Reconnecting to Heritage and Home

The little girl, second from the right, is my grandmother, Bonnie. When I saw this picture on the internet this morning it brought back a flood of memories and emotions. How good it is to reconnect to heritage and home.

My thanks to my cousin who has begun recording the life of my Uncle Donnell. I'm so thankful they have partnered together to record his life story.

Our heritage and home stories aren't just for us but they are for all. Donnell's story is part of the story of the U.S. It is part of the story of a generation and part of the story of our world. The more we know of each other's stories, the more we know each other.


May I Ask: When was the last time you just listened to someone else's story?

May I Suggest: In your next conversation, take time to listen and learn about the other person. Ask questions not to gain knowledge but to gain a friend.

Paint It Purple in Hawaii!

What a wonderful Christmas present to all Pirate fans!



Thanks Coach Holtz and the Pirates for a great season!

Merry Christmas from the Haglers!



Hope ya'll have a Merry Christmas!

From Credit to Cash to Contributions - Why the crying?


Yep, it is the time right before Christmas and there is grousing and complaining that people aren't spending money like they used to. Really? And that is a bad thing?

For the third year, the American Research Foundation has found US Americans are planning to spend less. Excuse me but I would think that would be something to celebrate! I don't know but I would guess that with the problems with mortgages and consumer credit, the fact that for the third year, we're being a little smarter in spending would be a good thing!

Maybe you missed that the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Okay, I didn't know such an organization existed either) reported that U.S. charitable giving surged near $300 billion in 2006. I don't know but that sure sounds like some good news overall too. Could it be that the two are connected?

I'm not a statistician nor am I trying to play one on the internet. I just can't help but notice there seem to be people doing good things. People appear more aware of wasting money. People appear more aware of needs in the world around them. I'd say that would be something to celebrate!
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:20-21 NASB)


May I Ask: What have you found to celebrate this season?

May I Suggest: Look for things to celebrate and give thanks for. Be sure to tell someone else or thank someone else and pass it on!


Picture by sskies

Pssst...Whad U Get Him?

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

The Season for Patience

All of us are born being impatient. Spend anytime around a baby and you realize they have no desire to wait for anything and are happy to let you know it. Unfortunately, many people also leave this world still struggling to overcome impatience. Through the years I’ve had people ask me to pray for them for patience. I try to counsel them against it and this writer explains why: “I asked God to grant me patience. God said “No. Patience is a by-product of tribulations; it isn’t granted, it is earned.”

I think in part that is true. Christmas is certainly a time of tribulation and thus a season for patience. Consider the lines in stores as you buy your last minute items. How about the bidding on Ebay trying to outbid for the perfect gift? Consider waiting on the deliveries from UPS, FedEx and the US Postal Team. What a great place to experience tribulation: the roads around metro Atlanta. Of course let us not forget counting the days on the calendar till Christmas. What is the tribulation you find yourself facing?

Last year about this time, Brandon and I drove out the Monastery in Conyers. In talking with the monks, it struck me how down to earth they really are. You may wonder, why would a monk be impatient? Don't they become monks so that they don't have to deal with the world? Yes, that's true. So imagine how impatient this monk was...
The more he tried, the more impatient he became, so he decided that he must get away altogether, to learn to be patient. So he built himself a little home deep in the woods, far away from civilization.

Years later, a man was traveling in those woods and met him. The man was amazed to find anyone living so far away from the rest of the world, so he asked the monk why he was there all by himself. The monk said that he was there to learn to be patient. The traveler asked how long he had been there, and the monk replied: seven years. Stunned, the traveler asked, "If there is no one around to bother you, how will you know when you are patient?" Annoyed, the monk replied, "Get away from me, I have no time for you."


Patience isn’t formed in private. Patience is formed with people.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (James 5:7-10 NASB)

The monk in our story didn’t get this but the traveler did and so does James. Patience is something which is formed with people. If we are praying for patience in the midst of dealing with someone, rest assured, God is answering your prayer!!!

Patience isn’t procrastination. Patience is perseverance.

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. (Luke 2:25-26 NASB)

I have been procrastinating going to the dermatologist knowing she’d recognize the spots on my face as early skin cancer. Procrastination puts up with delay. Patience hopes and looks forward. We aren’t the first ones to long for the coming of the Christ. Simeon was looking with patience.

Patience isn’t just a modification in behavior. Patience is the Spirit’s gift of making us better.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB)

Patience isn’t just a modification in behavior. Patience is the Spirit’s gift of making us better. You aren’t going to positively think your way to patience. There are no techniques that will truly make patience happen. It is part of the journey to wholeness, what the Bible calls holiness.

So when we look at the story of God, we discover finally that

Patience isn’t just good. Patience is of God.

We know from Moses’ words that God is “… compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; (Exodus 34:6 NASB). Patience resides in the character of God and so is a gift made possible by His love for us.

Christmas is indeed the season for patience. The stories of the Old Testament and prophets reveal not the patience of humanity but the patience of God. It is the story of God waiting patiently and acting compassionately and justly to humanity…“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption…” (Galatians 4:4-5 NASB)

Tis the season for patience. Do you remeber the prayer for for patience at the beginning? After God said “no” to the writer's prayer for patience, she, “…next asked God to help her LOVE others, as much as He loves her. God said…Ahhhh………. finally you have the idea!” The more we come to live and love as God does, the more patience becomes our way of life.


May I Ask: How often do you find yourself impatient? Why?

May I Suggest: Pray first for God to help you love others and then act throughout your day with compassion - practicing patience.

Kroger's @ Crossroads Helps Cub Scouts

My thanks to the management and staff of Kroger's @ the North Paulding crossroads!

The boys of Pack 1916's Bear Den 9 have been working hard on their achievements all year. For December, we saw the opportunity to complete their religious and saving well and spending well achievement. We set aside our den allotment and some boys added their own money to buy meals for needy families.

Kroger's made space available to us and were patient with us going through the line. The boys were able to put together seven balanced meals with non-perishable items. These will go to help needy families this holiday season as part of Pack 1916's holiday meal drive.

It was a great evening. All of us are proud of our boys and I am proud to be a part of a community in North Paulding and businesses like Kroger's that supports their neighbors. This is what it means to be connected!


May I Ask: How are you allowing your community to support you and your work?

May I Suggest: People really do want to help so look for ways for people and businesses to serve. Share your ideas here - it might help someone else!

Proud to be a Pirate!!


It is easy to jump on bandwagons but some of us are connected to schools and traditions by dollars, years and families. Most of the time, I don't have the time or money to support my teams the way I'd like. I get a bit out of control when it comes to sports (I can share stories and so can some friends and family).

Needless to say, in my humble, little world, it was a great week in sports for my alma mater and my 'boys...

1. I was so proud when I heard the news that East Carolina fans are giving tickets to military. Like most, I can't make it to Hawaii but I'm going to have to find a way to join them in support.

2. I'm totally pumped that myECU Pirates ended their ACC basketball losing streak. Against NC State no less...ah, the irony!

3. With the Pirates awaiting their bowl date, the Cowboys take the east.

Just a little Carolina on my mind!

Making, Saving, Giving - Are we?

"Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly, saved all you can, Then "give all you can." (Sermon on "The Use of Money") Those words of John Wesley are certainly prudent especially from one who was as big a tight-wad as Wesley. But are they realistic?

My friend Jerry Clegg at Right Financial highlights how important the save part is:

Determine your retirement income needs
Many experts suggest that you need at least 60 to 70% of your preretirement income to enable you to maintain your current standard of living in retirement.

Calculate the gap
Once you have estimated your retirement income needs, take stock of your estimated future assets and income.

Figure out how much you'll need to save
By the time you retire, you'll need a nest egg that will provide you with enough income to fill the gap left by your other income sources.

Build your retirement fund: Save, save, save
When you know roughly how much money you'll need, your next goal is to save that amount.

Reuter's did a story in the summer in England on Young People Underestimating Retirement Needs. By all accounts, the same seems to be holding true in the U.S.
"Whether I would do it or no, I know what I ought to do..."

Considering that Wesley included this sermon in his Standards, it seems we ought to consider how we are using our money and how we are teaching others to use it. Certainly, if we are not using it rightly, we have little grounds for teaching others.
"Whether I would do it or no, I know what I ought to do...Not to use, is effectually to throw it away."

Sermon 51 of Wesley is entitled, "The Good Steward," and a question we ought to ask of ourselves: Are we with equal passion good stewards of what we've made, saved and given?


May I Ask: When was the last time you considered your earning, saving and giving?

May I Suggest: With the approach of a new year, take time to examine your use of money.

Get Some "Kung Fu" Grip on Faith.

I was in Wal-Mart a few weeks back and saw the re-release of the GI JOE ADVENTURE TEAM with Kung Fu Grip! My son has gotten into GI Joe and we actually found my old GI Joe (complete with the fuzzy head).

Over the Thanksgiving break, I discovered all kinds of cool GI Joe stuff out there including:

Club Hair for GI Joe. Does your "old Joe" have that bald spot? Never fear! Visit Club Hair!

Home of GI Joe and the Elite Brigade.
If your GI Joe is a little worn, have no fear, this is better than rebuilding Steve Austin! (We actually ordered a new arm for my old Joe from here and it fits great - though the skin tone is a bit off)

All this got me thinking. So often in "pop-spirituality" people act like you can just pick up a few pieces here and there and piece together faith. I've always been a little bothered by the marketing of "stuff" for Christians. There always seems to be some new insight or item that promises to "completes" what is missing in our lives. Jesus told Martha, "...only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42 NASB)

Last year I spent time most everyday, reading from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible. I read it over and over again. I journaled my thoughts and I prayed. My focus was to get to know Jesus. I started reading the Gospel of Matthew now. I'm going to follow the same plan, my goal being to get to know Jesus.

My GI Joe is never going to be perfect again. He lost some hair and an arm along the way. He now has some replacement parts but he isn't whole. It seems to me, without having a faith in Jesus that is genuinely mine, then I'm about the same as my Joe.

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 NASB)

Sounds like a pretty tough assignment...YO JOE!!!

May I Ask: What are some of the "vintage" experiences that have shaped you and your faith? How often do you draw from those times during your day?

May I Suggest: Take time to connect to your spiritual heritage during this season. Don't settle for the "re-release" - find the classics.

Getting Help Out of the Wreckage

After being on the trail today, I came inside to take a shower. I stopped by to scratch Tigger (our cat)on the head. I then happened to glance into our fish tank and saw a fish in a strange position near the "shipwreck" in our tank.

On closer inspection I realized it was one of our golden barbs which had gotten stuck in the wreck. He would rest and then wiggle, rest and wiggle but he was stuck. I was able to help him wiggle on out and though he is a bit scarred and has lost some scales, I think he should make a full recovery.

A thought came to me in the process of helping this little fish. Many times it seems we grow a little over dependent on our peers and friends. All this barb's friends know is swim - eat - poop. When you get stuck - wiggle. I can imagine the conversation, "hey Earl, wiggle to your right! No, your other right! Still stuck? Well keep wiggling!"

What was needed was someone outside the fishbowl - outside the narcissism of the same fish, in the same bowl, swimming in the same water, and eating the same food. Sometimes we all need some outside input and outside help. Here are four thoughts that came from getting this fish out of the wreckage.

1. Avoid Shipwrecks.

Why my little fish was swimming into the wreck I'll never know. So why on earth would any of us want to get mixed up in an obvious mistake?

2. Take Initiative.
Get out and seek input. Sure, there are other "fish" in your bowl but I mean go to "lakes, streams and oceans" to find other input.

3. Try It Out.
Test the input you get and discover if it is really helpful. Some of it will make sense but no one is living in your skin except for you.

4. Be Thankful.
My little fish is not going to pop-up and say "thanks for the help" but you and I can. When someone does step in, be sure to send a thank you - preferably stamped and in your handwriting.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV)


This is what neighbors do and after all, isn't this what Jesus' life and teachings were all about too?


May I Ask: When was the last time you got out of your "fish bowl?" What did you learn? How have you grown?

May I Suggest: Seek input from someone in another occupation about an issue you are dealing with.

Clergy, Integrity and The Man

I could care less about debating people regarding the "prosperity gospel." Sorry, it has no credibility, no foundation in Scripture (unless you do some serious proof-texting) and does nothing to further The Gospel, the Good News Jesus came to proclaim. So naturally, when Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn were credited on the news this morning claiming that the senate committee has no authority to request this information and that this is a separation of church and state issue, I've been just a bit annoyed.

"The Man" is not out to get you guys. You have non-profit tax exempt status. This isn't an IRS issue, it is a tax exempt issue. And in the eyes of the public (which maybe more important than the government right now) the question is whether you are personally profiting from this privileged position? There are a number of other non-profits who aren't religious based too. Did you miss the paper yesterday? American Red Cross Forces President Everson to Resign his position over a personal relationship with a subordinate. When any of us loses integrity, we'll pay a price.

It could happen to any of us. But you guys are more public, more influential, more powerful...which actually makes you "THE MAN." Ben Folds' words in the "Ascent of Sam" ring loud and clear:
Once you wanted revolution, But now you're the institution. How's it feel to be The Man?

Whenever we ascend to a place of influence and gain a voice, the temptation, the allure, the perks, all play a part in turning revolutionaries into The Man. Remember the pigs in Orwell's "Animal Farm?"

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Jack Black, in the movie, "School of Rock" says,
"The Man. Oh, you don't know The Man? The Man's everywhere: in the White House, down the hall, Miss Mullins; she's The Man! And The Man ruined the ozone, and he's burning down the Amazon and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! Okay!? And there used to be a way to stick it to The Man, it was called rock 'n roll. But guess what? Oh no! The Man ruined that too with a little thing called MTV! "
(of course, Jack Black is part of the "Hollywood Elite" and has the same power and influence and could thus be considered "The Man" as well).

I'm curious though, how a clergy could miss the meaning behind Paul's words to the church in Rome?
Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:2-8 NASB)

"The Man"? Well it seems clear to me, Paul is really stating that in the instances of government involvement and investigation, God is at work, thus placing God in the role as "The Man."

But the larger question for each of us is in our own lives. How do we handle the responsibilities when the role and influence of being "The Man" is thrust upon us? How do we respond when "The Man" calls us to account for our behaviors and conduct? For conscience sake, can we say we have loved our neighbor? What about employees? Strangers? Homeless? Enemies? Families? What about "The Man?"

The next time we look in the mirror, whether we like it or not, we just may be looking at "The Man."


May I Ask: When was the last time you had the chance to influence another person? How did it go?

May I Suggest: Take time to consider your personal goals. Are your daily actions in line with those goals or have you compromised your integrity somewhere? Share your concerns with a trusted friend or mentor and make plans to get realigned. Where needed, ask forgiveness from those you've hurt.

Gifts for Your Ninja Friends

Yarrrr!! Though a pirate I be, I feel during the holiday season to be most generous even to my ninja "friends." For ye who feel the need as well, here be a most humorous ninja, sharing his thoughts...



Tis a season for giving...savvy?

Hiking and Wholeness for the Holidays

It all started again today...the routine, the school schedule, the racing around, and the holiday rush. So I'm thankful for the pictures and memories we made this past week when our family hiked up Waterknob Rock.





Mark Mozer writes in Better than Disneyland:
Too many parents get too focused on everyday kid problems such as homework and chores, so that their kids become problems more than people. I'd much rather take on parenting struggles that are chosen and challenging, coaxing the kids out to the edge of their courage and stamina, struggles that define them as gritty little persons, rather than problems. Establish a kid's personhood, and everyday problems should pass by in stride.

That is perspective. I think I might be ready for the season. I'm sure more renewed in helping my children get ready for life.


May I Ask: How are you investing in your family and kids?
May I Suggest: Make some time and make it happen!

A Time to Cry

Before the pundits and opinionated begin to launch off today regarding the release of this story of Georgia Boys Ages 8 and 9 Charged With Rape, can we at least pause and remember these words,
"Everything has its own time, and there is a specific time for every activity under heaven...a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...(Ecclesiates 3:1 & 4)"

This is my community but it could be any community and any neighborhood. These children are the age of my children and their friends. It could happen anywhere but it didn't...it happened right here.

It isn't a time for passing blame but to cry and mourn. A young girl and her family has been forever impacted. Three boys who should be going to school today may not even be with their families for the holiday. Four children are no longer innocent.

There will be time to blame but I think if we can still find tears, may we all first find time to cry.

Yoda & Jar Jar in "Who's on First"

who's on first with star wars

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Problems with the Perceptions of Public People

Recently, a couple of interesting stories have come to light. Both deal with the problems of public officials and the public's perceptions and judgment. Consider for a moment these two stories around the ATL.

1. Mega-church Senate Investigation.
While it has nationwide prominence, two of those pastors being investigated are in the ATL, Creflo Dollar and Eddie Long.

2. Paulding County Sheriff Bruce Harris: I-team investigation. Recent concerns around our local sheriff brought about this investigation by FOX 5 News.

Like what happens in so many instances, the finger gets pointed at the media or at the government, saying they shouldn't be pointing fingers. Sometimes it is warranted. Other times it is not. In the first instance of televangelists, it is the government. In the second, it is the media.

There is one common theme which is obvious - money. But I think there is a second theme, one which is more deceptive, of greater concern and one which any one in the public eye ought to be aware of - perception.

Some have spoken about concern about government or the I-team investigating business. That concern misses the point though. These are public individuals in the arena of serving their community. As such, they receive benefits from us as outlined in the law. Tax benefits and perks, honoring the fact that they are providing service which goes above and beyond.

There exists a perception, real or imagined, that when you are serving others, people anticipate a lifestyle in keeping with the role as servant. Is it a fair expectation? Justified? Realistic? I'll let you come to your own answer.

The point is, it exists and it creates a level of trust "we the people" have put in these community servants. When that trust is broken, when we, the servants, live in such a way that breaks the trust created by the perception - we will suffer consequences.

These stories remind me of a word of caution from Jesus...
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16 NASB)
It isn't about being alarmist. It is about being authentic, being aware of perception and expectation. Considering, "...[God] chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him,(Ephesians 1:3-4 NASB)" Jesus followers ought to be reminded there should always be One whose approval we should be seeking as we grow in grace.



May I Ask: Is it fair for public servants to receive greater scrutiny? Should their benefits be more tightly monitored?

May I Suggest: What standards of conduct do you hold yourself to? Take some time to consider this week what you expect in others. Do you apply the same measure to yourself?

Wiseguys Need Goodfellas


Would you rather…go a week w/o brushing your teeth or w/o taking a shower?
Would you rather…sneeze for an hour or hiccup for an hour?
Would you rather…Have one good friend for life or lots of friends for a short time?
(for more great questions get Doug Fields' book "Would You Rather...")

With good friends comes great possibilities. Sharing laughs, stories and adventures is great. But what about the risks of friendship? The times when a “secret” was shared and someone became a “tattle-tale” or “gossip.” With that in mind, it doesn’t take much to imagine these words spoken by the likes of Don Corleone or Tony Soprano that came from editorialist “Mr. Mafioso” who said:

Don't even bother telling me that friends are people we care for, blah, blah, blah. You care for your friends because they know everything about you or because they owe you money. Without those two things, your caring level drops fast.

Now, I may be a wiseguy but I'm also human, and despite everything I've said, nobody can do anything alone. At a certain point in our lives, we all need friends, check this, close friends, because friends are a dime a dozen. With that in mind, you have to realize that you must be very careful about choosing the select few (and privileged in my case), people that you can say are your good friends.


THE STORY OF NAAMAN

In the story of Naaman, in 2 Kings 5, we see the importance and value of choosing wisely, the people we surround ourselves with… 2 Kings 5:1-5, 9-15a
Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy." Naaman went in and told his master, saying, "Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel." Then the king of Aram said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes. (2 Kings 5:1-5 NASB)

So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean." But Naaman was furious and went away and said, "Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.' "Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, "Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel…(2 Kings 5:9-15 NASB)

In the course of waging war, Syria had enslaved an Israelite girl as a slave in Naaman’s home. After peace was established with Israel she spoke up about Naaman’s condition and the man of God who could heal him. After receiving permission and wealth to give away Naaman travels to Israel and the dwelling of the prophet Elisha, God’s man in Israel. But rather than meeting Elisha and having a ritual performed before him, Naaman is greeted by Elisha’s servant and receives the order to bathe in the Jordan seven times.

The cults of the Ancient Near East have been well documented as have their extravagant ceremonies. From Naaman’s experience he was only familiar with dealing with priests who manipulated the emotions of the so-called gods of Syria. He was also used to the being in the presence of kings first his Syrian king and then the Israelite king not servants. And taking a bath in the Jordan river? That apparently was taking things too far!

But it was again, an unnamed, anonymous servant who came to Naaman and appealed to the master to consider the prophet’s words. I imagine today the converstaion might go a little something like, “Sir, we know that if he had double dog dared you to go tweak the nose of Pharoah down in Egypt, you’d do it. This is a piece of cake! Just go take seven baths and we’re on the way home.”

WHO SURROUNDS US?

That got me to thinking about an article recently by Margaret Heffernan, former CEO & author who expressed a growing concern in corporations about weak leaders surrounding themselves with weak assistants. She shared about a team interviewing three job candidates for a new position. One was too young, one was too rude and one was too qualified. Who did our manager want to hire? The one too young. The manager felt threatened by the best candidate and didn’t realize you must always hire people smarter than yourself.

This writer must have taken Naaman’s class. He was already considered a great man by his king and respected by others. But what may not be so obvious is how he surrounded himself with people he could count on even in the form his slave girl and servants. But more than this, these individuals who were apparently subjected to him by law, were endeared to him as a “father,” which is how the servant spoke to him.

WHO IMPACTS US?

How often is your life impacted by the people around you? Everyday!

Sure, we know the power of peer pressure as kids but let’s be real, have you not felt the pressure to keep up with the newest fads? Some have had to stand up to employers over unethical business practices. It is hard to tune out all the messages.

So who builds you up? If we are asking what is the wise thing to do, then who are the goodfellas in your life? Who are you being a goodfella to?

My first experience with a goodfella was Brad. Brad challenged me not long after my decision to follow Jesus. We were playing one-on-one when he asked me if I thought about the words I used. Because of my cussing, he couldn't tell any difference in my life. Brad taught me the value and grace of goodfellas. Today, I’ve meet with Chris and Scott, two pastors and two friends I trust greatly. I also have 3 friends who are my “personal board of directors” – guys pray for me regularly and have permission to challenge me on all areas of my life.

This isn’t running contrary to the idea of “walking across the room,” but we’re examining who are the one’s whose counsel we turn too? The writer of Proverbs observed two things:

Proverbs 13:20 GW Whoever walks with wise people will be wise, but whoever associates with fools will suffer.

Proverbs 27:17 GW As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the wits of another.


Jesus also made a similar point about what kind of love true friendship requires and it is the love Jesus himself showed to us. It is the kind of love that transforms and sharpens us. It is love we also call grace. John wrote down Jesus’ words when he said,
Love each other as I have loved you. This is what I'm commanding you to do. The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends. (John 15:12-13, GW)
This is the kind of love Jesus makes possible and it is a gift of grace to find friends who share it. You see, wiseguys need goodfellas and goodfellas all need God’s grace.


May I Ask: Who sharpens You? Who are you helping to sharpen?

May I Suggest: Take 5 minutes this week and take an inventory of your friends. Who are the ones who sharpen you? Who are you sharpening? To those who are sharpening you, write them a thank you note. For those you are sharpening, write them a note of encouragement. Send them both!

New Church - New Name

One of the unique elements I have found in starting a new church is how a vision God gives to one becomes a vision for many. After much time seeking the counsel of others, reflecting on our community and seeking God's guidance, it seems right at this time to make a change in the name of this new United Methodist Church.

The mission for people to connect, follow and become disciples of Jesus Christ is what is the key and what has led to the change. The name CROSSROADS United Methodist Church seems to fit not just this mission but our community as well.

The Crossroads is a recognizable designation for North Paulding. We will actually be starting at the crossroads of Dabbs Bridge Rd. and Harmony Grove Church Rd. when we begin at McClure. It's meaning as a place of connection is obvious but the crossroads as a place where people make decisions is also meaningful. In changing our name the idea of nexus doesn't disappear but expands.

The new changes have gone (somewhat) quickly into effect on our different blogs and web pages. A new domain name was acquired to reflect the change as well. Our nexus links are still active and redirecting people to www.crossroadsum.org

I'm reminded of my earlier post regarding releasing an idea or product too earlier. So in light of that, let me share a couple of things I've learned:

1. Be true to mission and mantra.
If the mission is to connect with people and they can't get past the first impression, make the change.

2. Trust no one - trust everyone.
In the beginning when a vision and mission is forming, it needs protection. Once it is out on the table with people you trust already - listen to them and seek their advice. I'm so thankful for my friends and counselors.

Proverbs 15:22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed.

3. Trust your gut.

Other people's guts are fine but when you are on the line, remember it was your gut that got you here. If it has been faithful in the past, look to it in the present.

4. Be out there.
I'm not a huge collector of quotes but I've always been partial to Robert Kennedy's statement on failure:
Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.


BTW, if you're looking for some thoughtful posts on church names consider The Internet Monks Post on it.


May I Ask: Do you think names make a difference? What have you experienced regarding names?

May I Suggest: Ask some people about their thoughts and opinions of different names. Maybe it is your church or business. What do you learn? What difference does it make?

Back in Time...

This past week I referenced the 80's and just couldn't help myself...

My Thanksgiving List 2007

It is finally fall and we are in the middle of Hallow-thank-mas, the season of the year which seems to boggle the mind with an onslaught of advertising, merchandise and parties galore. Thanksgiving falls in the middle and does not often get its fair share of attention with all the festivities of the other two holidays.

Still, most of us find some time to consider what we’re thankful for. Each of our lists are unique. This year seems a bit different, a bit more unique. I have had one thing which has not left my list all year that I am thankful for. This year, I am thankful for my cancer.

I know it sounds strange. I am thankful I am a cancer survivor going on eight years but I am also thankful for the experience and for the struggle. I am thankful for the people I have meet along the way and for the people I have been able to help and encourage along the journey.

I am thankful it was testicular cancer, a cancer not often spoke of but one common among young men. So I’m thankful I have had opportunities to speak and raise awareness about a cancer which, if caught early, often responds well to treatments.

I am thankful because facing cancer helps me appreciate life more fully. It causes me to consider how important relationships are in life. I treasure my family more. Each moment with my wife and kids seems more of a treasure. Every moment with my friends and neighbors, has become a more special time. Even on the most gray, stormy days, the sky seems more like a bluish-gray.

When I visit with people in the hospital or at home facing different medical procedures or cancer, I am thankful I have an idea of what it is like and I am able to serve others in a way I could not before cancer.

Since I have walked in shoes I never imagined I would, I am learning to give thanks and more deeply understand and appreciate a God who did the same for us, in order to reach out to us. Even Jesus’ closest friends did not understand Jesus was God with them. When Philip asked,
"Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father... (John 14:8-9 ESV)

So while I am thankful for all I have experienced in facing cancer, I am even more thankful for a God who did not watch us from a distance but a God who took on flesh and experienced life among us. I am thankful for a God who, in Jesus, became like us, to reach us. I am thankful God never stops reaching for us.


May I Ask: What have you been thankful for this year?

May I Suggest: Set aside some time to put together a list. When and where possible, let others know what your thankful for. Maybe even take time to share it on Thanksgiving day.

Water, water sure ain't in Georgia!

One Tennessee town has run out of water. When will it come to pass that we all take more seriously the situation approaching Atlanta?

My kids have been asking if we're going to have to move from Atlanta. Interestingly, that exact point was brought up today at our Paulding Chamber Power Lunch. What happens when FEMA is called in to assist? What will happen to metro Atlanta when people do start moving because of the quality of life issue? What happens to the Southeast?

What needs to happen is what communities can do better than any government, come together and work together. My friend, Ron Papaleoni, heads up the Lake Allatoona Preservation Authority and together with the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, they're trying to get the word out about Watersmart. This is an effort to help everyone be proactive in this crisis.

Every bit helps when we begin to consider we're talking about losing drinking water! Four simple things all of us can get into the habit of doing include...

1. Never use your toilet as a wastebasket!

2. Take shorter showers and save as much as three to seven gallons of water.

3. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth and save four to 10 gallons.

4. Use your dishwasher and washing machine for full loads only!




May I Ask: Can you think of one change you can make in your water usage? If you've already done one, can you come up with another?

May I Suggest: Take a moment to pick one thing you aren't doing but can do. If you have an idea about saving water, share it here!

Sharpen Your Creativity: Copy

It has been about six months since I first read about Scott Ginsberg, the name tag guy. It only took a couple of days of thinking, sending an e-mail to Scott and asking permission from my family before I started wearing my nametag. So if you live in Paulding County you know I didn't come up with this all by myself.

It was just a simple idea but it was one of those "Aha" moments for me. I've meet so many neat people, connected with more people, had more conversations with strangers and made more friends than I could have imagined. A couple of Sundays ago, some of the youth got together and wore "Ken" name tags in the service. It reminded of a simple saying youth ministers have shared for years:

"The essence of creativity is the ability to copy."

The thing about a copy, is it is always a bit different from the original. I'm not Scott, I'm Ken so already my name tag is different. But it isn't just that, creativity means you start with the copy and make it your own, you don't leave it how you found it. What I'm discovering after six months of "name tagging" is that I'm different...

I'm friendlier.
At least I feel that way. Wearing a name tag has made it so much easier to start conversations with complete strangers. Whether it is me or them, conversations seem to just pop up.

I'm more accountable.
When people know who you are you tend to more aware of who you are.

I'm more approachable.
Kind of like the first one except people I don't know call me by name. I've been "employed" recently by Home Depot, Michael's and Target (BTW, don't ever go to Target with a red shirt and khakis, I don't know how I manage to do this regularly).

I'm having more fun.
For all of my tendencies toward administration and being disciplined, I'm still the baby in the family and have to cut lose a bit. Who says pastors can't have fun?

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the wits of another. (Proverbs 27:17 GW)




May I Ask: What have you read recently that has inspired you to copy an idea? How's it going?

May I Suggest: Be attentive to what you see and read this week. Find one good idea you can copy and make it better. Share here what you learned!

When do you find time to rest?

I've taken this week off from blogging to allow my blog on stories to be front and center. It hasn't been easy, but the time away did me good...I think.

Today was my day off. For me it is sabbath time. And today for the first time since moving to Paulding County, I took off down the trail solo. I went to Pickett's Mill Battlefield which is about 8 minutes from house. It was incredible! I certainly felt the effects of not being on the trail for a while but that was the only negative.

Three and a half miles. I saw no one else on the trail during my time. I laughed at squirrels and played catch-up with a white-tailed deer. I had time to pause at a stream and took care of creation by picking up all the trash I saw.

So what about you? When do you find time to rest? Or may I ask, when do you make time to rest, re-create and renew yourself? When do you allow time for God to simply speak and you shut your mouth?

I know it isn't easy. Really I do. Remember, it has been a year and a half since I've done something like today, something I know allows me to connect with God in a more personal way. It was hard to get it together this morning to make it happen but I needed it. You do too.



May I Ask: When did you last TAKE A DAY OFF?

May I Suggest: Pull out your calendar and sometime in the NEXT TWO WEEKS, make an appointment with yourself IN PEN to do something YOU LOVE.

The Power of Your Story



This week at Due West UMC we're sharing stories. Not just any stories but your story. As part of our series on Just Walk Across the Room, everyone has been invited to share their faith story, simply, concisely and in 100 words or less. Send your story to our pastoral staff and we'll help folks with the telling of their story with thumbs up, thumbs down or some suggestions to help tweak it just a little.

I think this is a great idea. Since it is a challenge we're giving, it seemed only right for Tom and I, as pastors, to post our own stories in 100 words or less. If they are a help, great! Hey, if you think we can do better, feel free to tell us too...

Pastor Tom’s Story

I grew up with a “supper time” understanding of God… you know “God is Great! God is Good! Let us thank Him for our food.” I understood God had these general attributes and would be pleased if I had them too. I worked hard at being “great and good”. No matter what I did, I was never successful enough or good enough, but I was depressed and confused. When I asked Jesus to make my heart his home, I quit striving for approval and the clouds of depression and confusion left. I now have a sense of purpose and joy I never thought possible.



Pastor Ken's Story

Growing up, I saw that image seemed to be everything. People judged others on what they could do, how they dressed, what they had and what they knew. I came to realize I just could not measure up with what the world demanded. I grew angry without hope for my future. But a couple of leaders who were in my Scout troop and who volunteered at church, accepted me for who I was. Their actions showed me grace, that God saw me differently. I chose to follow Jesus and began living with peace, hope and a future.


There you go, our before and after. If you'd like any help with your story, you can send it to stories.duewest@yahoo.com


NOTE: We'll be taking stories until Saturday, October 27th. Your story will not be shared with anyone else or posted on the web.

North Paulding High School's FIRST Homecoming Parade


It was a special moment. Lets remember first time moments only happen once. You don't get to redo and yesterday was a great first Homecoming Parade for North Paulding High School.

Just spending a few moments mingling allowed me to meet a proud dad of a band member and did all those parents have something to be proud of too! There was roughly 20 members in the band. They sounded like 50 and played with experience.

The Homecoming Court and football team conducted themselves with class and style. One of the young men asked me politely if I'd like a souvenir cup. Then he didn't throw it but walked over and handed it to me. That was classy.

A few other floats followed and the parade ended with the Beta Club. Parents and neighbors in Seven Hills walked up and down the Seven Hills Blvd. Since we don't have a main street, Seven Hills proved an ideal location for the parade. It was exciting to see the community out supporting the school and its leaders. Hats off to Susan Browning, the staff of NPHS, the boosters, the PTA and the businesses that supported this event.

You only get the opportunity for one first and North Paulding High School and the community made the most of it yesterday. Congratulations! Go Wolfpack!

Lest we forget how new this North Paulding community really is, there are many more firsts to come our way. The opportunities new starts and "firsts" give, are reminders that hope still exists in our world, our communities and our neighborhoods. Take advantage of each one that comes your way.




May I Ask: What "firsts" are happening around you? Are you making time?

May I Suggest: Keep a note pad or your day planner handy in your car. This way you can write down dates and times of "first" events and help support when you can.

YouVersion: Shared Knowledge or Ignorance?

I'm excited about playing around in Lifechurch.tv's new playground known as YouVersion.

It is their Beta release so you know that means it is time to ship with some bugs that need to be worked out. The concept is certainly an interesting one: making an online version of the Bible which the community can interact with, comment on, link to, etc. The implications for sharing and expanding knowledge and resources are incredible. I can see how pastors, teachers, leaders and students can find all types of resources and helps for ministry.

BUT...

...is it more an opportunity for shared ignorance than shared knowledge? How many cute e-mail spam messages will find a home (other than my trash can) connected to a Bible verse? How much disinformation will be made available?

Look, my hat is off to LifeChurch.tv for their innovation and work. I'm not trying to rain on their parade, because I'm sure they've weighed the possibilities. I'm going to sign-up today. We just need to realize the reality that Richard Watson points out, namely...
...we shouldn’t get too hung up on technology. The reason that many of our scientific fantasies haven’t made it into reality is that many innovators and futurists sometimes make the mistake of forgetting about human history and psychology. Technology tends to change fast and exponentially, while people tend to change slowly and incrementally.

While most of us get excited (obsessed maybe a better word) with innovations, not everyone tends to move so fast. Maybe all of us who serve as leaders, in business or church, need to pause and reflect on whether our own thoughts are sometimes just "alpha" or "beta" versions and not ready for a full-fledged public release.



May I Ask: Ever used a Beta release presented too early? Ever released an idea or product too early yourself? What did you learn?

May I Suggest: Before going too far, release your idea(s) with a few trusted friends/colleagues and give them time and freedom to pick it apart. Remember: to build bigger muscles, you have to tear the old ones down.

Faith has faults but can we still be friends?

The last few weeks at Due West UMC as we have been teaching on Bill Hybels' book, Just Walk Across the Room, have been great. The stories in small groups and comments about how it has helped Christ-followers clear away much of the misnomers about evangelism have been encouraging. As a new church pastor, it has helped me to clear away some of my own confusion and focus on who often gets lost in the process of sharing the Faith: the other person.

Which is why reading this post from Greta Christina's Blog on Atheists and Anger, has been so humbling (if you're easily offended, be warned there is adult content). (H/T to Mark @ The Calladus Blog.) Disagree with her and me if you want but she has some very valid points some of which include:

I'm angry that so many believers treat prayer as a sort of cosmic shopping list for God.

I'm angry at preachers who tell women in their flock to submit to their husbands because it's the will of God, even when their husbands are beating them within an inch of their lives.

I'm angry at the Sunday school teacher who told comic artist Craig Thompson that he couldn't draw in heaven.

I'm angry -- enraged -- at the priests who molest children and tell them it's God's will.

I get angry when religious believers make arguments against atheism -- and make accusations against atheists -- without having bothered to talk to any atheists or read any atheist writing.

These were just a few of the many points which Greta makes about her experience with religion/Christianity.

Seeing What You Can't See

I knew from the title of the post to be prepared and yes, it was shocking. But Marcia Conner recently pointed out, "If you ask for a wide range of views, especially from those beyond your usual circles, you increase your potential to see what you can't see." It has been a while since I was moved to tears but Greta's words did just that and allowed me to see what I couldn't see.

Beyond Logical Arguments

I cannot agree with all Greta's thoughts and points but I don't have to and neither do any of us. The point is that there exists a world of people of who've been hurt deeply by religion. Churches need not run from that and neither should Christ-followers. What convicts me more and concerns me even more deeply is how we have gotten to the point we are unable to make friends with people who are not Christian. Can we even look beyond trying to make an "air-tight logical argument" and just be someone's friend?

Starting On Common Ground

I've got a friend named Kenny who is a huge Washington Redskins fan. I'm a Dallas Cowboy fan. Pro football has NOT been the basis for our friendship. We can both agree on the East Carolina Pirates and shared disdain for all other NC football schools.

All of us are going to find different points of common ground, (Scott Ginsberg calls this CPI: Common Points of Interest). I don't know personally most of the folks writing most blogs. My favorites usually appear to me to have a healthy sense of humor, plus they like to read and are educated. For most human beings, those would appear as three CPIs and the place most of us start friendships. NOT at our points of difference.

The Proverbial Ball is in Your Court

If you've ever been treated rudely you know it is not a pleasant experience. So why do it to anyone who you want to get to know? Blogs are usually not aimed at specific individuals (unless noted) so why take it as a personal offense? If you would like to take the ball and run in that direction you certainly can. Me, I've been elbowed, kicked and punched by best friends in games and didn't take it personal.

Jesus always saved his harshest words for religious leaders. As an ordained clergy, this should (and does) remind me that the ball is often in my court and people are watching how I respond. But each day, the ball can bounce different ways, what are you going to do when it bounces into your hands? Can we still be friends?



May I Ask: How did you last respond in a conflict? Do you regret it? Are you proud of it? Why or why not?

May I Suggest: Take a moment today and think about your newest friend. How did that friendship get started? What CPIs do you share? What role does faith play?

"My Documents"

H/T to John @ Locust and Honey:

What makes youth ministry, ministry?

H/T to John for being a great dad and spending time with his daughter and sharing with us her perspective on youth ministry.

Having spent nearly 10 years in youth ministry full-time, I often feel regrets that I didn't do enough. There was (and still is) a lot of pressure on youth ministers to be the guru / expert / superstar / show-off / almost-messiah like leader of teens. But who does that come from? Not usually from teenagers, at least not those who are living real life and who are figuring out that being a teen is a crash course on the rest of life.

As the lead pastor for a church launch, I get the "opportunity" to set the tone for a whole church, including the youth ministry. I have the opportunity to reflect on my experience but also question what we did and what we will be doing in a new church.

I've found the readings at RETHINKING YOUTH MINISTRY to be refreshing. I've also run across some good thoughts at Youth Specialties (though they are also quite the "big box store" version of youth ministry too). But today I found there an article written by Mike Yaconelli where Mike writes the following...

Youth ministry is a good idea. But there's a better idea...

Youth group is good.

But there's a better good.

It's called church.

Not youth church, or contemporary church, or postmodern church. Just plain, boring, ordinary church. Yes, that's right. Church. The place where people who don't know each other get to know each other; where people who normally don't associate with each other, associate; where people who are different learn how to be one.

Mostly, church is the place where we can grow old together. And it turns out that growing old together is still the best way to bring lasting results with students. Growing old together is where we teach (and learn from) each other what discipleship means in the everyday world.
(Click for full article)

If teens aren't butting up against conflict and issues of life, how can we call it ministry? If they aren't dealing with adults and being given the opportunity to fail and experience grace, how can it be ministry? Is it about the number at UMYF, the Edge, Oasis, Harbor, Impact, Zone, (insert cool hip name)? Is it cell groups, youth bands, mission trips, retreats, DNow? What makes youth ministry, ministry?

What I guess I'm really asking is what makes church, church? Because if those confirmed, convicted, transformed and baptized young people aren't involved in the life of the church, are we really the Church?

I am still wrestling with this and I imagine I will be for some time. It isn't just that I want to see a youth ministry at Nexus UMC, I want to see teenage Jesus-followers and disciples at Nexus UMC.


May I Ask: How are teens INVOLVED in your church or organization?

May I Suggest: Inquire about teenager involvement with leaders. If they aren't involved, advocate for some teen input and support the teenagers involved.

Creeping Towards REAL Crisis in North Georgia

On Monday this past week, I was talking with my Cub Scouts about the water crisis we're facing. I half-joked about how they'll soon be taking a shower every other day.

But here is what we discovered later in the week. You may know sixty-one counties in North Georgia have been under a watering ban for months. Yesterday it was reported that North Georgia's Water Shortage has taken it's toll on Lake Lanier. At current levels, Lanier, the primary water supply for Metro Atlanta will last about 4 months. It appears that Alabama has finally taken the situation seriously and established watering bans as well.

Landscaping companies are already feeling the strain. Soon, other businesses that depend on water will have to respond. Decisions will have to be made about environmental impact as we try to insure there is safe drinking water in metro Atlanta.

We are approaching (or possibly past) the point of the United Methodist Church responding to what may become a disaster. Our Social Principles address the issue of Consumption. This is a place to start.

For those of us right here in Metro Atlanta, we ought to become more diligent to our actions. Sites such as Conserve Water Georgia! provide ideas for both Homeowner Tips and Business Tips to be more aware of water usage and conservation.

It is time for us as consumers of natural resources,"...including local congregations and Church-related institutions..." to not just speak but to act.




May I Ask: What do you think of conservation and environmental concerns? How has it effected you personally? In your community?

May I Suggest: Take some time to learn what is happening in North Georgia or in your community. What maybe a small concern can become an even bigger crisis. Get involved.

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