Paint It Purple!

I remember my grandfather saying that it is only an upset to broadcasters and news people. I doubt the headline really meant it:

East Carolina surprises Virginia Tech 27-22

Okay, maybe they did but Coach Beamer has played the Pirates enough to know how good they are. I'm sorry, I just don't buy this as an upset. ECU maybe in a mid-major conference, but they've been on the national stage before and know how to play with BCS teams. There is nothing like watching your alma mater get out there and show up the "experts." VT knew who they were playing. They didn't look surprised at all to me. Paint It Purple in Charlotte!

30 Days Of Prayer

Crossroads is now just over a month from our launch Sunday on October 5! I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by! Our first preview service was a great experience and a great time to worship God. We learned a whole lot through the weekend and saw some of the needs that we're going to have. It was neat to see everyone getting connected and new friendships beginning.

Today, however, I hope to focus on the One behind this whole endeavor, this mission to start a new church to help people connect, follow and become disciples of Jesus Christ. The Church began with God and as I spoke on last week, God is the one who cares for those connected to Jesus Christ (John 15:1).

The next 30 days are an opportunity for us to prepare our hearts, for us to focus our attention and efforts on depending on God for the results. I know because I need to do this too. It is easy to focus on our efforts.

Paul writes in his letter to the church at Ephesus (and the church at Crossroads):

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (6:13).

Thomas A Kempis would later write, "If we would endeavor like brave men to stand in the battle, surely we should behold above us the help of God from Heaven (Imitation of Christ)"

Would you join together with us in standing firm and turning our attention to God? Partner with us in our 30 Days of Prayer beginning on Monday, September 1. Visit our website ( and click on the 30 Days of Prayer button. Print off the prayer and share it at your church. Pass the link on by e-mail. Get everyone you know to be in prayer. Have your family pray each day at breakfast or at dinner.

Loving Life Indeed!

What is your plan?

I recently read the following quote:
"If you have a plan B then you don't have a plan A"
I couldn't help wondering where that has ever proven true? From my experience, if you don't have a plan B, considered a plan C, talked about plan D, dreamed of plan E, wondered about plan F, etc. then you missed the whole point of planning.

My plan A is to go to bed and go to sleep in the next 15 minutes. Plan B is to just doze off here. Plan C has me falling asleep watching Episode I. Jar Jar is such a compelling character.

May I Ask? What is your response to that quote?

May I Suggest? The next project you do, just do a plan A. Think nothing about what else may happen beyond your control. Then post what you learned here.

Wisdom from the Masters

In the years following the fall of the Empire, Luke Skywalker began discovering the wisdom of previous Jedi Masters in an object known as a Holocron. The lessons he learned from these gave him an understanding of how to reform the Jedi Order. There, now you have a new Star Wars term in your vocabulary.

Today it seems that only certain books can qualify for imparting wisdom for the Christian journey. Unfortunately, these seem to only be books written within the last 20 years. Yet, there are incredible works that have stood the test of time. Books and articles that informed the likes of Luther, Calvin, and Wesley.

One of those is the The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (As you can see it exists in public domain on the internet as well.) This was in my reading of Kempis recently and struck me as something to consider...
Some men and women pride themselves on being self-reliant. They are proud of their capabilities - and secretly think, I don't need to depend on anyone to help me. I can do very well on my own. In their hearts, they think that a person who relies on others - even on the Lord - is weak.
Do not trust yourself. For this will always lead you off on the path of your own choosing. And though you will accomplish many things, you will be apart from God.

A voice says, "Call out." Then he answered, "What shall I call out?" All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8 NASB)

Maybe it is just me. But it does seem that the swing in thinking to put our experience over reason, tradition and especially Scripture, is a precarious trail to travel. I know that on more than one occasion (a lot of occasions in fact, just ask my parents) my faulty reasoning has led me into difficult experiences. Some of my experiences, have likewise resulted in faulty reasoning. Maybe it is just me but it seems good to know there is another on this journey whose words have rung true for longer than my lifetime.

May I Ask? What is it that you are trying to do on your own these days?

May I Suggest? Take a few minutes and write this thing down on paper. Look at it, consider it, then ask God to direct your path. When it comes up again, wash, rinse, repeat.

The Vine Life

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:1-11 NASB)

One stormy night many years ago, an older man and his wife entered the lobby of a hotel in Philadelphia. Trying to get out of the rain, the couple approached the front desk hoping to get some shelter for the night.

"Could you possibly give us a room here?" the husband asked. The manager, a friendly man with a winning smile, looked at the couple and explained that there were three conventions in town. "All of our rooms are taken," the clerk said. "But I can't send a nice couple like you out into the rain at one o'clock in the morning. Would you perhaps be willing to sleep in my room? It's not exactly a suite, but it will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night."

When the couple declined, the young manager pressed on. "Don't worry about me; I'll make out just fine," the clerk told them. So the couple agreed.

As he paid his bill the next morning, the older man said to the clerk, "You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I'll build one for you."

The manager looked at them and smiled. The three of them had a good laugh. As they drove away, the older couple agreed that the helpful manager was indeed exceptional, as finding people who are both friendly and helpful isn't easy.

Two years passed. The manager had almost forgotten the incident when he received a letter from the man. It recalled that stormy night and enclosed a round-trip ticket to New York, asking the young man to pay them a visit.

The older man met him in New York, and led him to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. He then pointed to a great new building there, a palace of reddish stone, with turrets and watchtowers thrusting up to the sky. "That," said the older man, "is the hotel I have just built for you to manage."

"You must be joking," the man said.

"I can assure you I am not," said the older man, a sly smile playing around his mouth. The older man's name was William Waldorf Astor, and the magnificent structure was the original Waldorf Hotel. The young manager who became its first manager was George C. Boldt.

This young manager never foresaw the turn of events that would lead him to become the manager of one of the world's most glamorous hotels. What you also may not know is that when Boldt first arrived in the US in the 1860’s from Europe, he was only a teenager, had little money and the only job he could find was as a dishwasher at the Merchant’s Exchange Hotel in New York.

There is never anyway to know how deeply one action may impact others. Boldt employeed over 1,000 employees at the Waldorf and later was a trustee at Cornell University. He was a poor dishwasher who made a difference in the lives of those connected to him.

It had been three years since Jesus first called to Simon Peter and the others to follow him. Jesus, the poor Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, had then set out on a course to make a difference in the lives of all those he too came connected with. No one left hanging out with Jesus the same. For some it was good. For some it was not so good.

Some had chosen to follow Him. They heard in Jesus’ message the truth about God. That God forgives, God redeems, God takes those others looked down upon and said, “Come follow me.” Those who were divorced, heard it. Those who were sick and who no one would touch, heard it. Those who worked the late shifts, they heard it. Those who had cheated others, heard it. Everyone who had been cut off, they heard that God had come to for them.

Jesus said to his disciples that those who were connected to him would grow and flourish in life. He said that those who followed Him, they would be grafted in, added to the vine and be allowed to experience all God’s blessings. Now, I’ve never done it (successfully) but I’ve read about grafting. You see you can take a branch of the same plant or in some cases even a different plant, and taken care of the right way, you can attach the two together and both continue to grow.

When it comes to the grafting God does, now that I’ve done. 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. Because of His grace, his offer to accept me, I chose to follow Jesus and was grafted into a new life under Jesus’ leadership.

Those guys were living the vine life. They were grafted in and growing like vines in my life. Remember, that is what vines do, they grow everywhere. Just look at kudzu. Generally, any vine will take over, creep into cracks and crevices, overcome obstacles or cover over obstacles. When Jesus said that he was the vine, it was more than just referring to Old Testament descriptions. God is working and is able to bring the world to Himself. Any life, any history, any mistake, any sorrow and anyone can be grafted in. The new life in Christ, the connection to the vine is intended to expel all the trash from our lives and replacing it with joy.

This joy isn’t about us getting what we want. Often we confuse the blessings of God with something of our design. But the change Joy brings is more subtle but incredibly significant. Patrick Morley in the book, The Man In the Mirror describes it as contentment but “… the secret of [joy] isn’t getting what you want but redefining what you need.”

Jesus redefines what we need. It is Him. Jesus calls us to connect to the vine. For in the vine, we find the way we are to go, we find the truth we need to believe and we find the life we were created to live. Getting becomes giving. Having becomes helping. Rejecting gives way to redeeming.

A simple act of kindness on a stormy night made a world of difference for one man. An incredible act of love by God’s Son on a cross made the difference for the world.

We remember that act of love in the sacrament of communion. We set aside the same two elements Jesus did, the fruit of the vine and the wheat of the field. It is a way we connect with Jesus and time where you and I invite him into our lives.

May I Ask: Who in your life has been there to guide you in your faith journey? Where has God’s grace “creeped” into your life?

May I Suggest: There are those who need you to help them get connected. Consider finding someone who you can share your faith and life with.

(check out the fuller story of Boldt & Astor @

And The Saga Continues...

It is a humbling moment to drive up for the first time to see the church's first trailer. I'd say it is comparable to getting your first car.

As I talked with Brandon, our worship leader, it was just a real God moment remembering that it was nearly 5 years ago this journey began. We looked around Shelton to see all the new friends, our new family, that God has begun to form into a church. None of us were connected 5 years ago when God put the vision for Crossroads UMC in my heart but the time is at hand.

I'll be back tomorrow as we embark on our first preview service...without a safety net. In the mean time, reflect on these words from Elisabeth Eliot my wife shared with me months ago that have helped me on many days...

Let us recall that the task is a divinely appointed one, and divine aid is therefore to be expected. Expect it! Ask for it, wait for it, believe that God gives it. Offer to Him the job itself, along with your fears and misgivings about it. He will not fail or be discouraged. Let his courage encourage you. The day will come when the task will be finished. Trust Him for it.

For the Lord GOD helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed. (Isaiah 50:7 NASB)

Muppet Moment

Want Ecumenical? Let's Try Church Starts.

This past General Conference the leaders of the United Methodist Church, put the start of new churches as a top priority. I'm excited about that decision, not just because I am a lead pastor of a new church start but because it is what we should have never stopped doing.

Along the way however, it seems we managed to lose sight of John Wesley's passion of the whole world being our parish. John didn't have much concern for stepping on toes when it came to the issue of going where people were both hurting and yearning to hear the Gospel. I'm excited we're getting back to that passion.

But just what exactly are we doing?

Path1 is part of the United Methodist Church's initiative to start more new churches. I'm a little disappointed more information has not gone out to those of us who are starting these new churches. Why it isn't I'm not sure but on my first glance, this seems to be a good start for the movement.

In North Georgia, we've got a number of things to assist church planters determine their calling. Plus we work with Jim Griffith. If you want a coach from the Mike Ditka school of coaching, Jim's your guy! He doesn't pull punches but provides real help and insight.

Still, nothing beats the power of networking. One thing I've learned in this process is that church planters have a real heart for Kingdom work across denominational lines. If we're looking for ecumenical partnering, church planting maybe one of those places where it could really take off.

Consider, I spent six months with Shawn Lovejoy and Dave Putnam at Mountain Lake Church in Cumming. We had guys from all over the U.S. come, all Baptist save little old me. I got a lot of great insight and help from these guys plus an open door policy for us.

We've gotten help from Cedarcrest Church and Pastor George Wright. We sat down and did an interview that will be published locally and I'll put on my blog. J.R. Lee from Freedom Church and I will be hanging out this next week to talk as well and I'm looking forward to that too.

This week is a big deal at Crossroads UMC as we prepare for launch. Our trailer and equipment are on their way and our team is gearing up for our first preview. I've been reminded over and over again that this is God's thing. It is great to know that the Spirit of God is going before all we The Church.

May I Ask: Should the UMC partner more with those churches and denominations proving effective in church starts?

May I Suggest: Take some time to consider what you believe ecumenical means. Within the orthodox Christian faith, what do you think the limits should be?

The Jedi Pastor's Thoughts On Clone Wars

We went to Clone Wars on Saturday as a family. I kind of hated not doing the midnight show and breaking tradition but I enjoyed my sleep. But don't take that to mean I'm dissing the latest installment of the Star Wars saga, I loved it.

Honestly, when I read certain reviews and critiques on my favorite movie series, I find myself wondering where in the outer rim territories they're coming from! I have never gone into this looking for Oscar material. This is one of the greatest adventures of all time. Do I have opinions and moments of disappointment? Yes but come on, do you have any idea of how wide the extended universe of Star Wars is???? Okay, some of you do. What I love, though, is that Uncle George lets so many play freely with his ideas.

As to the recent release, I enjoyed the additional characters, uncovering more of Anakin Skywalker's "good side" and what I consider the tragic hero of Obi Wan Kenobi who must watch the fall of his padawan and witness the rise of Darth Vader. The artwork was great throughout and the voices were outstanding. Personally, I'm looking forward to what is around the corner.

Make A Difference and Drink Some Coffee

I know it is easier to buy Folgers at the store. I know, I know, I too like to walk the road of least resistance. But that is not what I believe Jesus' followers are being called to do. That is why Crossroads UMC is working to make a difference in every way we can, even with our coffee and tea.

We're partnering with Equal Exchange and UMCOR to provide great coffee and tea and seek justice for farmers who deserve a fair wage for their efforts. It would have been so easy to go the route of what might be easy or do the name brand thing. For most people it may not even make a difference.

But I challenge you to research the stories and the facts out there. It did not take much to determine the easy way was not going to be the Crossroads way. Our larger connection as a United Methodist Church gives us a chance to make a real difference in the lives of others around the world.

The coffee is often a better price than other name brands online. Plus, there is so much more stuff available on the website and store. It is something for businesses and certainly for churches but you can also order Equal Exchange coffee for home.

So make it happen! Get your church or business to make the switch. Make a difference and drink some coffee (or tea or eat chocolate or...)!

United Methodist Committee on Relief Coffee Project

Church Management Software 4 Free

Some parts of starting a church are hard and other parts are easy. Trying to make it work on a limited budget or with a commitment to be a good steward is not easy. Along the way we've found some things helpful that I will try to share. One of those is Church Radius.

This is from their site:
We believe that church software should better equip your church to serve the needs of your congregation and community. We believe church software should save you time and should be available from anywhere. Finally, we believe church software should be affordable, which is why Church Radius is offered as free church software.

To offer this kind of software for free is an incredible blessing! I can tell you from my experience and our teams experience so far, this is a great resource. I wish I had access to this when I served in my first appointment.

It offers a wealth of features and more are on the way. This is just my attempt to help other beggers find food so I'll let you look it up and read more. One thing I can tell you is that it is designed to handle up to 2,000 people which limits its scope for the larger church BUT your data can be downloaded to be transfered over to other CMS programs when you can afford it or outgrow it.

Whether you are a church planter or in a small church, you'd be hard pressed to beat this deal at the cost of $0!

Getting Ready for the REAL New Year

It is almost time for school to start back up. That makes this a real scary time. It means my kids are getting older (our son Logan just turned 10 this summer). It means Cub Scouts is starting up again (more training as I'm now wearing an Assistant Cubmaster hat...what was I thinking!). It means Crossroads United Methodist Church is on the final days of gearing up for preseason and launch.

It also means I'm older.

Part of it is my birthday being in September but some time ago, the calendar year seemed to change from January 1 to the start of school. Kids have tended to become the center of life more and more (along with football) in our USA worlds. Is that a bad thing?

Well, think about it. How much of style is dictated today by kids? How much are parents now spending to take tweeners to Hannah Montana concerts? How much is spent on cell phones for kids who can just go next door to talk with their friend? How often do parents stay together for the kids, only to divorce once the kids go to college?

My son said the other day, "You want me to be a little adult!" I almost passed the comment by and then I stopped. I told him, "No, I want you to be a kid who is practicing what to do to be an adult."

I realized then, how we allow certain Bible verses to get so attached to events or ideas, we fail to see them anymore. That conversation with my son jogged this piece of Paul's wisdom loose:

When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 GNB)

I'm not sure how well we can follow Paul's logic when too often, adults are found acting like children. Just look at any election year's politics! At some point, we grow up, we have too. We take responsibility because it is what adults do. We take responsibility because it is what the faithful do.

As the real new year begins and I prepare to add that extra year on my body as well, I've been reading from Matthew's history of Jesus' life. In there is a great story about a CEO who leaves his subordinates with financial responsibilities while he is away. On his return, he checks on their progress and to two of the three he says of their conduct,

'Well done, good and faithful [one]. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' (Matthew 25:21 NASB)

If you're like me, NOW is the time for New Year's Resolutions. Not to do more, or do better, or be better. No, it is a time of faithfulness, to consider our faithfulness in our lives with all that matters most. For me, it is as a Jesus-follower, a husband, a dad, and a church planter/pastor. What about you?

May I Ask? How are you getting ready for the REAL new year?

May I Suggest? Get some time away, start with 4 hours. Look at your schedule, what matters most and have you blocked time for those things? Where does your spiritual life fit into the equation?

A Muppet Moment

It is definitely not distinctly Methodist, but it sure seems standard...until now.

The Goonies Are STILL Good Enough

I am so itching to share with my kids one of the great 80's movies of all time...
I finally picked up mine at Target. The sad part of it is wondering why there aren't more great flix being made that when you watch them again you say, "I can't wait to show my kids this!"

If you were wondering, here are the Goonies all grown...
h/t to Butter's Podcast

Not Distinctly Methodist?

I am amazed by the number of new churches arriving in our community and planning to start in just a few weeks in north Paulding. Each one reflects the Kingdom of God and strains of the Christian faith. As a Christian, I have a connection to them that runs deep.

And yet, Crossroads United Methodist Church is, at the heart, a United Methodist Church. To be United Methodist, to be any denomination (or non-denomination for that matter) means something. For me, it has meant a very spiritual and reasoned decision to become an ordained United Methodist pastor.

But what does it mean to be United Methodist? Hat tip to Andy Bryan's post at Enter the Rainbow entitled Distinctly Methodist? It is an excellent essay on what is distinctive.

What also intrigued me is what is missing that some may think ought to be there. Here are some of my distinctly not United Methodist things...

Not just traditional worship.
Not always is there a Ladies Parlor.
Not always do pastors wear black formals.
Not every week is there a pot luck.
Pastors don't move every three years.
You don't always have to have an organ.
You can sing songs not in the UMC hymnal.
You can sing songs in church that aren't hymns.


May I Ask?What other things could you add to the list?

May I Suggest?Add them here!

Earning the Scenery

Don't let the beauty of the scene fool you. It is always worth it to be in the outdoors but you better be prepared and ready to face what nature throws at you! Those two kids were troopers on our recent backpacking trip at Fort Mountain State Park and I couldn't have been more proud of them.

It wasn't blisters or heavy backpacks that got them. No, these two kids are easily knocking on the door 100 milers on day hikes so they were ready for the back country. It was "mother" nature just being mean and they stared her down. We had to earn the views we enjoyed.

Without a complaint, these two braved a thunderstorm with 30 mph-plus winds with rain that turned the trail into a stream. They hiked straight up hill through it and didn't flinch when thunder and lightning combined in a moment of each other overhead. They sat calm under our temporary shelter and then loaded up and hiked on into our site.

Unfortunately they slept through the wild pigs that ran through our site and the bear that snorted in my ear. But they got to enjoy the beauty of the waterfalls and the incredible scenery we enjoy here in Georgia.

So while we prepare to launch Crossroads UMC and start school and our vacations and stay-cations come to an end, there are pictures and memories of a great summer. And this summer I was reminded that I have a front row seat to view the lives of two incredible young people who live in my home. I have the most outstanding scenery a father can experience. I'm not sure if I've earned the privilege but I'm certainly thankful for it.

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