First blog post – We Need A Tribe

I have been encouraged to restart my ramblings; but not by Lisa, for she hears my ramblings way too much – so here I begin to head down the rabbit trails of a mind that has an erratic stream of consciousness.  For those that stumble across my rabbit trails, it is my hope for these words to be encouraging, thought provoking, edifying, and always – God glorifying.

The past two years continue to be part of an experience in my life journey that has been – well, baffling.  I will share more as the weeks progress into months, but my prayer is that as 2018 nears, my journey will be a coming out of the wandering in the unknown into the land of deeper service, deeper worship, and a deeper walk with God.  But know this, for those like me that still feel like you’re wandering in a wilderness – God can and will use these times.  Some great lessons in the Bible are while people are in the wilderness.

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Here is just one of those lessons.  I like to hike and I miss the trails of the Shenandoah.  Dallas has few trails (getting to know Cedar Hill area quite well) but they still feel very close to civilization.  When I hike, I normally go alone.  I  get away from it all and everyone.  It is a great time to think, to pray, to sing without worrying if I am in key, and to just go at my own pace.  And for a few hours, I see very few people.  It is also a time that I realize I need people.  These two years away from Friendship have also taught me I miss being connected, I crave deeper relationships, and I was designed by God to need others – We all need community – a Tribe.

Adam was lonely – and Eve enters the story.  Moses had Aaron and Joshua.  David had Jonathan.  Jesus choose twelve.  Paul had Timothy, and others.  Hebrews 10 tells us not to forsake the assembling together – We Need Each Other.

Urban Dictionary defines Tribe as “A group of friends that would do anything for each other, at just about any time.  Friends that have been together for a decade or a day, but are loyal, loving, honest, and fun-loving. The Tribe consists of people that you expect to grow old together with …”

I love those times alone on the trails, but I don’t want to stay that way – I need a Tribe. And so do you.  Who’s your tribe?  Spend some time with them this week.

UP NEXT – What if I feel I don’t have a tribe?  What if I feel I am all alone?

 

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It Was a Good Day

It was a good morning. This morning, I was honored to lead the Men’s Bible study with my Thursday morning group. The regular leader was in Louisville at conference. I was excited about this. I warned them I had not been behind the pulpit for a while so they should get comfortable because I was catching up!

ONE – It is good to be trusted. These guys had only known me a short while but they took a chance on me. What a great statement about the Christian family. We take chances for each other. We look for opportunities to help others use their gifts and talents for Kingdom work. What a great statement of trust in the family of God.

TWO – It is good to use my gift. I love to teach, to dig into the Word and share it with others, to challenge myself and others with Biblical application, and to see the Word come alive for life today. When the Spirit gave us gifts (which He does to every believer), He expects us to use them. What does it say when we know God gave us something and we just let it sit around?

THREE – It is good to be part of group, a fellowship of believers. I spent the first part of the hour in getting to know them better. It is great to be connected. We were created as relational beings and we need each other.

And FOUR – It is good to be challenged from the Word. We dug into 2 Corinthians 10.1-6 and looked at the principles of the spiritual battle going on in our mind. I encourage you to look at this text and dig in some. But something I often overlook when I dig into this text are the key components of Paul’s character.

Paul was being attacked. False teachers and others where coming against him. They came against him hard. He was defending his ministry. But how did he respond, what was the character of his defense – not with vengeance or anger.

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—  I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.

Paul responded with three basic characteristics – he was compassionate, he was courageous, and he was confidant. These three qualities are described of Paul and they show how we too can respond in times of conflict and hardship. I can dig into these later, but space is limited here (and so is your time)

So the challenge to you (and to myself) …
… Who are you encouraging, trusting, and prodding to use their gifts for Kingdom work? (read Hebrews 10.24)
… How are you using the gift God gave you? (read 1 Corinthians 12.11)
… Who is your group, your posse, your peeps? We need them – and they need you! (read Hebrews 10.25)
… And, what truth has God challenged you with lately? (read Psalm 119.105)

These made my day a good day – it can to the same for you!

Warning Labels

We have all read them. We might have even seen some crazy one ourselves. Forbes had an article that listed 20 wacky warning labels. Here are just a few …
–  The Jabra Drive ’N’ Talk Speaker Phone had the warning to not operate while driving.
–  On a chainsaw – “Do not hold the wrong end of the chainsaw”.
–  On an egg carton – “This product may contains eggs”.
–  On a small tractor – “Avoid Death”.
–  And one for Calvin, on a Superman costume – “This costume does not enable flight or superpowers” (sorry son).

As I read these, and others, one phrase kept coming from my mouth – “Well, Duhh”. But warning labels are important. They give us insight to the product and are there for our safety and well being. Life should also have labels. Warning: this cute 4 year old princess turns into a teenager. Warning: this soppy, romantic-comedy means you will have crazy expectations on dating life. Warning: once the wedding is over, after the honeymoon, you will need to work on this relationship, because not every marriage is a fairy tale (exception – life with Lisa). Warning: this 50 year old body does not react like a 21 year old body, it will creek, snap, groan, and ache more.

Okay, where am I going with this rambling? Today, I had a phone pre-interview about a church position. The representative wanted to clarify a few items about the history of the church and wanted to give the candidate (me as one) a chance to gracefully back out before any time was invested on either side. The church has some baggage (who doesn’t?) and it was some serious stuff. Basically, life at the church has gotten muddy (oh, remember the name for this blog – how appropriate!)

The conversation was a warning label. And any new pastor walking in should know these issues. The key components of any new pastor at this church will include the ministry of healing, restoration, and rebuilding trust. But isn’t that what God does? He is the Jehovah Rapha – God who heals. He is the God of reconciliation and the God of restoration.  I appreciated the transparency and the upfront communication – and I am not scared to move forward.  The God I serve, the God I proclaim, the God I love – He is able!

WARNING – Life is full of Muddy shoes – but that does not mean the shoes are lost.
In that upper room, Jesus knelt and washed the feet of the those closest to Him – His disciples. He said they were already clean because of the Word He had spoken. Only the feet need to be cleaned. The church that my conversation involved has baggage, muddy history – but I do believe God is not done with them. I also believe that some of the mud I traveled through in this life equipped me for a position such as this. Warning: I am not saying this is the door God is opening – too early – but I do believe the God allowed me to go through things so I can be used for later ministry.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1 that God comforts us so we can comfort others. Warning: this hard time, this muddy situation, you are going through might later be used in your life to help others going through similar mud.

I hope you see life as a journey and that we can learn lessons from even the muddiest parts, the hardest times, the ugliest times, and the most painful times, to be used by God in positive ways.

Don’t turn away because of the warnings – learn and live.  Join me on this journey that often is muddy.

Forgetting what lies behind (the mud too) – we press forward to what is ahead.

Theology of Waiting

I am not in control. You are not in control. When you look around, sometimes it seems nobody is in control. One way this shows itself is the inevitable truth that a lot of our life seems to be spent waiting. Waiting. Have you ever given this a passing thought – I mean more than just how annoying it is to wait on anything.

Here are just a few things I have observed in regards to waiting in recent days.
– I waited on the next shift to get to work so I can go home – for my shift to end. The clock just drags that last hour.
– Calvin and I waited for the Apple Event to see if there would be any new tech in the MacBook area. He was waiting before he bought his Air, to make sure a new one would not replace it in one week. And I was waiting for the day I would get my MacBook Pro back.
– I wait for my tax return.
– I lie in bed and wait for sleep to arrive.
– I saw FaceBook posts about people upset due to waiting in line at Disney World! Isn’t it the happiest place in the world? So shouldn’t waiting be part of the joy?
– I saw posts about waiting on job offers, babies to be born, vacations to start, and reports from the doctor.
– We wait on on computer and stare at that ‘loading’ icon.
– I wait in traffic, at Blue Goose for my tacos, at church for worship to start, at home for Lisa to get off work (and she waits for me to come home in the morning – for I always bring her coffee!), and so on.
– You may wait eagerly for each new day’s blog so you can see what I am going to say today. And thank you so much oh 30 great readers!

Enough!!! And these were without thinking hard. So I ponder, is there a theology in waiting. I am going to look at one aspect. Hebrews 9:28 says “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (ESV) We are to be eagerly waiting for Him.

I think this talks about a principle of our posture while we wait. Our posture – we can be waiting with one of two postures. We can be passively waiting (We are not in control, so I will sit back and just roll with it, not do anything while I wait. Or we can be actively waiting. The word accompanying waiting is eagerly. It is a three part compound that talks about welcoming from and out of – a kind of staying busy with expectation for that time when He comes to set all things anew. An at the edge of your seat, getting all things ready, totally stoked and waiting is filled with excitement type of moment.

In the movie Fireproof, Kirk Cameron works hard to get his wife back and to restore the relationship. He does not sit back, he is not passive, but is actively working to that end. John Waller’s song ‘While I’m Waiting’ powerfully tugs on our emotions and emphasizes this with the lyrics …

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait
I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I’m waiting
I will serve You 
While I’m waiting
I will worship 
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait

I do not want to waste time while I wait. I will serve, worship, and run the race. I will take this time to become better, to help others around me, and keep my eyes on Him. For I do believe someone is in control – and it is not me – it is Him. The theology of waiting is believing in the Sovereignty of God – HE IS IN CONTROL.

So – waiting. We all have to do it. Will you join me in serving, worshiping, and actively run the race while we wait? And remember, they that wait on the Lord shall renew their their strength, they shall mount up with with wings of eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Wait with me – and let’s serve Him together.

Extra Sep: website for muse video of Waller’s song … https://vimeo.com/3768562

Clutter around the Tower

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 8.39.50 PMI drive the Dallas North Tollway – a lot (just look at my monthly toll bill for proof). And there are a lot of wonderful buildings along the drive. I have done this for years (though what seemed way out there when I was in college, seems now just part of the metroplex) and I have seen buildings rise up along the way. One of my favorite structures is the iconic Providence Towers on Spring Valley. It’s simple and yet majestic aura, the arch in the center, and all it puts forth has been a joy to see every time I passed.

But through the years something has taken place. Progress. Not progress on the building itself but progress around the building. CocaCola, Chase, and other companies have moved into the area and new buildings have been constructed to meet the need. Now this is not bad in itself, for I work at a hotel that survives on business from these companies. But the buildings have risen so close to Providence Towers that it no longer stands alone in its splendor. The other buildings have blocked the view of the Towers, have lowered the bar of beauty, and basically just clutter up the area. Providence Towers is still there, you only have to look past other buildings to really see it.

Our Christian walk is like this. We have the most majestic and glorious God that deserves our worship. Yet we let so many things get in the way – block our view – and clutter up our lives. Matt Redman tells the story that his church realized it had let the happenings and extras distract way too much – so for weeks, they took away the instruments, the sound system, and they tried to get back to a simple focus. They eventually worked the other stuff back in, but the point was to realize we are to be participants – truly immersed in worship – and not consumers. That song – ‘The Heart of Worship’ emphasizes this.

When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus.

What is getting between you and God? What blocks your view of His work, His majesty, and His Word? Maybe you need to get rid of some things and get back to what it really is all about.

So here are some general pointers
–Clarify what is the key mission – what your are trying to accomplish. This is not about what you are doing but the your goals.
–Evaluate what you are doing and determine if each item is helping you accomplish your mission.
–Simplify. If something is not an instrument to reach your mission, than stop doing it.

This seems simple, but it requires some serious self evaluation and prayer for wisdom. The Bible talks much of the prudent man – and I would say it is a great study to what the Word says. If you can take away the clutter, simplify the process, and bring clarity to why you do what you do, the rewards will be evident.

I really love seeing the Towers and I can’t do anything about the clutter. But I love Jesus oh so much more – and I will do something about the clutter that takes away from my worship of Him. Will you?

Appomattox – Where Grace was Real

IMG_6331.JPGApril 9th – a very important day.

On April 9th, three years ago, Stephen Douglas Wilson wrote an insightful article on the 150th anniversary of the eventful day at Appomattox where Gen. Lee surrendered to Sen. Grant. It was a a day that set a tone for healing the wounds of division caused by years of bloodshed, heartache, and a nation being torn asunder.

Lee was surrounded, out-manned, and had very few options as he faced “Unconditional Surrender Grant.” Lee showed up to the McLean residence in Appomattox in his best uniform and Grant was a bit late as he arrived in a mud splattered field uniform. Grant had hastened to get there. They talked of their service in the Mexican War, and more. But it took Lee nudging Grant into the conversation of surrender. It was a moment of grace as Grant proposed a gentle surrender. No counts of treason with a promise of parole if they committed to lay down their arms and to never take them up against the USA again, officers could keep their weapons and horses, and eventually, the enlisted men were able to keep their horses to assist in running their farms.

They shook hands and returned to their respective lines. As Grant returned to his men, they began to cheer – but he stopped them and said, “The Confederates are now our countrymen, and we do not want to exult over their downfall.”

I visited Appomattox last year. It was beautiful, peaceful, and for a few minutes of my life, I truly was in awe at my surroundings. I will never forget that visit. What happened there, what grace was shown, and what it means for our country – it left a mark on my life.

The concept of grace is, well, amazing. Grace is something I have studied and taught, experienced and occasionally missed to show, and what I am pursuing to live my life according to. At the hotel I am working, they call me the man of grace – they intend it as a slam of the way I work with hard guests (they think I am gullible) but I take it as a compliment. In this fallen and broken world, grace is not easy to come by. It is hard to show. Most want to live by the rules Sean Connery gave in ‘The Untouchables’ – if he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!

Me? I want to turn the other cheek, show mercy, and be a blessing – especially to those who seek to do me harm. I want to be known as full of grace. The difference – Christ. I do not think I could ever show grace if I have not experienced His grace first.

Challenging Thought – I hope you too will be known for grace and mercy. I pray grace is so evident from Christ followers that non-believers look at us and want some of what we have – or more correctly, some of Who we have – we have Jesus and that makes all the difference in the world.

Be a person of grace received and grace given.

Post Script – read the article to which I referred at http://www.bpnews.net/44521

 

Great Adventures

I am going to reveal my age here. I am not ashamed for I believe that I was born exactly when the Good Lord intended. My two brothers told me I was a mistake, and I keep saying mom and dad were just trying to correct the two they had before me (jk). But as I look back to the 60s, I do not remember much. I was only one when Kennedy was shot, and Woodstock is a bird that hangs with Snoopy – not a field where music history was made.

However, one of my earliest memory comes from July of 1969, when I was 7. I vaguely remember the Apollo moon landing. This created a passion to become an astronaut, which was only fulfilled with my collecting the Coke bottle caps emphasizing the Apollo journeys and with immersing myself in the ground breaking, geek-ville show of Star Trek. I do not remember much beyond that. The 70s become clearer, but only a bit so.

Now, I want to introduce you to an astonishing 7 year old – Montannah Kenney of Austin. She warmed up with hikes in the Austin hill country and then went across the ocean to set a new world record as the youngest person to reach the apex of Mount Kilimanjaro. Her mother and her put the trek together in 6 weeks so they could make the hike during their spring break. Having lost her dad years ago, she talks about how this made her feel closer to him by being so close to the clouds. Her dad also struggled with PTSD before he passed away, so they set up a GoFundMe account help with those struggling with PTSD.

WOW. I will say that again. WOW! Who knows what the future holds in store for Montannah. She has accomplished an amazing adventure, and I hope her life is filled with even greater things.

Sometimes I think we expect too little from our kids. I want life to be filled with adventure, pushing our expectations, and dreaming big (bigger than just a visit to a Florida theme park). So here is my take away – what are you doing to help the next generation experience great adventure, remarkable milestones, and world changing events?

I do remember something else from age 7. My father was sensitive to my inquiries and he met with me and shared with me the greatest adventure of them all – life with Jesus. I remember kneeling next to a chair in my father’s office at Orcutt Baptist in Newport News. And I remember asking for forgiveness of my sins and beginning the greatest adventure for all of eternity. This is best thing we can do for the next generation.

Montannah may have felt closer to her father, and I am happy for that. For I too have lost my father and some days I really miss him. But because of that day when I was seven years old, that day my father shared the truth of the good news, that day I believed, I know that I will see my father again. And what an adventure that will be!

PS – http://www.foxnews.com/great-outdoors/2018/04/07/seven-year-old-girl-hikes-mount-kilimanjaro-in-honor-late-dad-breaks-record.html