Showing posts from 2017

Parents DO Understand (Sometimes)

One of the biggest challenges I have found as a pastor is parenting. If you know me, you know I've become "family before ministry" over the past 15 of my (almost) 20 years working full-time in vocational church work. In all honesty, the first 5 years I didn't have my priorities right.  Still, parenting is definitely a challenge, although I love being a Daddy.  I would say this is probably true no matter what your profession is.

For Shelly & I this challenge includes the reality that the youngest of our three boys is autistic. He is low on the spectrum, and highly functioning, which for us only heightens the challenge of understanding how to handle the day-to-day quirks, frustrations and occasional (these days) meltdowns.

This week, was the school Christmas program.  We thought it would be fun for him to wear something festive (like his older brother).  Having no "Christmas attire," Shelly printed out a Santa-style pattern to iron-on one of his t-shirts…

Staying Lit

I prefer green.  Trees, plants, the lawn... green energizes me.  Brown makes me lethargic, like I want to hibernate.  While there may be something to that thought, hiding under the covers of my bed for 3 months isn't a real option.

So, this time of year, as the leaves are falling, I find myself in the perpetual motion of raking and burning, and raking and burning... in order to briefly enjoy the green of the grass once again.  Also, I am thankful to live in a climate where the grass stays green(ish) year round.

Yesterday as I did this, I was having a hard time setting the leaf pile on fire. It hasn't rained and they weren't really wet.  But the leaves were damp.  The morning dew had left the leaves just damp enough that they just would not catch fire. So I decided to try a small piece of "lighter pine" that we use to start fires in the fireplace.  It worked!  The lighter pine lit as readily as ever, and burned long enough and hot enough to set the leaves ablaze…

The Life & Times of a First Time Soccer Coach

It was never my intention to coach a soccer team of 15 high-energy, easily-distracted 6 & 7 year olds.  All I had on my agenda was getting my 7 year old, Jericho, into a sport and to support him by being present at every game and practice.  And so, in filling out his registration form, I marked "willing to help/assist the coaches of the team."

The league directors lit up when they read that: "Oh, you know what - we need coaches in this age group!"

After declining their invitation, I reiterated that I would help whoever the coach was in any way that I could - even as an "assistant."  I mean, I really like soccer.  I watch it occasionally through the year, and always watch every World Cup and Olympic game that I can. But, I confess, I don't know all the rules nor how the positions are played.  How could I possibly be any kind of soccer coach?

A few days later, the call came. "We still don't have a coach, and you're the only parent who …

Know Regrets

"No regrets!" I hear that a lot. And I get it, we like to be strong... or act strong... or just have others think we're strong. Nobody likes to appear weak. Nobody likes to lose, right?  I mean, most of us will admit that we're not perfect and that we make mistakes, but then it gets followed up with, "but I have no regrets!"

Really?  You make mistakes and you don't regret any of them?

What if we saw regret as something positive? Not a place to set up camp in some past mistake, but an opportunity for great growth.

One of my favorite stories that Jesus told is the one we call "the Parable of the Prodigal Son" (Luke 15).  It's the story of mistakes, self-centered choices, and wasteful living.  The twist in the story begins when the Prodigal "finally came to his senses..." and started for home.

In my life, regret has played a positive role. Regret led me to an awakening - a "coming to my senses." Like the Prodigal, I thoug…

Reflections of a church planter: Launch Day!

The room, known as Theater #2, at Parkway Cinema in Natchitoches, LA, was slowly filling up (well, about 1/4 full) as the countdown on the screen counted down toward 00:00.  The anticipation welled up within me. It's been two full years since Shelly & I made the decision to answer the call to move to a community where we didn't know anyone and plant a new church through the LCMCOG Network.  It's been nearly a year and a half since we moved to this community, and one full year since we began meeting weekly on Thursday nights with a small group of university students in our living room.  The hours spent praying, the days spent planning/evaluating/re-planning, the moments spent laughing/crying, the sleepless nights, the questions/answers/more-questions... the conversations... the dreaming... the visioneering... ALL of this church-planting roller coaster ride found total impact within me in this moment.  Awaken Church.

The countdown hit 00:00. The background music stopped…

Investing in Others (What is "discipleship")

I continually find myself thankful for those who have invested in me.  Men and women who have mentored or coached me (maybe without realizing it), by befriending me and engaging in thought-provoking conversation - speaking into my life, as well as listening as if I may have something to say.  Some continue to invest in me, as I continue to grow and develop as a person... others may have been involved in my life for a short season.  But for each and every one of them, I am thankful.

One such friend is John McCallum (in the pic above with his awesome wife, Dayna).  John is the pastor of First Baptist Church, Hot Springs, AR.  I met John (I think for the first time) at a prayer luncheon for pastors when we happened to be seated at the same table.  During the conversation, he mentioned to us other pastors at the table that FBC had a full fitness center/gym, and would like to offer a free Family Membership to any Senior Pastor of the churches in town.   A few weeks later, I took him (and …

Church: How We Can Do Our Job Better

The church is not so much a place, as it is a people.  The people of God.  Jesus people.

And the church has a job to do.

Too often, that job looks like it is to make budget, run programs, upkeep of buildings and grounds and vans...

I'm not saying those things aren't important. No, these things all need to be addressed when applicable.  But none of these are the job of the church.

When I say the church has a job, I mean the church has a mission.  And everything else is to fall in the context of this mission.  The mission is the same mission of Jesus.

Jesus mission is to:
- seek & save lost people. (Luke 19:10)
- save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15)
- give us abundant life. (John 10:10)
- destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

This is the church's job, and I believe we can do better.  I've identified 3 steps a church can take in order to do a better job at what matters.

Step 1: Create a Culture of Acceptance
It's Jesus' church.  Who did Jesus accept?

People need t…

We Gotta Pray Just to Make It Today

Recently a pastor friend of mine posted on social media about the blessing of praying together with fellow pastors.  Someone trolling for a confrontation commented, "No need to actually be doing something.  Gotta love some prayer warriors that come together in prayer to accomplish everything inaction doesn't accomplish." Without attempting to take the bait for the debate, I simply replied, "Prayer isn't actually inaction. Plus, these pastors do work together to meet needs in the community, through food banks, homeless shelters, and so much more."  The person argued with me and I didn't respond. 

Prayer might not matter to everyone, but it sure matters to me. My family and I, and our church plant team, are committed to everything we do being birthed out of prayer and bathed in prayer as we continue forward together!  I believe that a life of prayer is essential to knowing God, having peace and strength, and living wide awake.  Here are 3 ways I have fou…

4 ways to Be KIND (and 4 Buts)

April 28 is International "Pay It Forward Day" or "Random Acts of Kindness Day."  I saw it on my social media feed, so I looked it up.  Turns out 70 countries have signed this into being a legit "International Day of..." The idea is to make today a reminder to be kind to others every day. 

Not a bad idea.  It's good to have reminders. For instance, this morning I failed to write down all the errands I needed to run for the family, and Awaken Church.  I still don't have windshield washer fluid in my car.

Reminders are good.  Windshields of crusty bug carcasses are bad.

At this point, I must issue a warning/disclaimer: if you are offended by acronyms, or have a deep loathing for cheesy cliche-ish type things, then stop reading now, and return to whatever deep intellectual pursuit you were engaged in before you came here.

Reflecting on what it means to Be KIND, I came up with these ways to do it:

Keep your head up (but don't stick your nose in th…

Why the Bible Matters

Several years ago, a church I was serving entered the Adopt-a-School program, adopting the elementary school down the street.  The people of our church invested in the school by going and reading to children, providing tokens of appreciation for teachers, offering our church's park for regular play dates and special events, and in various other ways.  To express our love for the school, a small plaque of the 10 Commandments was made and gifted to the principal with no fanfare whatsoever.  The principal decided to display the plaque alongside a trophy case in the hallway, with various awards and trophies.  A couple of weeks later, the entire community was buzzing because an anonymous parent saw the plaque and took offense, writing a letter to the school board about "separation of church and state" and the inappropriateness of a passage from the Bible posted where her child was forced to see it.  The Principal decided to simply take it down, and had another plaque, thankin…

Jesus Is The Subject

Jesus is the subject.  Yes, a recurring theme on my blog, in my social media feed, in my sermons, and in my conversations.  This is because this has become the constant theme of my life.

It's Easter weekend, and our senses are more in-tune with Jesus.  Bringing to mind questions about empires, crucifixion, and the Resurrection.  And also, are Jesus and the Easter Bunny friends? And, why do bunnies lay multi-colored eggs once a year?

So, just a few thoughts on why Jesus matters to me.

Jesus shines Light that awakens me.
Light brings clarity and understanding.  Light gives a sense of security and makes the path forward clear.  Light reveals things that are hidden.

Jesus refers to Himself as "the Light of the world."  My experience has been that He brings all of the aforementioned qualities of light into my life as I journey. As I say, "OK, Jesus, You lead, I'll follow," He awakens and enlightens me. 

To His followers, Jesus also says, "You are the Light …

Failure (You're not)

There is a phrase I keep coming across in my reading/studying/training in church planting: "Failure to launch."  This is when a church planter, or church planting team, get a vision, start the journey, work hard, pray even harder, do everything they know to do (and even a few things they don't)... and for whatever reason (usually there are several), fail to get the new church launched.  I'm picking up that this is a big "fear of failure" that some church planters deal with. 

There is a quote that says, "Failure is not an option." But the reality is... yes it is an option.

Any time you attempt something, especially something bigger than you, failure is a very real option.

In my experience, failure can be a good thing.  In my own failures I have learned things about myself and others.  In failure, I have discovered a way that would work because of discovering the ways that wouldn't.  Failure keeps me honest, because there are moments when I thi…

Who do you want to be(come)?

A long time ago... in a galaxy seemingly far away... I wanted to be a player in the NFL.  I dreamed of being a linebacker, who was notorious for destroying the running game and making continuous interceptions. I wanted to be the one guy who was so good, he ended up playing at least a season on EVERY NFL team! I realize that playing on every team would have meant that I was so bad that I was constantly being traded.  And I wasn't even the best of the best playing for the West Monroe Rebels.

That dream faded when my love for non-conformist, yet surprisingly commercial, pop music sprang up within me, and I wanted to be the singer in an English New Wave band.  Only it turns out I wasn't English... nor could I really sing very well.  But I totally dressed the part, though.

That gave way to who I REALLY wanted to be.  My athletic side collided with my artsy side in the Land Where Sports Meets Entertainment - yes, I wanted to be a professional wrestler!  Sorry, not posting a…

48 Random Things About Ya'Boy

A few years ago, I started posting random things about myself on/around my birthday.  Without looking at least year's list, I hereby give you 48 Random Things About Ya'Boy! (which may prove difficult as I'm not 48 things interesting).  If any of these fit you too, leave a comment with the number so we can see what we have in common.

1. Jesus has transformed my life, and continues to do so daily.
2. I am blessed to have an amazing, Godly woman as my wife. I LOVE YOU, SHELLY!
3. Turning 48 isn't freaking me out nearly as much as having a child who will turn 20 in less than a month.
4. Tacos.  I love tacos.
5. In lists, I find it amusing when something is repeated at just the right moment.
6. I drink a lot of water. Half of my body weight in ounces, daily.
7. I go to the bathroom a lot.
8. My oldest son Christian is a pretty cool guy. He's so quiet that most people don't know this though.
9. I have a mini-me named Jericho, and he is so mini-me that its scary.

A Heart Guarded From Worry

In a lifetime of exciting moments, one highlight was when we bought our first house.  After 20 years of marriage, Shelly & I purchased a home in Hot Springs, AR, and for the first time we were owners instead of renters.  We liked the house, and loved the moments we experienced their.

Fast forward to recent times: at the end of June 2016, we moved into our new home in Natchitoches, LA, thus beginning a brand new season of adventure for our family.  We put our first house on the market... and we purchased our second house.  Our prayer, fasting and counsel led us to this decision.  And for 7 months we made two mortgage payments.  No, we could not afford two mortgage payments and stay within our budget.  But we also could not afford to deliberate at length on what we knew was a calling, and direction, from God. 

Over the past 7 months, Shelly & I experienced some level of concern as the sale of our first house topped my daily prayers.  But we never shifted into "panic mode,&…

3 Things to embrace in the New Year

As the sun sets on the year 2016, the sun also rises on the new year 2017.  Although it is just another day on the calendar, New Year's is for me a season of reflection, evaluation, dreaming, and goal setting.  In the midst of this semi-colon between the years, I have been reminded of three specific lessons.

3 things 2016 taught me to embrace in 2017

Life is fleeting!Life is fleeting; capture great moments.  2016 has been labeled by many as "the Year that Took Our Heroes."  Celebrities die every year, because they're people... just like me and just like you, but 2016 seemed to be a year with an overwhelming number of celebrity deaths.  When a celebrity dies, I usually take a time to honor them with a moment of silence, aka "Rest In Peace," then perhaps a few moments, or a couple of hours, immersed in their art.  I feel like my generation really took the idea of celebrity to new places, and see these people as other-than-human, and larger than life (read my …