Propped up

I want to give a h/t to Kerri for sending this story to me. It just seemed to hit me about the time I needed it (today). I could imagine my Uncle Jerry sharing this so it seems just a bit more personal...

Every time I am asked to pray, I think of the old deacon who always prayed, Lord, prop us up on our leanin' side. After hearing him pray that prayer many times, someone asked him why he prayed that prayer so fervently. He answered,

'Well sir, you see, it's like this...I got an old barn out back. It's been there a long time, it's withstood a lot of weather, it's gone through a lot of storms, and it's stood for many years. It's still standing. But one day I noticed it was leaning to one side a bit.

So I went and got some pine poles and propped it up on its leaning side so it wouldn't fall. Then I got to thinking about that and how much I was like that old barn. I've been around a long time. I've withstood a lot of life's storms. I've withstood a lot of bad weather in life, I've withstood a lot of hard times, and I'm still standing too. But I find myself leaning to one side from time to time, so I like to ask the Lord to prop us up on our leaning side, cause I figure a lot of us get to leaning, at times.

Sometime we get to leaning toward anger, leaning toward bitterness, leaning toward hatred, leaning toward cussing, leaning toward a lot of things that we shouldn't. So we need to pray, 'Lord, prop us up on our leaning side, so we will stand straight and tall again, to glorify the Lord.

May I Ask: What side are you leaning toward that needs to change?

May I Suggest: It isn't a long prayer and it isn't complicated but take a moment, point to the leaning side and then ask God to prop you up. And while you're at it, pray for a friend who may need some propping up too!

Stay On Target...Life Beyond Me-ness

funny pictures

We all need to take some time off. Since I was on vacation last week, it seemed good to be on vacation from blogging too. We had a great time as a family up in the mountains. We got to enjoy some great skiing at Cataloochee with my kids and my folks.

Real recreation is re-creation, a chance to be made new. I have not always found that an easy thing to do but this past week I really feel like I'm a little bit new again. Part of that was not blogging or dealing with working and instead, focusing entirely on investing in my most important relationships.

I also begin reading Martin E. Marty's book, The Lord's Supper. I've never read any works from Dr. Marty but I've seen his work referenced other places. It is a very personal book and one which has in many ways, helped me to "stay on target" as I return from vacation and preparations continue for the launch of Crossroads UMC.

Early in the book, Dr. Marty addresses the issue of narcissism, the love of oneself. I think more pointedly and theologically, it is a form of idolatry, one which should be rightly addressed. Dr. Marty writes...
Narcissists can use religion, including Christianity,...They will work every conversation around to the point that they can tell you how they were "born again." Only gradually does it become clear that some of them do this to show not how great God is but how great they are for having found God." (pg 10)
My observation of "church planting culture" reflects a similar thought, one dealing with how great a church planter or leader one is rather than how great God is. And maybe it is a larger part of church in general and goodness knows, it is part of all the business leadership books which exist.

The "me" who receives the Lord's Supper is a human who in the presence of God is learning to become more human. The "me" of this experience is becoming part of a larger "we" in the act of sharing the meal. It serves to lift a person beyond mere "me-ness." (pg 10)

May I Ask: When was the last time you made time for recreation? What did you do that helped you become new again?
May I Suggest: Set aside time in the next 30 days to recreate, something that will lift you beyond "me-ness."

The Muppet Show...LOTR Style

Building Bridges In North Paulding

If it has been a while since you traveled out Harmony Grove Church Rd. up here around the crossroads, you've missed a few changes. The first and foremost is the clearing of the land around the one lane bridge as the Paulding DOT prepares to build our new two lane bridge. Our county continues to work hard to meet the growing demands of our growing population.

What is more, new networks are forming with groups like the Crossroads Business Association and other groups to help "build bridges." Incredible resourcing is available when people begin working together. Did you know that Dane Ellison of Southern Star Business Advisors is in our community? I didn't either until he spoke at last months CBA meeting and provided us with some great insight. H/T to Rick at the H.O.M.E. Store at Seven Hills.

Building bridges is important to our church as well. Consider how much teachers do for our kids and in return, our families. That is why the launch team at Crossroads UMC got together and did our Love Our Teachers! Project on Valentines Day.

Jesus challenged his listeners that, "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13 & 16 ESV)

May I Ask: Are you intentional about being salt and light? What have you have found helpful in building bridges?

May I Suggest: Start with simple things, join the local Chamber of Commerce or get some gifts for teachers. What ideas do you have? Share them here!

The Return of Jones and The Jedi

A long, long time ago, people were thinking Star Wars was done but fear not (fear is of the Dark Side anyway) Star Wars: The Clone Wars is set to open Aug. 15, with all the familiar characters from the prequel trilogy and one big difference: The saga is computer-animated. Check out the teaser trailer.

BUT that isn't all! George Lucas is also giving us lovers of adventure a Valentine gift! The teaser trailer forIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will be previewed exclusively on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on February 14th between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. Then it will be posted online.

Happy, Happy - Joy, Joy!

Tuesday Talking Points

...In a mix up of e-mails, I sent an announcement to a gmail account in Australia! Turns out, it was from a Christian and their prayer group is now joining the prayer team for Crossroads UMC! Coincidence? I think not.

...I got an e-mail that there will be a get to know JK Rogers for Sheriff at Beef O' Brady's on Cedarcrest road at 6 pm on Thursdays, except for Valentines Day. Beef's will be donating proceeds to various community projects. Just passing on some info and reflecting on how important connections are in our community

...Den 9 finished filming our movie last night! Sometimes things get out of whack but spending time with these guys reminds me how important it is for men to get out and mentor boys.

...Thanks again to Jason and Josh Ingham for making the movie with us and teaching us more about maps and compass. I am so proud of these guys and all our military men and women who give in many ways. Please remember to pray for them.

...I'm really getting excited about my sermon at Due West this week especially since I'm preaching all services! I'll be posting later about some of my thoughts and ideas.

...Guys, it is Valentine's Day!!! Don't forget to p/u a card, flowers, chocolates, but DO SOMETHING!!! (I'd share but just in case my wife reads the blog, I'm not telling. ;) )

May I Ask: Do you think Valentine's Day is important or a chance for greeting card companies to make more money? Why or why not? (you may post annonymously)

May I Suggest: Get creative with who you give to and what you give. Pick a charity and give in honor of someone or provide a surprise to your office staff.

Paulding County @ #20

CNN ranked Paulding County as #20 in the Best Places to Live in the US. The main reasons given were job growth between 2000-2006 @ 37.7%, an economic development plan headlined by the $45 million airport construction project, and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Excellence for Economic Development award. You can find out more here at the CNN Money page.

That is number 20 out of 3,141 counties and county equivalents in the 50 States and the District of Columbia.

Select A Candidate Quiz

Still wondering about your candidate? Not really sure on the positions? Try this quiz:

-- Take the Quiz! --

Wondering who the quiz pointed me too? Keep wondering and read my post from yesterday.

What's a Methodist To Do About Politics?

Super Tuesday has now come and gone and Georgia has had it's say until the election. I know there are countless blogs reflecting every aspect of the process. As my life took the turn into the pulpit, I've been amazed how much people want to know about my stands on candidates.

It really hasn't been a struggle for me. I've been fairly upfront that I don't endorse candidates and who I vote for isn't really anyone else's concern. That isn't the take for other pastors and that is certainly fine for them. However, don't take that to mean I don't care or I'm not concerned.

As I read Mark Tooley's article, Asbury, Itinerant Leader, I was reminded of our Methodist heritage and of Francis Asbury's distinctive leadership...
Unlike Some of his modern mainline Protestant successors, who advocate a stale 20th century Social Gospel, Asbury had little direct interest in politics, despite living during some of history most revolutionary times. "Methodist preachers politicians! What a curse!" he once remarked.

Even if the church itself did not become politically active, Methodist individuals became renowned for their reforming zeal. But their main focus was always on the Gospel.

The hope of the world is not going to be found in politics but in Christians living out the Gospel Jesus spoke of. That is what I think Asbury modeled and where I stand, a Social Gospel with the emphasis on the Gospel.

So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all---to you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him. It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father. (Ephesians 2:17-18 GNB)

May I Ask: Have you found it possible to separate you faith and your politics as some claim?

May I Suggest: Think about or research someone who you think represents your thoughts on faith and politics. Share it here!

Tuesday Talking Points

...Hat tip to my friend Evan Reynolds who discovered the road, Star Wars Path, really exists. It is right down the road from where I live so I need to get a pic.

...I didn't have a dog in the fight on Sunday for the Super Bowl but I'm sure glad I stayed up for it! That was football at its finest...

...but Neil Bortz is right on this account today. We are so enamored with the Super Bowl but the competition for the presidency is a much more important event. The Super Bowl won't change your life - unless you bet on the Patriots, it won't - but who the next president is certainly will. Get out and vote!

...My daughter has strep throat. It is going around along with everything else under the sun - be sure to wash your hands and cough and sneeze into your sleeve. BTW, did you know there are more germs on the handles of shopping carts than any where else? Ewwww!

...Last night our Cub Scout Den began filming our movie and learning map and compass skills. We had brothers and sisters everywhere as well. Den 9 rocks! I love being a scout leader.

...Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. If you've never been to an Ash Wednesday service, I'd encourage you to make plans to be at Due West.

...Informational Lunch for Crossroads UMC is this Sunday after 11am worship!!!!

...I love my family! I am so blessed.

...Finally, the community of Paulding County is mourning this week after the loss of six prominent leaders in our community. Please remember to lift up their families.

Peeking in the Package

For it was by hope that we were saved; but if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25 GNB)

I thought I would find it in the closet. I looked under the bed. When I got a little bigger, I even checked the attic. To this day, I’m not sure where my parents found to hide the packages and presents for birthdays and Christmas. I do remember the Christmas I peeked in one of the packages though. Funny thing was, my sister did the same thing. I didn’t find out about it until our parents informed us THEY KNEW we had gone peeking in the package.

Do you know what I discovered that Christmas? That Christmas was a little less special. Not because of the threatened punishment from my parents. Not so much the breaking of family trust. What I discovered was I had lost the hope – I’d seen what was in the package. Not all of them but just one – and that was enough – the hope of Christmas was gone that year. It wasn’t enough to just see and know I had presents – I just wanted to go one step further.

This time of year we start looking forward. As a country we’re doing it too. With this being an election year, the polling data reflects a lack of hope. Interestingly, the one candidate who has tried to run on a platform of hope, Barack Obama, was described in a derogative way as a “hope monger.”

What is real, genuine hope? In the Bible, hope is connected to faith and love. No verse does a better job of pointing to that than 1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB: that says: "faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

It is natural for children to trust their parents, even though parents sometimes fail to keep their promises. God, the Father, however, never makes promises he won’t keep. Our salvation, our connection to God, Paul says, is grounded in hope. Can you feel it? No. Touch it? No. Taste it? No. But it is there. It is like the present – you can see it is there but you can’t peek inside. Why? It isn’t hope anymore. It isn’t faith and trust to know it all.

But it isn’t like God doesn’t drop hints. The Old Testament, the part of the Bible that comes before the stories of Jesus are full of the hints the Kingdom. Start at the beginning of the book and you find God hanging out with Adam and Eve – God in the garden. God promises to Abraham a nation out of his offspring. Exodus is the story of God’s coming to save that nation. The Psalms are songs to remember, remind and reinforce – all God has done and all He promises to do. The prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, drop hints as to what is in store. Paul said all that “was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

What is in store, is God in the flesh. God moved next door, He came here to be with us. Jesus comes to us and we see more of God, the image clears up a bit more. Jesus came to us healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead and restoring hope to people. But…for some that wasn’t enough. Hints about the Kingdom wouldn’t do. Jesus even said he was the image of God in the flesh and still, that was not sufficient.
That group came to Jesus, a group which held the power of life and death in their hands and said,
"Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign." 39) [and Jesus] responded, "The people of an evil and unfaithful era look for a miraculous sign. But the only sign they will get is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40) Just as Jonah was in the belly of a huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:38-40 GW)

Seeing the package didn’t fit their thinking, they wanted to be able to peek. But God, the loving Father, the Parent who doesn’t fail to keep promises, nurtures in us hope. It is hope we draw on when we are close to Jesus – when we are in relationship to Jesus, nothing can separate us from God.

In the concentration camps of Germany, holocaust survivor, Victor Frankel observed, “Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival.(Man's Search for Meaning, p. 123)

Orson Swindle, a Vietnam POW, talks of how important "church" was when he and the others were being held individually in separate rooms. Signals were given unknown to the guards it was time to pray. Prisoners said silently, the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer. When the time came, that the Vietnamese allowed prisoners together, it was John McCain who was chosen to lead. In his words it was,
"not because the senior ranking officer thought I was [gifted] with any particular extra brand of religion, but because I knew all of the words of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed." Christian Science Monitor
Those creeds reminded them of the simple truths of God's faithfulness and love. They gave a reason to hope.

Hope is to anticipate with Expectation and Confidence. God has been active in the past as the writing in the Bible tell us. God has kept his promise of salvation in sending Jesus and the gift of the Spirit in our lives. In the past and the present, we have hints of what is to come. So as we live close Jesus, as we live our faith in worship and times of personal prayer, in our giving of our selves in service and in our wealth, as we live in faith in Jesus as God’s Son and our savior, we have hope.

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

Because of that hope, I’ve trusted God with my family and my life. I have hope that God will care for us in the start of this new church. The tighter we get with Jesus, the greater the hope. There is no need to peek when you know the character of the gift giver.

May I Ask: What time or times can you point to where you've experienced God's presence and seen what appears to be His work?

May I Suggest: Plan in the next week to be present in a worship service, to pray for a moment each day, to serve someone or make a donation. Be an instrument of hope.

Pick up a copy of Victor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning." You can read excerpts here.

Where Is Your Path Leading?

Whoever practices discipline is on the way to life, but whoever ignores a warning strays. (Proverbs 10:17 GW)

I'm hanging up my Palm Pilot. Oh, it is staying with me as it is full of my contacts and some cool programs, but the calendar and to-do list...forget about it. I've learned my lesson in recent days I'm not reaching my goals. So I'm going back to the FranklinCovey Weekly Planner that served me so well in my years as a youth pastor. It was great to be able to pick it up at my local Target in Acworth.

It just fits me better. Not just for organizing my schedule but for giving me a place to reflect on what really does matter most. I've found my spiritual journey benefits greatly from time of reflection on my use of time. Part of that comes from some of the blogs I read on a regular basis. Here are some of the blogs which have helped me most recently.

LifeRemix All
This great pipe has helped me find other blogs which challenge my thinking in practical ways. It also has just plane fun stuff to check out too.

Dumb Little Man
This is one of the sites that LifeRemix All pointed me too. There are great tips, many of which are so simple you feel like a dumb little man after you read them.

Hello, My Name Is Blog
Scott Ginsberg's blog keeps me on my toes regarding the most practical aspects of networking and relationships.

How to Change the World
Guy Kawasaki is standard reading for start-ups. He is respected through out the world and having my recommendation doesn't mean much to him. However, his insight has helped me in many ways.

May I Ask: What warning did you get that you have benefited from the most recently?

May I Suggest: Post some of the blogs you find most helpful in supplying warnings.

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