Is it Chick-fil-a's Fault?

For the record let me clarify, I am an environmentalist. I've even been a member of the Sierra Club. When I go hiking and backpacking, I try to pack out not just my trash but other people's trash along the way (within reason). I try to teach it to my children and my scout den.

For the record, I'm really tired of hearing about carbon footprints. I find it interesting how those who are drawing attention to environmental concerns, live in some of the largest houses, drive some of the biggest cars and fly in private jets. So lets all call it like it is shall we.

It is Chick-fil-a's fault.

Not really but come on, cow's farts do so much more damage to the environment. All this talk of "Eat Mor Chikin!" and the cute billboards is only doing more damage to the environment by allowing more cows to live! We need to eat more double and triple cheeseburgers!

Seriously though, h/t to Thomas Robey at Hope for Pandora for his recent post onCarbon Footprint: Cow Farts. He understands this much better than I do and offers a better argument for how our eating habits impact the environment.

I don't think anyone is the bad guy in the struggle over environmental concerns. It is a combination of too many factors and habits developed over many years. To be fair, it is also the results of an amazing planet, which has been changing, developing and (dare I say it) evolving over millions of years.

For our part, there is an obvious dependence on convenience and personal preferences with a disregard for the impact. Any part the human creature has played in the process has more to do ultimately with our fallen nature, a desire to have things our own way. For centuries, the Church called it sin. It still does. The Church also has declared there to be an answer, choosing to follow Jesus Christ.

There is also a choice we can make regarding the environment. We can choose to care and act. My children are more concerned and educated about the environment than I was at their age. I think that is a great thing. But it is more, when we go hiking, they are the ones who spot the trash in the streams. They are the ones who founded "The Green Club" in our home (though mom and dad tend to be the reminders).

The choice to care and act does not carry with it the promises that faith in Jesus Christ does. However, it does give us hope. And if there is hope, I believe there is a chance to make a difference. As a Scout leader, I try to teach the importance of "Leave No Trace." All of us are going to leave some trace, even cows and chickens. I'd rather my trace be in the hearts and lives of others.

How about you?

May I Ask: How are you trying to "care and act?"

May I Suggest: Visit my pal SemperFidelis' lens at Squidoo. She has a lot of great tips on recycling. Pick one thing and make it habit for a month. By then it maybe a habit for good. Tell me here which one you picked!

Communion: ordinary or extraordinary?

How much for granted do we take the symbols of faith?

I've been working on my sermon for Sunday and will be preaching on Communion, "The Mysterious Meal." It has been interesting to read from the United Methodist Church's statement in This Holy Mystery as well as John Wesley's Sermon The Duty of Constant Communion. What strikes me isn't that they differ but in how similar they are.

As much as has been stripped away from worship, our tradition holds we take nothing away from Communion. In fact, it is one of the two most important 'means of grace.'

I have found Communion to impact deeply people's lives as well as my own. Communion is much more than just a mere symbol to the Christian Church. But what about other symbols and lesser traditions? What other symbols of faith have been taken for granted? What of stained glass? Icons? Incense?

There is so much more mystery in the world and opportunity to see God in the ordinary than I think we realize. I've been excited and renewed by reflecting more on how Jesus took the ordinary and made it extraordinary. It might be He is ready and wants to do the same for us today and in worship this Sunday.

Here's to the ordinary!

May I Ask:What ordinary event or thing recently made you pause and reflect? Why?

May I Suggest:Pick something today like brushing your teeth or turning on your computer and make it "holy" time. Give thanks to God for that moment and event and invite God to make it extraordinary!

Defective Definitions: Family Friendly?

This is the first post in my on-going struggle with Defective Definitions. This is a rather tongue-in-cheek reflection on words and phrases we hear but the definitions we bring to the table are often very different and maybe even defective.

The phrase of the day is...


Family Friendly Business?
When I think of businesses that are family friendly I think of the restaurants Chuck E Cheese and Ruby Tuesday. Chuck is a great place for big kids (me) to enjoy time with my kids. Ruby Tuesday has been rated as the best restaurant for families and it is a great place to help kids practice dinning out and have fun at the same time.

Family Friendly Organizations?

However, family friendly is a designation often given to places, events, organizations where parents can sit and talk, while kids go off on their own. It is amazing to me how the Boy Scouts have been so attacked in the media, yet they are one of the most family friendly groups around. They sponsor great family events with sports teams and NASCAR, allow whole families to go camping together in Cub Scouts and even allow siblings to participate in many meetings and events.

Family Friendly in the News?
H/T to my fellow Asburian, Bob Kaylor for his blog on Parents and Teens. Bob reflected on an article from MSNBC on teens desiring more time with their families. Bob writes,
...churches and other youth-serving institutions would do better to spend time fostering those family connections. Sunday mornings can often run counter to that thinking, however, as families split off to their various groups as soon as they hit the front door.

A Family Friendly Church?
In deed, this trend of separating families on Sunday mornings is something to be considered. How often do our children see how important faith is to their parents? When do they see their dad pray other than at the dinner table? When do they see their mom freely give money and not receive an item in return? When do they experience the wonder of worshipping together with believers of ALL ages?

There are many opportunities in churches to separate but how about trying to worship together? What about intentionally finding an older adult to sit next to even so your children might connect with another generation? Ask them about the Pastor's children sermon (many of us actually work hard on these!;) )?

To call something Family Friendly that calls for families to be apart is defective. Kids seem to be telling us that Family Friendly means families together and will be an important value for the new church we're starting. I like the kids' definition better.

May I Ask: How much time do you get spend during the day with your kids? How about the week? What have you found to be "Family Friendly?"
May I Suggest: Be on the look out for organizations, businesses and churches which are trying to support families and support them and let them know! Tell us here what groups you've found being "family friendly!"

New Stuff @

As a church planter, I have found that Squidoo is a simple but effective way of sharing information online.

1. One of the best benefits is that it is free which is just about the best reason to use anything.

2. Squidoo is easy to use and an easy way to learn about how the internet really works.

3. When combined with your online content, it is an extremely effective marketing tool.

4. There are a whole mess of different features to use. More are being developed regularly.

I've added some of those new features @ my page for Nexus UMC to make the site more interactive. Keep in mind, the most effective way to build relationships (and generate traffic) and connections is meeting FACE TO FACE with people and telling them about your faith/passion and your church/mission.

If you're looking to increase your church's web presence, you ought to check out what is available on Squidoo.

May I Ask: How important do you think web presence is for your church?

May I Suggest: Do some searching on the net regarding marketing, effective churches and growing businesses. How much web presence do they have? Are the leaders blogging? Are there comments? What does this tell you?

Gung-ho On Groups?

When I ask this question, I'm really not trying to be funny. Really!

But who are your friends? Where did you meet them? When you were a kid how did you make friends?

My friends were always in my neighborhood when I was a kid. David, Jason, Brendon, Doug and others were always running or biking through the streets. As best I can remember (which isn't so good sometimes) we usually had things in common which brought us together and made our friendships solid. As I watch my kids growing up, I see the same pattern.

How come adults don't seem to do this so well? People don't seem too often to know their neighbors as my parents once did. In our neighborhood, sometimes we get together at a pool or on the porch, but does it happen enough?

A few weeks ago our District Superintendent, Dr. Warren Lathem, DS (and former Sr. Pastor at Mt. Pisgah UMC), hosted a summit on evangelism for our District. With his track record as an evangelist, Dr. Lathem certainly has the background. One of the areas which he challenged us was in the area of small groups.

Here are some of his thoughts:

Groups over 6 weeks old are closed groups

Small groups consist of Sprinters and Long Distance Runners. There are more Sprinters than Long Distance Runners

Groups can meet effectively at 4, 6, 9, and 35 times.

Make sure your Small Group Ministry offers a wide variety and several open doors during the year. If all groups start in the fall, what happens to the person who comes in November of May?

There are Four Kinds of Groups in the Church:

Ruling Groups
Groups dealing with leadership issues: Trustees, Staff-Parish, Deacon Boards, etc.

Learning Groups
People gathering for a time of intentional learning: Disciple Bible Study, Beth Moore, etc.

Relating Groups
People getting together to...well...get together. Most Sunday School groups fit this bill but it could also be folks gathering to go hiking, do quilting, or just having dinner.

Doing Groups
Groups with a purpose to accomplish like a Habitat House or mission team.

I've been thinking about whether these are the only type of small groups. Could there be others? What would they be?

Dr. Lathem also suggested if your starting new groups, this should be the priority:

1. Relating Groups
2. Doing Groups
3. Learning Groups
4. Ruling Groups

May I Ask: What makes a small group meaningful? Important? Life changing? When was the last time you were in such a group?

May I Suggest: Reflect on a small group you've been a part of. What was the type of group and how did the group impact your life? Would you do it again? Share your experience here!

A Way With Words

(Note: Kudos to our worship team @ 11am for pulling off an INCREDIBLE version of "Jesus take the wheel! Ya'll are a true blessing, thank you so much for leading us in worship.)

I shared with a friend about the series I was preaching on words and communication. He shared with me a story of a bird he got for his birthday one year…(if you’ve already heard this story, I’d love to know our mutual friend).
He received a parrot for his birthday. This parrot was fully grown with a bad attitude and worse vocabulary. Every other word was an expletive. Those that weren't expletives were, to say the least, rude.
He tried hard to change the bird's attitude and was constantly saying polite words, playing soft music, and anything else that came to mind. Nothing worked. He yelled at the bird and the bird got worse. He shook the bird and the bird got madder and ruder.
Finally, in a moment of desperation, he put the parrot in the freezer. For a few moments he heard the bird squawking, kicking and screaming and then, suddenly, all was quiet. He was frightened that he might have actually hurt the bird, and quickly opened the freezer door.
The parrot calmly stepped out onto his extended arm and said, "I'm sorry that I offended you with my language and actions. I ask for your forgiveness." He was astounded at the bird's change in attitude and was about to ask what changed him when the parrot continued, "May I ask what the chicken did?"

When different things are combined we find the results create something new: chocolate and peanut butter=reeses, lamps and portability=flashlight, bird and words=annoying. To be in a relationship it usually means we need to have another person and words.

Last fall I had a sense something was missing in my relationship with Jesus. As I reflected and prayed, I realized I really didn’t know Jesus, not like I wanted. I have been following Jesus for a long time, have had daily times in prayer but there was something else – I felt a longing to know him better. I began a plan of taking a Gospel, one of the four stories of Jesus, and spending the year reading from it everyday over and over. One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve lived with Jesus this year, is his way with words.

After Jesus was crucified and came to life again from the dead, he came across a couple of his disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They didn’t recognize Jesus so he had opportunity to enter into conversation with them regarding the resurrection. They really didn’t get what had happened. Luke records,
And he said to them,
"O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:25-32 ESV)

Jesus had a way with words that caused hearts to burn, emotions to rise and inspire people to action. Jesus set the tone with his words in the very beginning as he reached out to humanity. It was a combining of two different characteristics which gave the ability to communicate to everyone.

In Luke’s biography of Jesus, Jesus’ ministry began in his home town. Here he read from the scroll of Isaiah. And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?" Luke 4:22) And then they tried to throw him of a cliff. Jesus went on to Caprernaum to teach again. Here, They were all amazed at the way he taught, because he spoke with authority. Luke 4:32 GNB)

As Luke records then, Jesus spoke with both grace and authority. He spoke words that at times were filled with a sense of kindness and wisdom, and people wanted him dead. He spoke at times with influence, in a way that moved people to action, and they didn’t want him to leave.

Jesus’ combination of speaking with grace and authority set the tone for all he was teaching and all he was doing. That reputation went before Him into the surrounding areas. However, in all that he spoke it was with one purpose: "I must preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God in other towns also, because that is what God sent me to do." Luke 4:43 GNB)

But I really like the way the guys on the road to Emmaus said it best, “They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us…?” Wasn’t our soul, our middle, our guts, consumed by Jesus’ way with words? They had even heard it before and must have felt the same burning. When we hear Jesus speak, something in our hearts burns. Could it be it burns because the Holy One is speaking the fallen ones? Could it be this was how our hearts were created to feel all the time?

We do not speak like that though it seems our words should come to reflect the same grace and authority. But Jesus’ combination set up what was the single most important thing He came for: to speak about the Kingdom of God. In His way with words, Jesus spoke of hope: we are loved by God and can be made whole. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, He was asking the question, “Are you letting me take the wheel? Does God rule your life?” Not, do you believe in heaven, but do we love God? And if we love God, do we love our neighbor?

With grace and authority, Jesus lived among us and spoke to us to clarify for us, the Kingdom isn’t just “up there” (in the sky) but “in here” (in our hearts) and it is lived “out there” (in our world).

I’ve been trying to listen not just to Jesus’ words but His way with words. I’m convinced that as He lives in me, Jesus is changing me as I ask, “Do my words reflect a grace and authority like Jesus? How about my life? Do our words reflect a grace and authority? Do our lives reflect God’s grace and authority? Are we coming to love God and love our neighbor? Jesus had a way with words, which made for us a way to know God. Are our words showing the way for others?

May I Ask: When was the last time you heard Jesus' voice? How did He sound to you?

May I Suggest: Set aside time to read from a Gospel (Mark is great because it is the shortest and will take just over two weeks if you read one chapter a day). Read it to get to know Jesus, and His way with words. I'd love to hear what you learn so write it here in two weeks!

31 days left...

International Talk Like a Pirate Day draws nigh...
September 19

Whatever happened to...

Whatever happened to the church at Corinth? Thessalonica? Ephesus? Galatia? Are any of these churches still open?

Two conversations appear to be happening in the Church in USAmerica running side by side. One is the need to start new churches. The other is the concern for churches which are in decline or being closed. Sometimes this conversation overlaps. I usually hear it in the form of...

"Why are we starting new churches? We should be helping the older ones."
"Why are we helping older churches? We should be starting new one."

Haven't churches through the centuries "closed their doors?" Haven't new churches been opened? I see pictures of the country side of the UK littered with the remains of old churches which are now closed. The landscapes are changing again.

I think the church (and any organization) needs to look consistently and deeply at what Jim Collins calls the "Hedgehog Concept" (Good to Great)
What are you deeply passionate about?
What you can be the best in the world at?
What drives your economic engine?

The first two seem pretty straight forward and the wording of the third seems a bit rough for the church/non-profit side of things. It doesn't change the reality. There is an economic element to the church (always has been just look at Acts and Paul's letters) that does not make it the goal and it isn't the point of the question. "What drives your economic engine?" is a question related (for the church) to the answers to the first two questions.

The history of two thousand years tells us churches are going to close. We can ask another question about whether buildings were even needed in the first place? Many churches and schools used to share space, new churches are doing that again. So are we more concerned about buildings or about people? What is really "the church?"

My first real job was with Circus World toy stores. They don't exist anymore. Same thing with Names-n-Things. The two movie theaters I worked for have since been torn down. I'll concede, these aren't the best analogies, but I think they make the point. The difference is, the Church, the Bride of Jesus Christ, doesn't close, the Bride is a living being. The Church is a Body, the Body is living and the Body stays alive, always has. We're more than an organization, we're the Church not just a church.

Corinth, Ephesus, and the others are gone. The Church is still here.

May I Ask: How are you or how is your church being the Church?
May I Suggest: Share your story about being the Church.

Practices for Potential

H/T to The JollyBlogger for the link to Drew Goodmanson's Slideshow on the United States and the need for church planting.

I find it interesting how people come to different conclusions from basically the same data. I say that in light of my recent post from the UMC on clergy and church decline.

When I see or read material from church leaders like Drew, I get excited! I'm getting pumped up, not because of decline but because of the opportunity for POTENTIAL! It is a time of looking to God, of observing where He is working, and how lives are being changed.

Launching a church out of a church like Due West UMC is awesome. When over 40% of the membership comes from professions of faith in Jesus Christ, there is something going on that God is behind. Here are some of the things I've been learning from a church and pastor that doesn't fall into the statistics above. I'll call them Practices for Potential, they're not guarantees but the more their practiced, the greater potential.

1. Be mean about vision (but in a good way).
This is one of Shawn Lovejoy's catch phrases. It doesn't mean being mean to people but realizing what to say "no" to. Our mission is to make disciples out of followers and followers out of wanderers. Connecting to those who don't know Jesus is key and we don't move from it. Who doesn't want to be apart of a group that has a vision and sticks with it?

2. Families with Children and Youth.
Somehow this always gets turned into ignoring adults but far from it. Keep in mind however, it is the generation right now who have children or are having children that are staying away from church. When a church reaches out to these families, God's kingdom grows.

3. Activate Members and Attenders.
The church is a body and it needs all involved to participate. Tom opens every meeting by asking us who we met who has helped out but who has not been connected to ministry.

4. Fund the Mission and Ministry (not kingdoms)

Focus budgeting on what you need to accomplish what is before you.

5. Integrity.
The simple definition of this I learned a long time ago, "who are you when no one is looking?" If there is nothing to hide, keep it that way. Be upfront with what you can and can't accomplish.

Even though Nexus United Methodist Church is just over a year away from launching, these are a few of the things which will be integral to the new church. If you're looking for a place to get connected we'll make room for you at Due West and we're making room for you at Nexus!

May I Ask: When was the last time someone asked if the mission of your church or business was taking place?

May I Suggest: Start asking that question of yourself and others. Make plans to do something with what you learn. I'd love to hear what you learn and what you do!

The One Thing

Everybody wants to know the one thing...

Of course everyone's one thing is different. What is the one thing to get my teenager to come to church? What is the one thing to help our church grow? What is the one thing to help my child like school? What is the one thing I can do for my marriage to be successful? What is the one thing I need to do to grow in faith?

Is there a silver bullet?

I'm a fan of the traditional "monster movie" genre, you know, werewolves, vampires, big snakes, bugs, etc. I recently rented the movie, Van Helsing. While everything was true to 'traditions' there was a twist. It seemed that all the traditional methods of killing vampires worked on all vampires, except Count Dracula. The heroes had to do a lot of work and put themselves in to harms way numerous times in order to discover the "one thing."

In the book The 1 Thing, Thom and Joani Schultz make the case that the one thing is growing relationship with Jesus based on Luke 10:38-42
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42 ESV)

But what was it that drew Mary to Jesus' feet? How did she come to make the decision to hang out with Jesus rather than help Martha? It is well and good to say the one thing is a growing relationship with Jesus but HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? It is only one part of a larger story. Similar to how we hear Jeremiah:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

And somehow miss...
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart,
(Jeremiah 12-13 ESV)

And all of this is occurring with a group of people who have been in exile precisely because the gave up the "one thing."

It is "one thing" but there are a lot of little things that go into one thing. I like to call it LIFE. You can just go about it with no thought at all, you can just take it other's advice or if your asking about the "one thing" you can start the quest with some habits, either in whole or in part.

1. Ask Questions.
Don't just ask it of anybody, ask those whose lives you want to emulate, who inspire you, who you think have the "one thing."

2. Listen (but question).
Don't talk. You want to know the way, then listen and learn.

3. Read (but question).
Read widely. Read a lot. Place the Bible in your daily readings (I like Proverbs is a great place to start). Mark up your books (but not library books). Listen in your head and ask questions.

4. Live Life.
How come nobody talks about this one? Life is meant to be lived! Get out and live your life. Go to work. Play with your kids. Date. Go to parties. Play golf. Take a hike. Go shopping. Learn from living and your experiences.

5. Reflect.
My friend Scott Ginsberg, is fond of saying "writing is the basis of all wealth." I am convinced that is more than about money. He has a great post on how writing can help you in reflecting. You don't have to publish a blog, write.

6. Pray.
Leave out the old English, Shakespeare is long gone. Maybe you just write out your prayer on paper with reflections. Maybe you speak out loud or silently in your head. However feels comfortable, begin a conversation with God...and remember, it is a conversation, so be silent in there too and give time for God to speak.

"You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart..."

It isn't so much the one is the whole thing.

May I Ask: How do you get plugged into your heart? What connects you to your passion?
May I Suggest: Make a plan to do the "6 Habits" for 2 weeks. E-mail me what you learned!

At a loss for words...

Nothing like getting a bit bumfuzzled and dumbfounded all in one day. That John would nominate my blog has me at a loss for words. In my short time blogging, John's blogs have pushed me and challenged me to think and write better. John, thank you for the honor.

It is hard to narrow down to five. As one who still feels more like a "padawan" than a "master" or even a "knight" when it comes to blogging, there are a number of sites I look to and seek out for wisdom. There are so many more folks I'd like to add and if you've had more than one you certainly deserve it:

1. Scott Ginsberg

2. Guy Kawasaki

3. John the Methodist

4. Will Deuel

5. Shawn Lovejoy

Here are the rules as originally laid out to be passed on:

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

War of the Words

Ever been in one of those awkward moments? Sure, I remember this time me and…well, never mind. How about one of those times that you wanted to share what you thought but couldn’t do it? You were thinking, “If they do that ONE MORE TIME I’m going to tell them what I’m thinking! I’ll give them a piece of my mind!” I maybe reaching but that must have been Steve Martin’s thoughts in this clip from the movie,
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”(DISCLAIMER: I did not use this full clip and not the parts where the language would be inappropriate for children. Watch it at your discretion)

There is something about the exchange of Steve Martin and John Candy. It seems to hit closer to home than we would like. Most especially as we return to the close quarters of school schedules and activities. Once a war of the words is begun, it tends toward releasing every weapon in the arsenal, every error, every accident, every mistake in grammar, every toilet seat left up, every chore ever left undone and on and on and on.

It is natural for us to be assertive and we need to speak to our concerns. Sharing our thoughts, ideas, desires and opinions is important. However so much more seems to come out when we go to war with our words. This is what James cautions against in his letter to the followers and disciples of Jesus. He writes,

All of us often make mistakes. But if a person never makes a mistake in what he says, he is perfect and is also able to control his whole being. We put a bit into the mouth of a horse to make it obey us, and we are able to make it go where we want. Or think of a ship: big as it is and driven by such strong winds, it can be steered by a very small rudder, and it goes wherever the pilot wants it to go. So it is with the tongue: small as it is, it can boast about great things. Just think how large a forest can be set on fire by a tiny flame! James 3:2-5 GNB) We use it to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse other people, who are created in the likeness of God. Words of thanksgiving and cursing pour out from the same mouth. My friends, this should not happen! James 3:9-10 GNB)

James appears to be writing to Jewish-Christians who would certainly have been familiar with the wisdom writings of Proverbs such as Proverbs10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. However, James’ introduction in verse one points out a clear distinction, this is “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…” There is an end in mind, one driven and powered by a changed life, a life in shift. A life passionate about Jesus Christ.

James uses the simple illustrations of a bit in a horse’s mouth and the rudder of a ship. Small though they are, these tools have the power change the course and direction of two very powerful objects. I’ve often thought of the Titanic when I read these words of James, and wondered about the rudder. Apparently others have too as I found nearly 100,000 links in a Google search on the Titanic’s rudder! Would a bigger rudder helped prevent the accident on that fateful night? There is certainly some debate but the physics used to determine rudder size indicate it was not too small and a larger rudder would have created other issues. So for a ship 882 feet long, it needed a rudder which was only 15’ at it’s widest point.

Had a warning sounded sooner have changed the course of events on that April 15th night? Maybe. And James is our warning that the use of our tongues, if left to our devices, will lead to disaster. A Jesus follower is empowered to not contribute to wars and fires – this should not happen!

Let me confess, this is not a message coming from someone who has got this down. I confess, on more than one occasion I’ve contributed to those wars and fires, both in ministry and in our home. But it doesn’t change James’ words and it doesn’t mean I settle for anything less than striving to be like Jesus. If not for my sake but for the people I love.

What James is saying is that the tongue is a means to an end, the real goal: to be perfect, to be a Complete Person, the Biblical meaning for perfect. Our words are a real measuring stick of being made whole in Jesus Christ. And if you think James is out on limb with this goal of being complete, then I’d like to point out it was Jesus who said we are " be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48 NASB)

To be a complete person means we care for The Inner Person: Attention to our life. This James addresses in the first chapter of his letter when he says,
If you listen to the word, but do not put it into practice you are like people who look in a mirror and see themselves as they are. They take a good look at themselves and then go away and at once forget what they look like. But if you look closely into the perfect law that sets people free, and keep on paying attention to it and do not simply listen and then forget it, but put it into practice---you will be blessed by God in what you do. James 1:23-25 GNB)

If nothing is changing in your life since you started following Jesus then our habits and behaviors should be considered. What are you exposing yourself to? What kind of words are bouncing around in your head? How are you using your time? If all we’re doing is looking at a mirror on Sunday mornings and then forgetting how we look, then it is time to practice.

People see our Inner Person in our Outer Person and most certainly in how we use our words. We need to learn from our experiences in word wars. Learning from others as well contributes to what is commonly referred to as wisdom! As James reminds us: Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19 GNB) One of the simplest things we can all do when we need to be assertive is to begin sentences with “I” rather than “you.” As I recall a person is innocent until proven guilty and even then, everyone deserves their dignity.

James puts it plainly that for the follower and disciples of Jesus, thanksgiving and cursing should not come from the same mouth. For us to be made complete in Christ, we must, with the help of Jesus, deal with the Inner Person in our hearts, so our Outer Person will reflect the change Jesus is working in us. A wise little alien once said, “wars do not make one great.” Yoda was right, wars make no one great. It is Jesus Christ who began a great work in you and who promises to be faithful to complete it!

May I Ask: In your last "war of the words" who won?

May I Suggest: Take a day to consider your words. Do they match your heart? If not, what plans will you make to move that way. Post your ideas here.

How is it with you?

Thanks Teampyro

h/t to John

Gangsta Kitty

Reality of Clergy, Churches and Committee Reports

Warning: This is not my typical post but some thoughts on a recent UM report.

Recently I was watching Scooby Doo with my kids. The whole gang, as usual, was looking for Scooby. Almost always, Scooby is right nearby. Which tends to be true of most answers. Sometimes, however, I wonder if we really want to know.

Let me give the h/t to John Meunier for pointing out the inconsistency as he has experienced it between starting new churches and our declining connectional church.

In the article Clergy decline prompts call for 'circuit teams', Robin Russell reports,
Ms. Fugate also found that the number of districts has decreased in all jurisdictions, from 518 districts to 488. That means there are 32 fewer district superintendents.

And that means the remaining district superintendents have to supervise more churches, Ms. Moman said.

Are we sure? The report regarding theChanges in Clergy and Church Membership states:
In 2005, there were 1,250 fewer organized churches than in 2000, a decrease of 3.5%. All jurisdictions experienced a decrease in the number of churches between 2000 and 2005.

It is certainly plausible that if we have fewer churches, fewer members, then fewer District Superintendents would be needed. For that matter, wouldn't it also mean that fewer people would be need in the administrative positions on our other boards and agencies? But I digress.

We should look to what is a truly interesting trend and what I'd like to consider namely that
Domestic net migration patterns illustrate net out-migration (loss) in the Northeast and Midwest regions and domestic in-migration (increase) both in the Southern and the Western regions over the 14 year period 1990 through 2004 (U.S. Census Bureau, Perry 2006).

I find it interesting that while the Western region grew in overall population (and at a rate similar to the Southeast), the jurisdiction showed a percentage decrease of 12.14%.

It seems to me some possible solutions have been found...

People with Passion
We are in changing times. Find the people gifted, ready and willing to learn and step out in faith. Education isn't a predictor of success in ministry, a track record of making disciples is the predictor. That is what bothers me about this statement:
"If the bishops and district superintendents were more involved in this process we might find many more creative ways to appoint deacons."
There is a time to release people to where they are called. The creative process starts most often in the field not in the office.

Closing Churches is not Closing Doors
Closing churches which are not pursuing our mission to make disciples, does not mean we're closing doors. The Southeastern Jurisdiction has closed more churches than the Western yet it still is growing. Just people coming? Not that alone, new churches are being started in areas where the population is growing.

The Main Thing
The last sentence in a study on "Changes in Clergy and Church Membership" is the following:
Further research is needed to uncover the effects of the decreasing number of districts on the work of the remaining superintendents.
I'm not sure about this is the best action step: examining the superintendents?
The mission of the church as the stated on page 87 of the Book of Discipline " to make disciples of Jesus Christ."

There are some great, innovative experiments and work being done in the United Methodist Church. Call what is happening de-regulation if you'd like, the fact is churches no longer own the monopoly in the United States on what people believe.

Personally, I think it might be the best thing for us all. Maybe we'll spend some time asking some tough questions and not being afraid of the real answers.

May I Ask: What is the main thing for you? What is your personal "mantra" or mission statement?

May I Suggest: If you've not read Jim Collins' book Good to Great, I'd say you ought to pick it up!

A Revision of Transition

I’ve been thinking about transitions. I guess it really started for us a few weeks back on our son’s 9th birthday, his last year in “single digits.” Some of you know the feeling, I’m sure, but other transitions abound. The start of (gasp) school is upon us. It is the end of summer freedom. Fall sports and scouts are about to start. Bills are coming from our summer adventures and school supplies. Career changes also show up this time of the year.

Some transitions I read about recently include:
1 out of 2 people work for a company they have worked for less than five years.

The Department of Labor estimates today’s student will have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38.

1 out of 8 couples married in the US last year met online.

Transitions are part of life.

They always have been and always will be. On the farm, life transitions with the seasons. Birth and death are transitions as well. Maybe you remember the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1, that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (of course, you might remember it from The Byrds, too).

If transitions are part of our lives, why do they cause us so much trouble and is there anything we can do about it?

It is not so much any one transition, but it is the number of transitions, the intensity and how often changes occur which affect us. In 2000, I experienced transition overload. Over the course of 6 months, I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery and radiation, we welcomed our daughter into the world, moved into a new home, and our church changed lead pastors. While I’m good with transitions, all that was a bit much but I learned some thing to help with transitions:

The Importance of Mentoring.

In times of change and transition, we need someone who has been there we can trust. Every Tiger Woods needs a Michael Jordan, and every Luke Skywalker needs an Obi Wan Kenobi. When the time comes, we can then return the favor.

The Importance of Celebrating.

Throughout the Old Testament, people built monuments to remember what God had done. Holidays are times we set aside the same way. Before and after transitions, set aside time to celebrate and have a party. Go out to eat, have a cookout, or have cake and ice cream. Celebrate memories and celebrate victories!

The Importance of Serving.

In times of transition, we can benefit from helping others. If you live in Metro Atlanta, M.U.S.T. Ministries is a great way to help transition into school. Your family can donate school supplies for kids who aren’t able to afford them. You can reach M.U.S.T. at 770-427-9862 or online at M.U.S.T. for a list of supplies.

God, “…has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV).” Find a way to make this a time to re-vision your transitions.

May I Ask: What significant transitions have you faced recently? What is different about you as a result?

May I Suggest: Find a way in the next month to respond by mentoring, celebrating or serving.

Home Words

What was your first word? What was the first word you said this morning? What was the last word you said? Who was it that heard what you said? Chances are pretty good that the answer to at least 1 of those three questions was a family member and for some of us it was all three. Most of us learn to speak and use words at home so how have home words shaped you? How have they molded you? How do the words heard at home continue to make you into the person you are?

In a world bombarding us with words, at a time of lightspeed communication and where the definition of “is”, is important. Words are all the more important. They are more than just information, they are a window to our soul. Jesus made this point when he said:

"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45 NASB)

Now when we consider that the use of words is modeled to us in our homes, we ought to pause and even for just a moment and consider our home words, both in the past and now in the present. Those home words like all words, Jesus said, come “from what fills our hearts.” And in his letter to the church in Colossae, and the church at Due West, Paul speaks about our homes, our deeds and our home words…
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
Colossians 3:16-21 NASB)

Paul began in chapter 3:1 to talk about what Jesus has done for us and is doing to make us new. Then in verse 5-9 he addresses one side of our history, the one before meeting Jesus. He talks about our actions and our words. Then, in verse 10, Paul turns to the present, where our actions are to be different and our words contain wisdom and gratitude.

And at verse 15 Paul brings us to the key point: our hearts should be refereed by peace and set the whole tone of the church community. Love is the highest virtue and peace the standard of conduct. And where then does Paul point for this to be modeled? In our words and deeds starting in the home.

Paul’s outline for the homes of Christian families was a radical departure from the times. The influence of his words resonate to this day. Those husbands who would be tempted to use v. 18 to be a dictator are, in verse 19, reminded that LOVE is the great sacrifice (The parallel in Ephesians being: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her"
Ephesians 5:25 NASB) ).

For children who hear and experience the freedom found in Christ, or who read of Jesus’ staying in the temple for three days and causing Mary and Joseph to worry, Paul’s is a call to obedience just as Jesus left without complaint (see Luke 2:42-52). And parents (John Wesley said, “Mothers are included; but fathers are named, as being more apt to be stern and severe.”) are cautioned to not take “rod of discipline” in Proverbs 22:15 too far!

If we look at how Paul describes the change of our character, our home words should be ones very different than how we often communicate. If someone is in a conversation, at least one is talking and another is listening. Both are deeds which include words. One of my favorite comics, Family Circus points this out. Dolly looks up at her father, who is reading the newspaper, and says: "Daddy, you have to listen to me with your eyes as well as your ears.” Virtually every article on communication starts with listening. This was Dolly’s point to her dad.

If peace is the referee, listening serves as the time out. It means making and maintaining eye contact and listening with a closed mouth. Children will learn it from watching being lived out by moms and dads. In time they’ll model it back as they realize mom and dad will do the same with them. Only dads and moms need not nag and provoke but teach it to our children.

Early in our marriage, I realized trying to watch football games and listen to my wife, Heather, was just not possible. Oh, I heard her but truly listening? No. So I turned the game off. I’m learning today it applies to the computer and books as well, to my children as well as my wife.

Home words, when spoken after listening will reflect a heart of compassion, kindness and humility. Home words should communicate love and peace and thankfulness. Children, this applies to you. Moms and Dads, husbands and wives, this applies to you and me. Especially, because this is where our children are going to learn to communicate.

Practically speaking, home words, if they follow after the example of Jesus, “that we should do unto others as we want them to do unto us,” then it starts with listening to the words of those in our home, FIRST.

Paul opens this chapter, opens the whole letter with this idea, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above…(Col. 3:1)” For when we take Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives, we are given power to change, to become more and more like Jesus. And it is at home, in our relationships where this becomes most evident. The peace rules our hearts and our heart brings forth what is good…

May I Ask: How much time do you spend using words? What about listening to other's words?

May I Suggest: Take 24 hours and try to listen before you speak. Do others respond better to your thoughts and ideas? Does it seem other people hear you when you speak?

46 Days...

'nuff said.

Food Fight!!!

As I recall, it was John Belushi who screamed the immortal words, "FOOD FIGHT!!!!" in the classic, "Animal House." It would be a stretch to go searching for a whole lot of deep meaning in the movie, but it certainly speaks to how those who feel they have the right to power can, and usually will, expose themselves to a fall.

In another insightful piece in Fast Company's First Impression, Adam Hanft chronicles CEO John Mackey's Whole Food Fight. For those of you not familiar with Whole Foods, the leader in organic food, Hanft brings us up to speed:
When it was revealed that John Mackey, the celebrated founder of Whole Foods Market, had posted hundreds of messages, using an alias, over an eight-year period on Yahoo finance message boards -- some blasting competitors, others lavishing praise on himself (even his own haircut) - most were shocked.
Why is everyone shocked? Because Whole Foods was (is?) a leader in "transparency."

Mackey has stated in the Wall Street Journal that the statements he posted under his alias did not reflect his values or the values of his company.

Inconsistent or Tranparent?

Part of the danger(?) of posting on line in blogs and bulletin boards anonymous or with an alias is that "immortal" self-deception (believing no one will find you out). Anyone who lives in a public role, must at some level struggle with questions about what to share in public or online. When your life is up for public scrutiny, and everyone gets to "shoot" at you or "vent" about you, when do you have an opportunity to respond? Why do you even feel the need too?

I don't know John Mackey and I've not read any of his blogs or posts. However, based on his own admission, it is under an alias he expressed words which he says were inconsistent with his values. Really? Or was it he was expressing the truth of what Whole Foods does apparently value greatly, namely: transparency. But...

Rather than pointing fingers:

Have I taken the time to look in the mirror and ask what about me?

Rather than cast stones:

Do I cast myself at the throne of grace and cry out with the tax collector, "God, have mercy on me a sinner (Luke 18:13)?"

I think it fair to say authenticity and transparency are fairly interchangeable. When Jesus addressed the words we use, he addresses how transparent our words makes us for...
"...the good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45 NASB)

It is hard to ever escape our words for how can we ever escape our hearts?

May I Ask: When was the last time you thought about the words you use?
May I Suggest: Consider each conversation for 24 hours. What words did you use? What was your tone? Emotions? What did you learn about your heart?

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