, it takes a little time and a lot of discipline. But, no one ever regrets guard rails. You don’t hear people say, “You know, I really wish I had taken a more dangerous route to get here.”

After all, no one consciously sets out to lose it all or to make a poor choice that leads to life-altering consequences. But, many of us set out on a collision course with disaster by failing to make wise decisions on the front end.

Plan ahead. Take radical measures to preserve those things you treasure the most (your character, your integrity, your spouse, your family). And, pray for the discipline and perseverance needed to see your vision become a reality!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Buried Treasure

Recently, Amy and I began redecorating our 9-year old's bedroom with an Atlanta Braves theme. We've got the bedspread, pennants, autographed photos, and various other Braves items...which reminded me yesterday that I had some old Braves stuff...somewhere. But, where?

I vaguely remembered putting some items in some boxes and large bins several years ago...maybe even before Amy and I were married. I thought perhaps they might be with my old baseball cards in the basement (or at least that was where I would begin the search).

I removed a bunch of "junk" (mostly golf stuff) in order to get to the bin. I took the lid off the first container, and found two boxes sealed shut with packing tape. In black permanent marker, I had written "sports memorabilia," and attached a note reminding myself which direction to keep the box upright.

My heart raced, and I felt like a little kid again as I opened the lid. On the bottom of the box, in one corner, I discovered an old hinged box which contained several of my most valuable baseball cards - Carlton Fisk rookie card, Ken Griffey Jr. rookies, pre-steriod rookies for Roger Clemens and an autographed Mark McGwire rookie card; Wade Boggs rookie cards, Carl Yastrzemski rookie, and a Magic Johnson 1980 card; Autographed items from Nolan Ryan, Dale Murphy, Phil Neikro, Frank Thomas, Don Mattingly, Larry Munson...and Tiger Woods!

I also found some autographed pictures of some politicians and entertainers I had gotten years ago, but had not thought about in almost a decade!

Funny thing is I just went down in the basement to find one Braves autographed baseball, and I re-discovered a treasure chest full of incredible sports memorabilia I had long forgotten! And, not only did I find that Braves baseball, I found sone authentic 1991, 1992, and 1995 Atlanta Braves World Series pennants!

I still have another box to open. If memory serves, I'll find a Pete Rose autograph, Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, and a host of other valuables I haven't given a thought to in a long while. I can't wait to see what I'll find (again)!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Crowd, or Committed?

Jesus always drew a crowd. Throughout scripture we see example after example of people clamoring to be near him when he spoke, when he healed, and even when he was arrested and ultimately crucified. He was (and is) an attractive and compelling figure. He was (and is) also arguably the most controversial figure in history. And, without question, the most unconventional leader the world has ever known.

But, during his first stint on earth, Jesus wasn’t about a crowd. Sure, he was concerned about numbers. After all, he was concerned with reaching each and every person with love and truth. But, he never compromised his message or his actions to appease anyone. He never stopped short of delivering – with conviction – the words his Father laid on his heart to share with people.

When I read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, where Jesus laid out what his followers should look like, or about Jesus referring to himself as the bread of life in John 6, I am awestruck. He isn’t telling people what they want to hear. He’s telling them what they need to hear. And, each time he did that, the crowd thinned. In fact, after Jesus told the masses of people who were identified as his disciples that they should “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” they freaked out – then abandoned ship.

They said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Jesus admonished them, and reassured them that his words were “spirit and life.” But, scripture says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

You know what it’s really saying? It’s saying they were dead weight.

Whenever the gauntlet is thrown down, few are left standing. The crowd vanishes, and the committed remain.

It’s that way in any organization, business, or church today. When the bar is raised, you find out who the players are, and who the pretenders are.

As believers in and followers of Christ, we have two challenges. First, we cannot allow the allure of popularity dilute our message and derail our convictions. We cannot compromise our integrity for the sake of being accepted. Very tough to do, I know. But, when your convictions match your words and actions, you’ll have the right people standing alongside you – albeit fewer of them.

Second, we have to make a decision. If we are not in position of leadership (if we’re an employee, volunteer, attendee, intern, etc.) there will be times when we are tempted to walk away from something because the ante has been raised. The stakes become higher, and the challenge has been issued – and our “fight or flight” response mechanism kicks in. The natural tendency is to jump ship. But, when you have conviction, you will possess the ability to stay the course, despite the steeper climb ahead of you.

None of us like to be “called out.” When we’re being lazy, we hate being challenged to work harder. When we’re not giving, the last thing we want to hear is a sermon on investing in God’s Kingdom. When we’re unfaithful to friends and family, we run from God (and church) because we don’t want to deal with the pain we’ve caused to ourselves and others. When we’re living selfishly, we don’t want to be reminded that Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God and love others.

Instead, we cower in fear, we gravitate towards the mainstream, and live lukewarm lives without passion and conviction.

So, my challenge to you is this: the next time you are tempted to flee, stay. Here’s my phrase of the day: “Don’t be a leaver; be a cleaver!” Cleaving simply means to cling tightly to or adhere to something or someone. Instead of abandoning ship, hold tightly to God and have confidence that He will honor your commitment to Him!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crazy Comments

In reading through Chapter 5 in Francis Chan's book, Crazy Love, I was faced with many questions. Chan does not play around in Chapter 4 (about lukewarm Christians) or Chapter 5 (about giving God our "leftovers"). I felt like I had gone 12 rounds with a prized fighter after reading these chapters!

While Chan's writing is compelling, I'd have to say it's also somewhat controversial. There's no way I can really go into all of it right here, but here is a sampling of the quotes from this chapter:

  • To put it plainly, churchgoers who are lukewarm are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven. (p. 84)
  • The thought of a person calling himself a “Christian” without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd. (p. 85)
  • Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily being disciples. (p. 87)
  • To call somebody a Christian simply because he does some Christian-y things is giving false comfort to the unsaved. (p. 88)
  • God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. (p. 91)
  • Many of us believe we have as much of God as we want right now, a reasonable portion of God among all the other things in our lives. (p. 96)
But, here's the question that had me reeling...and the one we discussed at length this morning in my guys' study:
  • “Can I go to heaven without truly and faithfully loving Jesus?” Chan says this is the unthinkable question that most of us ask ourselves.
I agree with much of what Chan writes. But, I think through it all we must remember that we have a loving, merciful Father who pours out His grace on us - and it's never because we deserve it!

I think it's dangerous to make people begin to question their salvation. None of us are worthy of God's love...but He gives it freely anyway. I agree that a Christ-follower who has a thriving relationship with God will have have evidence of fruit in his life, while those who only live for themselves have a "dead faith."

And, I do think a lot of people who profess to be Christians are not necessarily followers of the Way (his disciples).

But, I cannot say that "lukewarm Christians" will not be in heaven. Last I checked, we all fall short of the mark, and the only requirement to be included among God's children is to accept the gift of His son, and invite him to be a part of our lives.

I doesn't excuse sin by any means. But, I would much prefer to err on the side of God's grace rather than God's disappointment with His children.

Thank goodness I'm not God. I'll leave the judging to Him.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to Be a Great Dad

Don’t let the title fool you. I haven’t mastered fatherhood by any stretch. My kids will vouch for that. But, over the past decade, I have learned some things - mostly through making mistakes - that have aided in my paternal development. So, in honor of Father’s Day– here are five ways you can be a better dad to your kids.
  1. Love their mom. When you love your wife and show your affection to her, your children are much more secure. Flowers and diamonds are nice, but that isn’t exactly what I am talking about. Flirt with her. Hug and kiss her. Go out on date nights together, so your kids can see you have a thriving relationship. Great dads love their kids’ moms.

  2. Embrace your role as Leader. The man is appointed as the spiritual head of the household. That is not up for debate. Even if you never go to church, read your Bible, say prayers, or think of anyone but yourself, you (the dad) are the spiritual leader in your home. Just because you are the leader doesn’t mean you are an effective one, or that you are making the wise choice every time. But, you are the leader nonetheless.

    True male role models are scarce these days, and many guys simply hand the reigns over to their wives to raise the kids and be the spiritual influence. Research has shown that if the father is an active believer (in Christ), his kids have a 75 percent chance to also come to know Christ. If only the mother has an active relationship with Jesus, that percentage plummets to a mere 15 percent. Big deal. A dad’s influence continues to be more powerful than we imagine.

  3. Discipline your children. Proverbs 13:24 says, A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them. (MSG) It’s easy to identify children who have little or no parental discipline. Now, discipline doesn’t mean “a whoopin’.” It means correction. It means privileges FOLLOW responsibility. It means making unpopular decisions that are in your kids’ best interest. And, it must start before they can talk. Almost always, a parent who attempts to begin to discipline their kids after age 5 or 6 will give up the fight because of the resistance with which they are met. Provide loving discipline at an early age, and watch your kids thrive.

  4. Get away. Not FROM your kids; WITH your kids. There will always be enough work to keep you busy. But, precious time with your family is something you won’t get back. Dads are divided. They have an obligation to their jobs, but a yearning to spend time with their families. Sadly, most choose work first and put off family time until later, “after I complete this business deal…or merger…or earn ‘this much’ money.”

    In his book, When the Game is Over, it All Goes Back in the Box, John Ortberg lists four regrets people have in their finals years on earth. Three of these regrets are profoundly affected by the amount of time one spends with family: I would have loved more deeply; I would have laughed more often; and I would have lived more boldly. It’s tough to avoid these areas of regret if your family plays second-fiddle. Work can wait. Believe me…it can.

  5. Be kind. This is probably the toughest one for me. When I spend all day working, I can sometimes come home in a rotten mood. The truth of the matter is that the best part of our day is often spent at work. For me, my best time of day is mid-morning. I’m at work, and the kids are at school. So, I have to work extra-hard to adjust my mind and heart to be kind and affirming to my kids when I see them each evening. Kids are excited to get to spend time with dad after he’s been gone all day. Don’t thwart that enthusiasm because you “had a long day.” Your kids love you, and can help you forget the stress and distractions of work, if you’ll focus on their needs.

    Second, we as dads need to be kind to others. Our kids’ character depends on it. If they witness you being kind to others, they are likely to treat people the same way. When parents have a short fuse or are overly critical, you can bet the kids will adopt a similar attitude. In the end, the apple will not fall far from the tree. Children will learn behavior from their parents – and their dads in particular. They are ALWAYS paying attention – whether you realize it or not.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This is Gonna Hurt

I was preparing for my guys' small group, and just felt compelled to share the insights Francis Chan shares in his book Crazy Love. This week's discussion is entitled Profile of the Lukewarm. Chan throws down the gauntlet on believers who talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.

I gotta admit that this stuff isn't easy to read. It'll convict you and make you squirm a little. It did me. I'd like to challenge you to read through it and let it linger a little bit. Think about it, pray about it, and do something about it. That's the challenge I have as well!

In Chan's words, LUKEWARM PEOPLE...

· Attend church regularly. Is what “good Christians do,” so they go.
The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)

· Give money and to the church…as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.
"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Luke 21:3-4 (NIV)

· Choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside the church.
"I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you're dead, stone-dead. Rev. 3:1 (MSG)

· Don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin.
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (NLT)

· Are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act.
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22 (NLT)

· Rarely share their faith with their neighbors, co-workers or friends for fear of rejection.
“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 (NLT)

· Gauge their morality or goodness by comparing themselves to the secular world. We’re not as “hard core” as so-and-so, but nowhere near as horrible as the guy down the street.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ Luke 18:11-12 (NLT)

· Say they love Jesus and He is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part.
Read Luke 9:57-62

· Love God, but not with all their heart, sould, and strength. They say they “try to,” but is only possible for pastors, missionaries, and other super-spiritual people.
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38 (NLT)

· Love others, but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love of others is typically focused on those who love them in return.
Read Matthew 5:43-47

· Will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go, or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give.
When Jesus heard this, he said, "There is one thing you still need to do. Go and sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower." When the man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich. Jesus saw how sad the man was. So he said, "It's terribly hard for rich people to get into God's kingdom! In fact, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God's kingdom." Luke 18:22-25 (CEV)

· Think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. – C.S. Lewis

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:2 (21st Cen. KJV)

· Are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider giving as much as possible to the poor. Few feel “called” to minister to the poor.
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 (NLT)

· Do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 1 Chronicles 29:14 (NLT)

· Are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NIV)

· Feel secure because they attend church, make a profession of faith at age 12, were baptized, vote Republican…etc…
"Knowing the correct password—saying 'Master, Master,' for instance— isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. Matthew 7:21 (MSG)

· Do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.
Read Luke 12:16-21

· Really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever.
Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:28 (NLT)

“Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away.” Luke 14:34-35 (NLT)

Jesus…is saying that lukewarm, half-hearted following is useless, that it sickens our soul. How would you like the Son of God to say to you, “You would ruin manure?”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's the Deal with Dinos?

I've always had a fascination with dinosaurs. There's something very mysterious about that subject that has always been very thought-provoking.

Recently, I asked some fellow staff members about "dinosaurs and the Bible," and got some interesting responses. The bottom line is that none of us really know when (in terms of the Bible) dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Scientific evidence shows that dinosaurs existed between 65 and 150 million years ago. Evidence also points to a meteorite smashing into the earth around 65 million years ago (coincidence? hmmm) that wiped out almost the entire dinosaur population. Changes in the climate as a result of this catastrophic event likely eliminated the rest of them over time, as they were unable to adapt quickly enough to survive.

However, some staunch Bible "literalists" don't think that is true, despite virtually foolproof methods of dating fossils. This line of thinking holds that dinosaurs co-existed with man only four or five thousand years ago, before the Flood (yes - the one with Noah).

If scientific evidence shows that the earth is billions of years old, I tend to believe that. I don't think that our God - the Creator - would deceive us into believing that the earth is only a few thousand years old, when all evidence shows that adaptations, climate changes, and geologic changes in the earth have been transpiring for hundreds of millions of years.

Again, I could be wrong. It's just my opinion. But, either way, I wouldn't claim to know all the answers. God gave us minds to think, to ponder, to ask questions, and to dig deeper for answers. Some questions have been answered over time, and many others remain great mysteries. And, I have no problem with that.

My problem lies with groups on both sides of the coin who say it MUST be "this way" or "that way." It's either totally a literal interpretation of scripture, or it's 100% scientific explanation. God and science - like it or not - DO co-exist.

Could God have created everything in the bat of an eye? Yes! He could have! But, time - to God - is likely much different that what our feeble minds can fathom. The Bible says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." So, who can really know what "the beginning" means? If God has always been (YHWH - "I AM") then what signifies the beginning?

OK, this could go on forever. Suffice it to say that we don't have all the answers, and we never will. God left many blanks in His creation. Why? Because, "without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). Having it all figured out would require no faith on our part.

I believe God takes great pleasure in our discoveries of His creation. Little by little, He allows us to catch another glimpse of His awesome creativity.

But, He's not going to play His entire hand. Not just yet. That will come when He shows us once again what His creation was supposed to be like. Until then, we'll just have to wait - and debate - and trust - that God has it all under control. His control.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Is Cussing Really Cool?

I've shared my thoughts about using profanity on many occasions. Bottom line is that I hate it, and it disturbs me greatly. Cussers, generally speaking, are self-absorbed and - in my opinion - ignorant people.

Many people cuss because they think it's cool. Or, they want to fit in. Unfortunately, this has spilled over into the church world in recent years, as many pastors have begun to use words like "sucks, pissed off, and crap" (among others) from the pulpit during their sermons.

Recently, Ed Young Jr., founding pastor of Fellowship Church in the Dallas, Texas area, posted a video blog about this. I thought it was worth sharing here. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fountains of Youth

I'm not sure who coined the phrase "let it all hang out," but I may understand the inspiration behind it now.

My family and I were enjoying a lovely evening out at Swift-Cantrell Park yesterday with some friends. Our collective children were running amok in the playground area, and my wife and I were talking with some friends at the picnic area. Periodically (as any parent is prone to do), I would glance over to the playground to check on the kids and make sure one of them had not been impaled or dismembered.

On one such glance-over, I was met with something I could not have fathomed. When what to my wondering eyes would appear, but a 5-year old boy standing on the top level of the playground structure with his pants down to his ankles, relieving himself on the barky ground 10-feet below. He literally was letting it all hang out! And, it was quite a windy day, so this was not pleasant for anyone!

My friends and I start yelling at the little boy - who is absolutely oblivious to us, and quite content in what he is doing. Further, I don't think he understood English...but it seems to me that public playground peeing should not be acceptable in any culture.

When he was finished, he simply hiked up his drawers, slid down the slide, and went on his merry way. No big deal. Like it's an everyday occurrence.

When you gotta go, you gotta go.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Backwards K

As a former baseball player, there’s one thing I can tell you that no ball player likes to see next to his name in the official scorebook. The backwards K.

You can stomach the occasional error (errors will happen to everyone), pop-outs, being caught stealing, or grounding into double-plays. None are as irritating as the backwards K.

For those of you who are not baseball enthusiasts, let me briefly explain what a backwards K is. When a batter strikes out, the official scorekeeper will notate it with a “K.” In fact, you have likely seen fans lining up K’s along the outfield wall at Major League Baseball games. But, the backwards K just isn’t a strikeout. It’s when you strike out looking. It’s when you don’t swing the bat. You just watch the pitch cross the plate and do nothing.

I heard a funny story recently about a tee-ball player who had some issues in the batter’s box. He would get in the batter’s box, and the coach would place the ball on the tee for him to hit it. The kid would take the bat from his shoulder to about an inch from the ball several times, as if he was just getting ready to clobber it. But he would never swing! Coaches and umpires looked at each other in confusion. This went on for a couple minutes, before the umpire finally ruled that the batter had to be called out. The result was the first-recorded backwards K in tee-ball!

Unfortunately, backwards K’s are not just relegated to the baseball field. Pitches come at us every day of our lives. Sometimes we’ll whiff at the low outside breaking ball – poor choices we made but couldn’t resist. Other times, we’ll foul tip it and get another crack at it – our first effort isn’t quite our best, but we’re given additional opportunities to capitalize upon. Other times, the ball will be screaming at us, and we have to get out of the way – these are those times when we’re under attack, spiritually or emotionally, and we have to dodge the impending danger.

But, still, too often we watch perfect pitches hit the mitt without taking our cuts. And, when we are deep in the count, we’ve got to be ready to put the ball in play. That may mean swinging at a pitch you don’t really want to swing at, just so you can stay alive at the plate.

Let me leave the baseball metaphor on the shelf for a moment. Speaking plainly, we’re either too picky, too scared, or too complacent about making decisions. We think maybe another opportunity will present itself, when the pitch God is throwing you is the one he wants you to hit.

In his book Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson talks a lot about the cages of fear and failure we all find ourselves locked inside.

Batterson says, “We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we make no decision. And, what we fail to realize is that indecision is a decision. We need people who are more afraid of missing opportunities than making mistakes.”

What he’s saying is that we should avoid a backwards K at all costs. All too often, God is hurling the ball in the strike zone, and we’re afraid to take a hack at it.

Swing the bat. After all, you can never score unless you get on base!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cut Back

I am finishing up a book entitled The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni. Simple book. Right on the money.

Essentially, the book talks about different ways families can achieve goals by planning ahead and implementing measures to get them on the right track.

The primary example outlined in the book (which is a fable) is a family who is desperate to simplify life in order to spend more time together. Like most of us, this family has sports events, school meetings, work trips, church involvement, and other extracurricular activities all vying for space on the calendar.

As a volunteer baseball coach, and as a pastor for a church actively involved in the community, I encounter families all the time who are simply tapped out. Parents who have no time to serve, no time to sleep, no time to just chill. In the short term, sometimes this cannot be avoided. But, as a lifestyle, I have found that almost all the time, parents and families make choices that pin them in overextend them.

Much of this stems from people wanting to do too many GOOD things. They want their kids to be actively involved in church, sports, music lessons, and countless school programs. And, they themselves also want to be active participants and supporters of the things their kids do. But, there are times when parents want to also cram in their own personal activities - Bible studies, tennis teams, softball leagues, concerts, etc. - and it just seems impossible.

The bottom line is that something has got to give. Kids don't need to play two sports each season, or do guitar lessons on top of a 3-month soccer commitment. They don't need to be in every play, every recital, every Scout activity. Are there benefits of their involvement? Sure. But, remember that there are opportunity costs that come along with these choices - such as more time for studies, time as a family (meals together, social time), and play time.

I never want to deprive my kids of opportunities to participate in a life-enriching activity. But, I also don't want to miss precious time I could be spending with them myself.

I encourage you to pick up Lencioni's book - and put the principles to work in your family. You might be amazed at how practical - and simple - these measures can be to achieve your family's elusive goals!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Man Alive, Chandler's Five!!

Five years ago, Amy and I were celebrating the birth of our second child - a healthy baby boy whom we named Chandler Aaron.

So much has happened in five years' time. I cannot believe it has passed so quickly!

I was just speaking with a co-worker about the vast differences in our boys' personalities. It is truly a miracle to see the different character traits from both Amy and me.

Chandler is our stubborn one. He will butt heads with us and his brother over just about anything. I cannot help but laugh many times when he gets that furrowed brow and shouts, "No!" I know, that is not an admirable quality in a parent...but, it's hilarious! It's less hilarious when Chandler has a total meltdown when he refuses to take a tiny little bite of a new food.

Chandler is ALL boy - with one exception: he hates getting his hands dirty or sticky. We plays with light sabers, swords, Transformers, monster toys, and loves video games (he's all about the Wii). But, he cannot STAND it if he gets stuff on his fingers and palms. In fact, his favorite "napkin" is his shirt or his pants legs if he wipes them off!

While Chandler is stubborn and somewhat outspoken, he is as adorable and squeezable as they come. I love getting little buddy hugs and sugars, especially when he is sleepy and cannot put up much of a fight.

I love my little Chandler-buddy so much that it hurts. His cackle brightens my days, his imagination warms my heart, and his determination inspires me.

Happy 5th Birthday, Chandler!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

God in Science

I just finished reading Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. Incredible book. A little over the top, maybe...but vivid and compelling storytelling.

Throughout the novel, there's an overt tension between "Religion and Science." The scientific community claims it has been undermined and kept at bay for centuries by religion as a whole. The religious community, on the other hand, claims that science only aims to take God out of the equation - that man tries to explain away every miracle through scientific discovery.

One of the quotes in the book has stuck with me: "Science and religion are not at odds. Science is simply too young to understand."

I think there's a lot of truth in this statement. If we (as believers) are confident that God is the Creator, then we shouldn't have an issue with that remark.

One definition of science is as follows: systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

Science is essentially gaining knowledge by studying and observing stuff.

God is in science. And, science is simply trying to understand what God has already mastered.

But, it doesn't mean we play God. And, it doesn't mean we'll understand everything, no matter how long or how relentlessly we attempt to do so.

Famed French microbiologist Louis Pasteur believed that scientific discoveries only further proved that God existed. But, he also warned that approaching God through science too often would result in being further separated from Him.

And finally, Albert Einstein added, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

So, here's the deal. Both faith and science are important. They are not mutually exclusive, as religious zealots or the most staunch atheist would have you believe.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

God's in Your Gut

Few people, if any, on this earth have heard the literal voice of God. Most of us would probably guess that He sounds like James Earl Jones, or one of those movie trailer voice-over guys. But, no one really knows what He sounds like.

Chances are, God doesn’t have a booming voice. I mean, He could have a booming voice. But, based on what we read in scripture, and in my personal walk with Him, His voice is often clearest in complete silence. The problem is that we rarely stop to listen. But, rest assured, He is speaking to us.

Trying to discern the will of God can be frustratingly difficult. It is for me. Especially when I am on the world’s timeline. I often convince myself that I don’t really have enough time to wait to “hear” from God because I have deadlines to meet. I rationalize that I can’t just sit around and wait for God to reveal Himself to me, you know?

But, I am learning more and more that God speaks loudly and clearly in two ways: through restlessness, and through peace. Allow me to explain.

I was recently faced with a decision that warranted a response within a 4-5 day time frame. I resolved to pray about it every day until the end of the week. I told myself, “Okay, if I have a peace about it on Thursday, I will do it.” Thursday came, and just as I was about to announce my decision, I got distracted. So, I decided I would just send an email later that evening. Funny how God works.

That evening, as I sat in front of the computer, ready to send an email, I was suddenly overcome by a heavy weight that burdened me. I had been praying all week that God would give me a peace about it if I was supposed to do it, yet I had no peace. I was conflicted. On the surface, this was a terrific opportunity. But, this was a decision that didn’t just affect me. And, immediately, things became clear. God was telling me I shouldn’t do it. This unsettling feeling was God answering my prayer. In this case, His answer was “don’t do it.”

Sometimes in our lives there are great opportunities we will have to pass up for no other reason than we don’t feel at peace about it. We have to trust our convictions, and continue to ask God for discernment in navigating our way through decisions we face in life.

And, when we make these decisions with conviction, we must refuse to second-guess ourselves. We can see opportunities that we relinquished that led to the success someone else now enjoys, and we can become jaded, bitter. Or, we can choose to see God’s hand in it. Perhaps that person or group would not have had that success if we had chosen to get involved. Or, maybe we would have caused a train wreck – in our own lives, or in the lives of others – if we had ignored God’s prompting.

The next time you are faced with making a tough decision, listen to your gut and follow your convictions. If God is in the mix, He will reveal Himself to you – often times in the most unexpected ways.