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!

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