Looking At Different Points of View

For your philosophical reflections while I try to enjoy some vacation time before the new year.

The Muppets Down In Kokomo


In light of the upcoming bowl games, this is a warning to all team trainers regarding seat assignments for players:

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Hanukkah Fail

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Giving More Thoughtfully

The power of networking and friends is such a cool thing! The more connected you are beyond simply your expertise, I think, the more you have to offer. H/T to Chris one of my friends at Crossroads whose a big Star Wars fan. He sent me a link to this awesome Lego Star Wars set-up.

That link led me to this blog on Gizmodo by Brian Lam on why kids dezerve crappy gadgets. The point Brian makes, is to get gifts for kids that help stretch a kids ability to learn and have fun. In other words, get kids gifts that have them using both sides of their brain.

I'm really proud of my kids this year in scaling back their lists. I hope it is because of what Heather and I model to them. They are asking for less and being more specific about their wants. It makes it easier too, when the gifts really do teach more than entertain.

H/T to Momlogic No Gift policies especially in this economic time. Respect what a person says about not wanting something. I'll admit, I've done this before and was thinking about it again until I read this article. I had not thought about the consequences that way.

If anything, I seems to me, the more connections we seek out, both in relationships AND gifts, the better off we are in helping young people make wider connections in their own worlds. Social media plays a part in that but so does our own relationships with our family and friends, the books we read and the experiences of life.

MAY I SUGGEST? To go buy that crappy gift or then again...maybe not. Whatever you do, do it thoughtfully and respectfully.

Hanging with Mr. Claus

Peter Huffman from Huffman Eye Care and I took a break from serving hot chocolate and cider at Bentwater to tell Santa what we wanted for Christmas.

Even though Peter went to UNC Chapel Hill, he is still a great guy and makes a mean cider! Part of being in a community is taking the time to serve others even in little ways. Make sure to support Peter's new practice...I did yesterday (and there was no baby blue on the walls, thank goodness!)

How I Cleaned Up My Mind

A couple days ago I wrote about my messy mind.

Like the old saying goes, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." I've started cleaning it up. Along the way I've found some things underneath the surface that have helped me out and got me moving in the right direction. A big time thanks to some of my friends who've kicked me into moving along too.

1. Free Mind is one of them. I've used it for sermon writing in the past but it has become my main stay this past week for getting ideas out and on paper in a mind map. It was actually my kids who are learning about mind maps at school that helped me rediscover the power of this FREE program. And to think some people dis our school system! Dorks.

2. I have been a late adopter to Twitter but then like blogging, I needed to determine the value. Tom Davis at Due West comments how time is the most valuable resource we have available. In the last few days I've found the connections on Twitter to be incredibly valuable. What is sad is all the folks who miss the value of following those who follow you - this seems to me to be where the most value is added.

3. I've also rediscovered my friend and mentor Scott Ginsberg. His blog Just Go ought to be a must read for church planters everywhere! For that matter, if you're a pastor, you ought to be reading Scott all the time. Nothing like good questions to give your heart, soul, and mind a bath in inspiration adrenaline.

4. Firefox has been my staple browser but I often forget to check on their add-ons. I need to stop doing that. It is full of great stuff and has not had the problems like Explorer has had. Sxipper and Twitterfox have been awesome! I'm looking to use ReminderFox's potential as well.

5. For security, I added Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware for some extra security and it was quick to pick up some little bugs that got through other scans. It has sped up almost everything on my computer! It did reset my proxy settings but for the help, that was a little thing to repair.

May I Ask? Have you cleaned your mind lately?

May I Suggest? Get a blank sheet of paper and DeFrag your brain by just writing all the things that come to mind. Better yet, download Free Mind and start connecting the thoughts and ideas as they come.

Guys! Last Minute Christmas Ideas Around the Crossroads

It is last minute and you've forgotten to buy the gifts you know you needed to get. Maybe an extra guest or family is showing up. Or you just want to do something extra. I just want to do my part to help you out around north Paulding and Cedarcrest. Here are my last minute suggestions:

Every girl in north Paulding wants something from The Prissy Polka Dot. You can't miss out stopping in here!


Head down Highway 41 in Acworth and visit the folks at Gamer's Trade. Take advantage of their expertise, selection and great deals!

Be sure to ad to the festivities by preparing dinner. Or better yet, stop by Crossroads Cafe @ Seven Hills and let Heather and the staff take care of that for you. They'll be open till 7pm on Christmas Eve!

MAY I ASK? How are you sharing the love in your community this Christmas?
MAY I SUGGEST? Tell someone else about a business you frequent and trust and add to someone's Merry Christmas

The Fresh Prince was right, parents just don't understand!

It certainly isn't rocket science, but anytime somebody in Hollywood has a revelation, you just have to wonder what they were on when it happened. I'll admit, I'm not exactly going to throw a party over this, BUT Will Smith's recent revelation, certainly has my attention...

"It's cool to have the goal of being the biggest movie star in the world. But why? It's been revealed to me that the question is: Whose life is better because you woke up today?"

I've always liked Will as I was listening to him back in the day of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and especially the 80's MTV staple...

Interestingly, "Smith said he realized he had drifted out of contact with everyday people on Nov. 4. "I sat there with my children and my 16-year-old son couldn't understand how I didn't know (the election) was over already. He was like 'You're out of touch,'" he said."

Will, I guess you found out first hand: parents really don't understand! I congratulate you on coming to a much more profound conclusion on life's meaning and what matters (not that Will Smith would ever read this).

May I Ask? Whose life is better because you woke up today?

May I Suggest? Try holding the door open for someone, give compliments to 10 people, give at least 3 people a hug, but whatever you do, do something!

Crossroads UMC Takes Christmas to Youth Detention Center

Tonight Crossroads UMC and Acworth UMC are furnishing a Christmas meal to about 60 incarcerated young people at the Rome Youth Detention Center, who desperately need God’s love and guidance in their lives.

I'm just incredibly thankful for Todd and Michelle for all the work they do to direct the missions of Crossroads. It has been a long time since I went to a Y.D.C. Seminary was the last time I can recall. I am a bit nervous, but this Christmas has really reminded me how awesome it was that Jesus came to give us hope and that is what we're doing at Rome, showing a bunch of kids that Jesus is real and the reason to believe.

That is also why Crossroads started, helping people to connect to Jesus by living like Jesus. I'm just convinced that churches (and pastors) can't do it sitting in an office or focusing solely on what happens in a building, but asking the question, "what happens when we live out that 'love your neighbor' command of Jesus?"

An especially HUGE THANK YOU to Heather and the staff at Crossroads Cafe @ Seven Hills for preparing the meal! Not only is Crossroads a great place to eat, they take it a step beyond by serving a community. Make sure when you're hungry or need a cup of coffee, stop by Crossroads Cafe. Chances are good you'll see me there as it is my office away from home.

Welcome To My Mess

Welcome to my mind. There seems to be a remarkable resemblance to a dorm doesn't there?

This is what church planting has done to my thought process. I once was a simple, mild mannered, Myers-Briggs "J"... but no longer. For those of you who have known me for a while, I know, you'd never believe it. Go ahead, laugh it up, I know you want too.

But part of me wonders if this is, in fact, a good thing. I have always prided myself in organization. Whether it was college, grad school or ministry, organization was part of my success and I enjoyed being incredibly organized and structured.

It isn't that I don't plan or haven't a plan; but it is something else completely. Today, I think it cleared up a bit as I read the ancient words of Thomas a Kempis, "I wish you to learn perfect renunciation of yourself in My will, without contradiction or complaint. Follow thou Me: 'I am the way, the truth and the life' (John 14:6)'"

That it is a pride issue in me I have no doubt so I'm thinking it is time to just call off the need in myself to look at organization as a trait next to godliness. It isn't. What is next to godliness? Jesus and God knows, I need to be more like Him!

Just one more reminder that if your calling is to start a church to change the world, realize, God is going to change you in the process. It isn't about you anyway. It is about Jesus and if you're in church planting, Jesus is ALL you've got.

May I Ask? What "part" of you is in a mess right now?

May I Suggest? Write out all the reasons why this is a problem. Then write out all the reasons this is a good thing. Then live the good.

When you think you've got it bad remember...

H/T to Locust and Honey who has more time to spend on the internet than anyone else I know who is a pastor. Oh, and remember this is Robot Chicken...you've been warned. Be sure to check out Fett and the Stormtrooper in the back.

A Season of Hope

I have hope. It is not always easy, mind you, but I do have it.

I recently was in Kansas for pheasant season. It was my first time pheasant hunting, I was carrying my grandfather’s shotgun, the one he used years before when he pheasant hunted in the Dakotas. I have learned when it is your first time hunting anything, you may have a gun and a lot of stuff but those are not what you really have. Do you know what you really have? You really have hope. Ultimately, you have nothing else.

It is not all that different than any time you try something new. You have hopes for making meaning in life everyday. Each day as a parent, you have hopes for the day for your kids. We cling everyday to some amount of hope but it is when we include the “we,” that I think we grasp the real power of hope.

You see, walking those fields of grain in Kansas, it was not just me that was hoping. There was Jim, Al, Glenn, Bill and all the rest of our group, hoping for my first success. It finally came on the third day. Together we saw hope give way to excitement.

Hope is better shared. When everyone’s little bit of hope is added together, it makes the end result all the more sweeter.

Here are my top ten reasons for having hope during this season of hope…

1. I have hope…because I see so many who are working to make our community a better place.

2. I have hope…because it seems each day, I have met men and women who refuse to give up or let circumstances change their outlook.

3. I have hope…because I have seen the faces and shaken the hands of those men and women who serve to defend our country that there might one day be peace.

4. I have hope…because many who have said they had lost hope in our nation feel there is reason to hope.

5. I have hope…because there are people who have never lost hope in our nation.

6. I have hope…because those 4 and 5 add up to a lot more people with hope!

7. I have hope…because of those who are praying and working to make Crossroads United Methodist Church, a place for hope in our community.

8. I have hope…because it is the season of Advent; a time of preparing.

9. I have hope…because Advent means it is almost Christmas.

10. I have hope…because Jesus came into the world and “…the nations will have hope because of him." (Matthew 12:21 GW)

May I Ask? What are your reasons to hope?

May I Suggest?
Start a conversation with your family, neighbors and co-workers and ask what are their reasons to hope. Who knows what all that hope may accomplish!

Be Alert! I've got a bad feeling about this cookie.

H/T to Straight Outta Coursant

The Danger of Examination

I hated tests.

Really. Sure, I survived them and have a Master's degree to prove it but that doesn't mean I liked them much. Fact is, I'm still not really thrilled with them but they serve their place.

John Meunier recently posted on the danger of being well liked. It certainly is interesting to consider how well we like to be liked and yes, I think there is certainly a danger in it. It can make us too comfortable.

I wonder if the bigger danger though, is in examination, or in the lack thereof. As a United Methodist pastor, there is some regular accountability each year. District Superintendents have the opportunity to examine as does the church.

As a church planter, there are even more examinations. Much is invested in a new church and so I have found much more examinations taking place. But the danger of examination isn't so much in the amount, but whether anything is learned from it and what one does with what is learned.

It can be hard to rise above the praise and encouragement that comes. Is it wrong to receive it? No, but the problem comes in dwelling in it or for that matter, receiving praise that, upon examination, may not even be deserved. This is not the fault of a congregation, this becomes the choice of the pastor or any leader, to stay where one is comfortable. In doing so one fails to experience the danger of examination.

As I grow older, I think this is where I part ways with the "Peter Principle" (In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence), unless it simply is illustrating that the incompetent are those who choose not to grow. The danger of examination is that we might learn both our weaknesses and our strengths. Knowing both, we then have potential for doing the dangerous thing - living.

"Feng Shui" at Crossroads

Whether a person has a one bedroom apartment by a train track (can we say, "Grad School" boys and girls?) or a beautiful house with incredible views and lavish architecture, it is the furnishings and color schemes that add the personal touch that make it home. There is a huge difference between that store front stiff chair and the den with a nice, broken in Laz-boy recliner! But it certainly is a matter of taste. In the art of Feng Shui, all our furnishings impact our moods and health in our homes. The other side of our furnishings is the color choices we make as well. These often can have positive or negative effects on a how a room feels and ultimately how we feel.

Did you realize that while it may take you a few minutes to hang that new picture just right or a few hours to determine color patterns or how to arrange the bedroom, the Church has 2,000 years of history of design consultation?

One author described it this way, "…A symbol is a sign. It is an object or picture we can touch, which is substituted for something else...to convey an idea or belief. In Christian symbolism we must learn to not merely look at the symbols but to look through them to the truths which they express."

For instance, maybe you have noticed the different colors on the table or the different banners hung on different Sundays. Of course, if I’d picked it, it would have reflected Star Wars or hunting, so I’m sure you’re glad my opinion didn’t play a role. But they aren’t because I called an interior decorator either. These are symbols and they all have meaning.

*White: color of purity. Commonly used on special days during the year for events in the life of Jesus. Also used at weddings and funerals.

*Red: color of celebration and festivals. Used on Pentecost and at ordinations.

*Blue and Violet: color of royalty. Used during Advent before Christmas to remind us of the coming of Jesus.

*Green: color of life. During the time between Pentecost Sunday and the beginning of Advent.

These colors are important in reminding us of the special times and events in the life of the church Jesus' followers have honored for centuries. They are markers to point us toward the work of God in our past and in our midst.

But these aren't the only things that are important - once the color scheme is determined you still need the furniture right?

Crossroads, like almost every church, styles our place of worship off the Jewish temple and synagogue. Our attention is drawn toward the primary furnishings in the chancel, (that is fancy name for the front of the church) that is the area set-apart for the leading of worship.

The INSTRUMENTS and WORSHIP TEAM lead us in the music of worship. Music is important to God and is to be a part of our time given to God. The earliest Christians were Jews and came from a tradition of music and percussion. The focus of the six verses of Psalm 150 emphasized this point. Paul wrote to the early Christian churches at Colossae (3:16) and Ephesus (5:19) to sing and make music.

Each week our young people who serve as acolytes, draw our attention to two important symbols when they bring in the BIBLE, the book of our faith. And the CROSS, the primary symbol of our faith. Both of these come to the TABLE, the center of the worship. And it is here that our story begins to take shape.

Matthew 21:12-16 GNB Jesus went into the Temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the stools of those who sold pigeons, 13) and said to them, "It is written in the Scriptures that God said, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer.' But you are making it a hideout for thieves!" 14) The blind and the crippled came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15) The chief priests and the teachers of the Law became angry when they saw the wonderful things he was doing and the children shouting in the Temple, "Praise to David's Son!" 16) So they asked Jesus, "Do you hear what they are saying?" "Indeed I do," answered Jesus. "Haven't you ever read this scripture? 'You have trained children and babies to offer perfect praise.' "

When Jesus comes to the Jerusalem, it is the week he will make the ultimate sacrifice before God. But today, God's Son comes to the temple, the place of prayer and worship, a place God envisioned to be a place where all people will come to know Him. Does Jesus find the people of the nations in prayer? Does he find the masses welcomed? Comforted? Aided by the priests and pharisees to understand and learn the way of prayer?

No. No, here in the temple Jesus finds corruption and exploitation! This is not the way the followers of God are to act! Not to take advantage of those who have come from around the world to worship but to make room! To share the Way to God! And the anger of God is stirred in the heart of Jesus. If he is to give his life on the ALTAR as the perfect sacrifice, then ALL should be welcome. Jesus looked through the symbolism to the truth and truth demands action.

Through the actions of Jesus Christ, from the clearing of the temple to his death and resurrection, the ALTAR became the TABLE. Here is where we celebrate the communion meal and renew our faith. Here is where baptismal font reminds us of the forgiveness and cleansing offered to us in Jesus Christ. It is here that we place the BIBLE, the book of our faith. It is at the table we find the CROSS, the reminder of why Jesus came, for you and for me, that we might know God.

The logos of businesses and corporations help us remember so we’ll shop. But the symbols represent truth and remind us, teach us, convict us, and challenge us to stay connected to Jesus and to seek after Him daily. That is why each week it is the children who Jesus says, “have perfected praise,” who take out the Bible and Cross. And this too is a symbol, a symbol that reminds us, what takes place here, is intended to be taken to a world out there.

So when you look through the symbols, just what do you see? Pictures or objects or the truth, that God indeed loves the world? But the question becomes, what will you do with the truth you know? And will you follow the lead of our children and take the truth of Jesus to the world? With Christmas around the corner, people are looking and hoping to find God. They’re looking for imitators, and our neighbors are looking to Crossroads.

May I Ask?How will you be an imitator; a symbol to the world of God's love?
May I Suggest?Maybe it is with a Wii angel for Murphy-Harpst. Maybe it is taking an invite card and passing it on to a neighbor and inviting them to a service.

Click here for the podcasts of Crossroads UMC.

How Do You Give?

No, I am not asking what charities you give to or what you give in offering at church. That would be asking “How much do you give?” and I think I have enough sense to know you’re not going to answer. Besides, I can save that for another blog. So then tell me...

How do you give?

How often?
What do you do?
Who is the recipient?
Why did you decide to?
What is worth your time?
What is worth your energy?

I didn’t ever really get why my parents saved the stuff I made as a kid but save it they did. When I had kids, I started realizing and appreciating the gifts Logan and Jillian made. When they make me something, it is coming out of what limited sources they have.

How you give may in fact have to do with money BUT it is not the only way to give and may not be the most effective way. To truly give, means at some level, we sacrifice. At some point, you step out and step off the cliff or better yet jump! Give, not expecting a return.

Do you think those coaches, scout leaders, mentors, Meals on Wheels drivers, and food bank helpers are getting paid? It is how they give. Even though I am a pastor, like others, I volunteer in Scouting and with our local Chamber of Commerce. Here is a deal for you: I'll share my den leader salary with anyone who'll come see what we do. So let me ask you again…

How do you give?

Is it time?
Is it muscle?
Is it wisdom?
Is it resources?
Is it imagination?
Is it encouragement?

It has been said faith is not judged by what one says about it, but by what one does about it (Check out what James had to say). Giving is an act of faith. So if you’ve got it, whatcha gonna do about it? It is all talk if you do nothing.

May I Ask? How will you give?
May I Suggest? Consider what matters most to you. Consider too, your own words...are you living them? Ask the hard questions and then act. Give.

Do you ever wonder...

Sometimes you have to ask the truly deep questions...why IS the rum gone?


I love to share stories at our Pack meeting's Cubmaster minute time. Tonight, I shared a little about my favorite animal, the turtle.

The earliest known turtles date from 215 million years ago, making turtles one of the oldest reptile groups and a more ancient group than lizards and snakes. About 300 species are alive today, and some are highly endangered (Wikipedia). With millions of years of history, I’m fairly certain we can learn something from turtles. In fact, one scout did.

A scout was exploring around the campsite one afternoon when he once found a turtle. When he started to examine it, the turtle pulled in its head and closed its shell like a vice. This displeased the boy, and he picked up something and tried to pry it open. His scoutmaster saw all this and said: "No, that is not the way! You may kill it, but you will not get it open."

The scoutmaster took the turtle near the campfire and set it down so it could warm up. It was not but a few minutes until it began to get warm. Then the turtle pushed out its head, then its feet, and began crawling. " Turtles are like that," the Scoutmaster said, "and people, too. You cannot force them into anything. But if you first warm them up with some real kindness, more than likely they will open themselves up.”

Now, not everyone wants you to pick them up and put them by a fire but simple things show kindness. For kids it maybe, opening up a door for someone carrying a box, helping a brother or sister tie their shoes, cleaning your room or sweeping the floor, or even doing what your teacher says, are all acts of kindness.

For grown-ups it maybe some of that and more like returning a phone call or e-mail in a timely way, giving the benefit of the doubt first, not throwing up the hand gestures in traffic, or saying your sorry to your kids, spouse or friends (and enemies) when you're wrong.

And like the turtle, with real kindness you will find people open up to you and they will come to show kindness back to you.

May I Ask: Where have you found it hardest to act with kindness? Why is that?

May I Suggest: Take up the scouting challenge of "Doing A Good Turn." Try each day to do one act of kindness. Share what you did here!

Share the Love...Gamer's Trade

You all know that I love living in the north Paulding/Acworth community! We've got access to so much great stuff so close to home. One of the things that makes it even more awesome to live here is all of the small businesses and their services to our community.

Not far from north Paulding and just down Highway 41 in Acworth, is a great business run by my friend Henry, Gamer's Trade. When I first met Henry in the store, I didn't even know we were neighbors but he treated me like he knew me. Gamer's Trade can do anything the chain stores can do but they take it a step farther: they serve the customer. I've watched the staff make recommendations for the good of the customer first and always with professionalism and polish.

They look out for their customers and they get to know your needs. With the economy as it is, buying used is a great way to save money and stretch a buck or two. Because of the service, I go to Gamer's Trade to ask questions and shop first. You'll definitely find a business who cares about their trade...and their neighborhood connections!

May I Ask? What business has given you that personal service and impressed you? What was it that set them apart?

May I Suggest? Share the Love! Tell us about it here or spread the news on your own blog. Be sure to provide the link so you can help increase traffic to their site.

We've Got To Book This Group!

H/T to my good friend Billy Payne over at Due West UMC. After seeing this audition tape, I really think we've got have this group come to Crossroads!

Not! ;)

Goodfellas Ask Good Questions

Each week at Crossroads we have some additional questions, readings, thoughts, and activities printed in the worship guide. What happens on Sunday mornings is never meant for just Sunday mornings! It does take some extra time but it just seems to make sense so we don't walk away thinking that was all there was to a Sunday morning.

So whether you're part of Crossroads or if you happen to stop by, feel free to add your own thoughts and ideas in the comments.

1. If you were in a crisis, even at one in the morning, who are the four friends you would be able to call?
2. What are the important characteristics of a friend to you?

Read Mark 2:1-12

3. If you were one of the friends of the paralytic man and saw the crowd at the door, what would have been your reaction?
4. If you were the paralytic, how would you feel about “dropping in” on Jesus?
5. What is it that impresses you about the four friends?
6. What was it that impressed Jesus? (v. 5)
7. Following the example of the paralytic’s friends (and Sunday’s sermon), who will you be a “goodfella” to this week? What will you do to show it?


Encouraging Words
Have paper and pencils on hand and work as a family, or break into teams to see how many words you can come up with from the word ENCOURAGEMENT. Here are some examples: team, tan, neat, great, game, more, etc.
Post the words you came up with and add to the list!

Not In Kansas Anymore

Nope, never imagined that when I said it, I'd be missing it, but it is true...I'm back home. For those of you who were wondering what happened to me, and why I went silent, it is true, I went to Kansas.

It is hard to say it was R&R though it was vacation. I've got a whole lot of stories from this past week, some can be told and others best left untold. Needless to say, my first experience with pheasant and duck hunting was certainly a great experience. Give me a little time as I've got a whole lot of deadlines right now to catch up on.

It is good to be back home but my mind still lingers in the fields of Kansas.

Always Something

There is always something isn’t there? Just when we got used to not having to mow every week, now it is time to start raking and mulching leaves every week. Just when we got used to school schedules, now it is time to get used to fall sports, scouts, ballet, or something else.

Your turn! Fill in the blanks: “Just when we got used to ________________________, now it is time to ________________________.” There is always something.

This seems to be a simple reality which is common the world over. The pace might be different depending where you live, but we know there is always “something.” Usually we think our “something” is “something worse.” I remember the comedian Bill Cosby warning his audiences “don’t ever say…it couldn’t get any…worse! That is the guarantee of BOOM…WORSE!” Often times this is how we think of those “something” times.

When my son started selling popcorn for his Cub Scout pack a couple years ago, you can probably guess that my first thought was, “There is always “something” isn’t there?” But I discovered a few things on our afternoon journeys together. Sometimes the “something” is not worse after all. You see, walking the streets of my neighborhood, I got to spend time with my son. I was reminded how blessed I was to have such neat kid.

The other “something” was found when we knocked on the doors. I imagine some of you might have been just ready to take a nap when we knocked on the door and you may have thought, “It's always something.” What we discovered was our neighbors. Neat folks from all over the country and world surround us here in Acworth. Some people have lived here a while, others were new just like us. Sometimes the “something” is not worse after all.

We are surrounded today by changes. There is always “something” around Acworth. Some of our more established communities have well developed infrastructure while others are still in the process of developing it. Having infrastructures, systems, and policies however does not prevent the unexpected from happening. If they did, we would not call them unexpected.

It is kind of like the t-shirt: "Change is good -- You start." Many approaches to handling change are not much more useful than a t-shirt slogan. To date, I have yet to meet anyone who said, “I read a t-shirt today that changed my life!” We live in a beautiful, historic community and “somethings” are always coming up on us.

It is always “something” but that “something” is not always bad. Change is often powered by people. When we say “It's always something” that “something” often has someone behind it. The many “somethings” in our community – traffic issues, school overcrowding, construction delays – all have a human face. A face we can meet. A face we can get to know.

For me, I am starting to think about what I learned selling popcorn with my son. All around us are people. Not just people, but neighbors. These neighbors have a potential to be something even more: friends. We miss so much when we live in our neighborhoods and just nod.

There is also the second thing I learned, you remember, I have neat kids. It is hard to see it ,though, when we do not hang out. These neighbors you and I have are neat people. They come from different places with different experiences. Together, each of us brings a different set of skills and talents.

It would make sense then, we might find in our neighbor and in ourselves, responses and answers to many of these “somethings” we are facing. One writer describes a church like a body and reminds the people, “…the body does not consist of one member but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:14) It is not real hard to see how this applies to you and me living here around Acworth or where ever you call home. It is not just one but all of us, neighbors, living and working together, taking on each of these “somethings” and turning them into something great for all.

May I Ask: When was the last time you were neighborly (and not with who you know but who you don't know)?

May I Suggest: Go out of your way to do another something for a new someone. I know, I know, it is always something...but try to make this something special for someone.

John Williams Is "The Man"

I love soundtracks. In my opinion, a soundtrack can make an okay movie better and a good movie great. It can also ruin a movie too.

Personally, I think John Williams has got to be the all time best at instrumental soundtracks. Certainly, he has done the most memorable. Now, add to that some lyrics in tribute to the greatest movie of all time and you've got this...

Last Minute Costuming Ideas...

Not quite ready for Halloween? Try one of these...

A Pause In The Insanity...

In the midst of my life, there have been different times and moments where certain things, an image, a smell, or a sound, have caused a pause in the insanity. One of the pauses for me I return to over and over, is the music of Jeff Johnson. Jeff has been a pioneer and inspiration to many. I have got to give the hat tip to Mike Pullen, on of my college roommates who introduced me to Jeff Johnson and Ark Music.

I've had the album for a while but recently, I began listening again to Jeff's album, The Prayers of St. Brendan. I look to Jeff's music as I look to my treasured books, they are companions on the journey.

This album is unique in that it is a retelling of the journey of St. Brendan. St Brendan is chiefly renowned for his legendary journey to The Isle of the Blessed as described in the ninth century "Voyage of St Brendan the Navigator." Brendan's journey was one of exploring more than just the world but life and faith. To step off "the edge of the world," as Brendan did, is something many consider but few do. I am finding as the pastor of a new church start, some similarities. I think St. Brendan would be a good patron saint of church start pastors.

I met Jeff and Brian Dunning at the Emergent conference back in 2004. They were both taken by surprise that I had been listening to their music since the early '90s. The service they led was one I'll never forget as it provided such an important pause for me at a very uncertain time.

Jeff's music has provided the soundtrack and inspiration for my faith journey.

I'm really excited that I just received two new albums today: "Vespers" and "Benediction." I'm listening to Vespers now and finding it to be an appropriate pause at the end of this day. Another pause in the insanity.

May I Ask: Where do you find pause in the insanity? Do you know when you need to pause?

May I Suggest: Consider the music, book, or place, that helps you feel at home regardless of where you are. Keep such inspirations close by in case of emergency. We all could use a pause in the insanity.

BTW, if you can't figure one out, order some of Jeff's music! ;)

Life According To Monopoly

When you play games, you need to know the goal. If you are playing Monopoly, the goal is to get as much property and money as you can and then defeat the others by forcing them into bankruptcy. Right now, I am not sure many of us have Monopoly on the top of our play lists. The idea of being bankrupt hits far too close to home.

If there was a time, certainly in my lifetime, that we need to hear a better understanding of God’s view of money, it is now. I think such a view is expressed well by my friend Casey Graham at ReThink Money, who has often said, “God cares for more than 10%.”

One illustration of Jesus stands out to me as an example of the problem of a life lived according to Monopoly.
“He said, "A rich man had land that produced good crops. He thought, 'What should I do? I don't have enough room to store my crops.' He said, 'I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones so that I can store all my grain and goods in them. Then I'll say to myself, "You've stored up a lot of good things for years to come. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself."' "But God said to him, 'You fool! I will demand your life from you tonight! Now who will get what you've accumulated?' That's how it is when a person has material riches but is not rich in his relationship with God." (Luke 12:16-21 GW)

The crux of the story is that a man worked hard and reaped the benefits of the hard work. He gained all he could and he wanted to save all he could. Jesus does not indicate there was anything wrong with either.

But then the man said, “…take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' It is at this point where the soul comes into play that God says of this man that he is a fool. A soul is lost when we place our faith in anything other than God.

There have been other superpowers with financial crises and pastors who have addressed those issues. One of those superpowers was England. One of those pastors was John Wesley. Wesley said to many of those living in the difficult times of the 18th century and to us today, we ought to “Gain All We Can, Save All We Can and Give All We Can.”

When we face both the good times and difficult times of financial markets, we should keep in mind such principles that help us live out our faith. We do not have to take a vow of poverty but we do need to remember we all have a responsibility.

We gain all we can but not at the expense of others. We do not take advantage of anyone in order to make a buck. We should also save all we can. Not hoarding it but making sure the needs (and not necessarily the wants) of our family are provided for and that some is set aside. But to do only those two does not really change us.

It is in times such as these that the call to give all we can has more to do with aligning ourselves with God’s vision for people. God cares for more than 10%, 90% or even the full 100% of your income - God cares for you, the person he created. The call to earn and save, is to honor the abilities and minds God has given you and I. But to give is to give an offering to God who did not even withhold his only Son, Jesus, from us.

May I Ask: What has been your approach to handling money? How has it worked for you?

May I Suggest:A call from Helping Hands of Paulding County alerted me to just how difficult the situation is for many of our neighbors, literally. Maybe you already have a charity you support and can give to, if not, give Helping Hands a call at 770-443-1230.

To live within our means gives us a chance to help our neighbor in need.

Click here for the podcast of Life According to Monopoly.

Defending the Galaxy...Father and Son

The Clone Wars Mall Tour was in town today (though we had to track it down!) I love living in Atlanta! It was a great distraction as the Jedi Pastor and his eldest youngling and padawan tried to hold down the homefront while the girls were camping.

Granted, you cannot hang out with Hothlanta Rebels if you do not live in the ATL but if the Clone Wars Tour comes nearby, don't miss it. It is about an hour or so and features some fairly cool activities. You should bump into a few stormtroopers. Get your picture taken as jedi. Play a little Wii and test your lightsaber skills (kind of a big version of the game Operation). There are some pretty good freebies too.

Just thought I would share as the Clone Wars spirit begins to spread across the galaxy!

BTW, if you get the picture done, it doesn't come with the lightsaber effects. If you need the effects, try Light Saber Maker for free.

Smuggler's Blues In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

One of my favorite songs of my generation combined with one of the greatest scoundrels of the big screen makes for one awesome video...enjoy!

Pride and a Protocol Droid

C-3PO: I do believe they think I am some kind of god.

Han Solo: Well, why don't you use your divine influence and get us out of this?

C-3PO: I beg your pardon General Solo, but that just wouldn't be proper.

Han Solo: Proper???

C-3PO: It's against my programming to impersonate a deity.
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

While George Lucas may not be able to write good romantic dialogue, he sure can hit on some very important theological elements. This is one of them.

I know we are not droids (for those of you not up to speed on Star Wars: droid = robot), nor would I wish to be one. As a Wesleyan-United Methodist, I stand firmly in the belief in free grace which leads to free will.

It is from this understanding that I cannot conceive of how easily fundamentalist beliefs (across denominations and religions) can so quickly turn to a desire to, in C3PO's words, "...impersonate a deity." But then, we live in a time and world where no one seems able to withstand the pressure to "...impersonate a deity" when asked.

Hearing Rush Limbaugh's claim to have "talent on loan from God" has gotten fairly stale after...how many years? But then so has the entire media approach to being wiser than the world. There have been far too much attention on these impersonators for me to add anything more to the conversation.

My personal observation is that politicians need to stop reading their press clippings (just take note of a number of football teams recently). Everyone has their skeletons in the closet. It is way beyond time to hide them and certainly disingenuous to act or speak like one is above it all. Want to point fingers at this president? Go back through history and you'll find it true of all of them at some point.

And least I forget, we in clergy have had to deal with this continuously. Sure, go through history and the Church and clergy have erred in many ways. Maybe the biggest was in accepting and acquiescing to Constantine. Rather than serving the Deity, the Church began impersonating one. With rise of the Protestant reformation, came a rise in little impersonators. More than one clergy I know has fallen into the trap of "...impersonating a deity." More than one, has then fallen from their role.

It is frighteningly easy to begin the journey down this road. It starts as easily as
"Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.(James 4:13-16 ESV)

If at any point you begin to hear such thoughts come from me, I give you permission to send out a Wookie after me. After all while certain droids don't impersonate deities, droids also, "...don't pull people's arms out of their sockets." Sometimes we all need a little readjustment.

May I Ask? When have you felt the urge recently to show off your "deity impression?" Did you? Why or why not?

May I Suggest? Consider what prompted it. You might need your own personal "Wookie" or a good friend to pull an arm out of socket (or just smack you in the head) the next time it happens. Trust, me, it is for the best. Besides, they'll go back into place...eventually.

Caption Addition...

H/T to my friend Melissa for sending this one! Add an idea for a caption below.

I'm going to be taking my safe hunter test tonight...scary to think about, I know. Not only do have all my licences, now I'll be classified as safe to actually hunt! This is your last chance to intercede...

Crossroads UMC Launches!!

Yesterday was an awesome day! It is an amazing experience to be living life with so many incredible people who are seeking after God's will all at once. Wow.

The funny thing is, for all the build up, all the preparation, all the anxiety, all the prayer, Crossroads UMC, was, is and will be God's. I am in awe today of how wonderfully gracious God is to let us play any role whatsoever in the handiwork which is His world and His Church.

Crossroads folks, you are incredible!!! Thank you for your prayers, services and sacrifices to follow the still, small voice that God placed in your heart.

On the Backroads of a Life Worth Living

I drive around Georgia a bit more than Heather and the kids. I have found and learned many of the back roads and avoid our more busy streets where I can. So, when we start going places as a family, if I know where we are going, I tend to take the back roads. I will admit sometimes it does not always go as planned but we always get there.

Do you ever get that feeling in life? I mean, did you plan things to go exactly as they have up until this day? Are you doing what you said you wanted to do when you four years old? Yeah, I am not where I thought I would be either. I was planning on being the Six Million Dollar Man, oh well. Six years ago if you asked me if I would be starting a new church, I would tell you it wasn’t even on my radar. Some times we take the back roads and wind up at a crossroads.

Our community here is a growing one. It is a dynamic one. It is a crossroads where you can find people from all walks of life and stories. Look at the bumper stickers and the front license plates and you can see; we are from everywhere. But not anymore, now we are all from here.

Our community comes together at ball games and for school fairs. We serve together on PTA, in scouting, and pass each other in the store. Listen to our accents and see the colors of our skin. They tell part of the story of the roads we traveled to this place.

Crossroads United Methodist Church is a new church starting October 5 and it is a place where people who are from everywhere, can find a connection to God and to others, right here. Tom-Tom is not a guide for all the journeys and back roads in life that we will take. A GPS may get you to a location but it does not tell you about where your heart lies.

And just where is your heart? Is there a road map? What are the rules of that road? From start to finish, life is the trickiest and wildest road you and I will ever travel. Is the destination more important or the journey?

The answers to these questions may surprise you. No matter where you are on life’s road, come join us this Sunday at Crossroads United Methodist Church as we navigate ups, downs, twists and turns, and learn just how much God wants you to have a Life Worth Living!

Crossroads UMC is meeting at Shelton Elementary School at 9:39am.

Redefining the Parish Church

For centuries, churches divided communities into parishes. In the UMC we still find evidence of this heritage in our Pastor-Parish Relations committee (though it is quickly disappearing in favor of Staff-Parish). So just for the record, Wikipedia defines parish as:

…a local church; it is an administrative unit typically found in episcopal or presbyterian churches. It refers to a local, ecclesiastical community or territory, including its main church building and other property.

However, a parish can also be:

…an administrative area of civil government. Parishes of this type are found in England, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, parts of the USA, Estonia, and a number of island nations in the region of the Caribbean.

In a more cursory reading of history, it seems to me, parish churches saw their responsibility as the area around the church, the community, as part of their care. In essence, there was an involvement by the church in the civil life of a community.

However, the 20th century in the USA, appears from my perspective, to have shifted the focus from the parish, the “local, ecclesiastical community or territory, including its main church building and other property,” to the “the main church building and other property (and I’ll add) and its membership.”

I may be off base here, these are just my observations after all. Yet, coming from the UMC, with a leader in John Wesley who had no problem about stepping on toes when it came to both social injustice and spiritual negligence, I’m wondering how we became so timid in the marketplace of ideas?

I know in starting Crossroads UMC, I have stepped out in areas where other clergy are not regular. I’m in business associations and involved in the local chamber. I’ve gone to community action groups and currently serve on community committees. I’ve sought to be involved and make my voice heard…but only so far.

This idea of the parish has been bouncing around for a while but it was in discussion with Mark that he asked a very pointed question (among a few):
If you don't agree with one of these Christian leaders, have you let anyone know? I ask this because silence implies agreement. I know it is impossible to counter every little silly thing that a person might say…but I still think it is important to say something - even if you do feel like you're merely tilting at windmills.

This really resonates with me. I don’t necessarily like it but this in part is what our UMC heritage brings us to does it not? We are called to take stands not just in private but in public. Wesley stood against poverty, ignorance, slavery and political corruption. Mr. Wesley also stood firm against antinomianism and other heresy as well as standing for education, free grace, authority of Scripture and the use of reason, experience and tradition as part of our faith journey.

I am not sure it is just a matter of speaking against other Christian leaders (or community leaders for that matter). It is a matter of what one is speaking FOR that truly counts. There is enough of the former in all areas as evidenced in our current political climate. For the voice of the Church to matter, there needs to be more emphasis on the latter.

I think the 21st century and the current generations of leaders beginning to come of age, there is an opportunity to revisit the place of the parish church. The more I consider this time, the more I am growing hopeful. Here at one crossroads in history, a new Crossroads is beginning in our neighborhood. Only God knows how this storyline turns out but I know, we’re about to begin a journey of discovering what our parish will become in the years ahead that we’ll have a role in shaping what it will look like.

May I Ask: Where is your parish? What community are being called to live in?

May I Suggest: Figure out your parish. Learn the community. Walk the streets. Meet the people. Love it and live in it!

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