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Six Steps of Saying Goodbye - Thoughts on Lent & Life

Lent has begun. For those who practice Lent, it is a time of saying goodbye to a thing or things dear to our hearts, stuff that we treasure and hopefully, close enough to us that it hurts (at least a little). Giving up TV, except your favorite shows, doesn’t quite get the point (heard this one from a friend). Giving up desserts except for chocolate? Yeah, whatever.

This week I found a perspective more in tune than anything I’ve heard yet. You see, right now numerous people are making the choice to go out of business. Okay, we can argue semantics about the economy but face it; people, neighbors and friends across the country and around the world are giving up their business this very week.

They are saying goodbye to a hope, to a dream, even to a promise they had felt was worth going after.

We don’t say goodbye very well.

We like to talk about words like “Aloha” which mean both hello and goodbye. It makes us feel good (or at least a little better). The fact is, there is a time to say goodbye, to realize something is gone from our lives – in many cases, something has died to us.

A few weeks ago, I watched our daughter grieving for the first time over a dying pet – her first one. We have a 50 gallon fish tank and we’ve lost plenty of fish over the years but when I first got the tank 6 years ago, we had 4 gouramis. After two moves and multiply changes in water quality, three had died. The last was “grandpa gourami.”

He began having seizures and I’ll admit, it was hard to watch those few moments mainly because of how my daughter was taking it. I finally had to move “grandpa” to a sick tank and within a few hours, he had died.

She created a special shroud by drawing a water scene on a paper towel and my son and I dug a whole near our rose bush. Jillian laid “grandpa gourami” to rest while Logan said a short prayer.

Saying goodbye when death is involved is a given. I have found it in preparing for moves and life changes. I found facing cancer to follow the same process. Anyone who has lost a member of their body to any disease (particularly those on the outside) this is a time of grief.

We don't always get to prepare for saying goodbye but many times we do. Here is my list of Six Steps of Saying Goodbye.

1. Face the Facts. When preparing for a goodbye, try to discover all you can about what maybe in store in the change.

2. Walk the Path. Whether on your own or with friends and family, take each step, knowing there will be a goodbye.

3. Prepare for Goodbye.
Admit the goodbye is coming. Don’t try to hide from it or bury it under other things. Of course it isn’t easy. Start imagining life on the other side.

4.Say the Goodbye.

5. Grieve your Way. Whatever fits for you – grieve. Get it out or the emotions can become toxic. Find your outlets through tears, writing, playing, painting, whatever it is that helps you grieve.

6. Live the Life. Don’t stop living and continue to grieve along the way.

Click here for more on the Grief Cycle.

Our goodbyes can and will vary throughout our lives both in duration and intensity. This is why, I think, I have found a peace and hope in the 40 days of Lent. It has been the Church’s way of preparing us for ultimate goodbye – not death of our bodies – but death of our self.

You certainly heard about him, and as his followers you were taught the truth that is in Jesus. So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to---the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24 GNB)

May I Ask: What have you said goodbye to in recent days?
May I Suggest: If you haven’t already, go ahead and chose something to say “goodbye” to for Lent. But also, chose something to say “hello” to as well – something that will be part of your life in following Jesus.

So You Really Like Lent? Ash Wednesday @ Crossroads

The following words are given in numerous places to describe what Lent is about:

Early followers of Jesus observed with great devotion the days leading up to Jesus’ suffering and resurrection, and it has become a custom of the Church that before Easter Sunday, there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation.

In earlier times, new believers were prepared for Baptism. It was also a time when Christians who had committed serious sin sought to be reconciled in the life of the Church. In this way the whole Church was reminded of the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus taught.

Today, we can use this time to all renew our faith. So you are invited today, in the name of Jesus Christ and his Church, to observe the season of Lent: by self-examination and repentance, by prayer and fasting and self-denial, by reading and reflecting on God’s words in the Bible, and by seeking to give of yourself more than you demand of others.

Like so many things lost in the Protestant reformation, the tradition of Lent has seen a come back. This morning here in the ATL, Neil Boortz got to put his foot in it regarding someone on the news with ashes on their forehead. It is far from common place but more and more, these traditions are making a comeback.

Everyday, my two kids share about their dreams and thoughts about life and the world. Much of what happens from their perspective is not fair. Far too soon, they grow up...but...I wonder...

...do they?

Not long ago, health care didn't save the lives it does to day. In the rest of the world it still doesn't and most kids are VERY aware of this. In fact, most of the world had a much more "grown-up" view of the world.

These days we live in have begun to reintroduce us to a little word not often spoke of and lost to antiquity.


What you give up during Lent, if anything, is far less important than what you take up, namely the cross of our own mortality -
"By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19 NASB)

I am a pastor so I'm supposed to "like" these little services and traditions right (just like the only music I listen to is Handel's Messiah or the only artwork I hang in my house is from Thomas Kincade)? Sorry, not always, not when the reasoning is flawed and not based in any tradition.

In a sense, I don't like Lent - who really wants to come face to face with being mortal? Yet, it is in facing our mortality; not hiding in tradition and ritual, not ignoring it's grasp through a glut of media and addictive behavior; that we come to humility and our own humanity.

Through the Lenten journey; lived, practiced and reflected upon, we learn to truly face and meet our mortality. And when we do, we may very well find that immortality was never the goal or a promise but simply an astericks or a footnote to the incredible grace of knowing Jesus Christ.

May these 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter lead you into the way of A Generous Life.

If you live in the north Paulding and Cedarcrest Road area and are looking for a service nearby for Ash Wednesday, you are invited to join us at the Seven Hills Clubhouse on Seven Hills Blvd. from 5:30-7pm sponsored by Crossroads UMC.

A Generous Life: Where Are You?

Colossians 1:13-20

Where are you right now? Our bodies can be present anywhere and have our mind miles away from this location.

I once was having a conversation with a colleague who was a pastor. It was a our yearly annual conference where all United Methodist pastors in North Georgia gather together. He and I were having coffee when all of a sudden he said, “Hey buddy, what’s up?” My response was, “Excuse me?” At which point he lifted up a finger to indicate – “just a minute” and turned his head to reveal a small attachment to his head called a Bluetooth headset. (WARNING: For a PG-16 blog giving further editorial on this phenomena Click Here)

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and I have a Bluetooth headset for my phone – but I realized that he didn’t get it – the need we all have to be present – to be present where we are.

Jesus got it. In Mark’s gospel, it tells in chapter 5 of Jesus being in “a great crowd” that “thronged about him” (great word picture). A lady who had been sick for 12 years touched him believing that touch alone would heal her. It did And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my garments?" (Mark 5:30 ESV) In the midst of the crowd, Jesus was present to others.

Later when a rich young man came to him, Jesus saw that it was the riches that kept the man from truly coming to faith. Jesus was present And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22 ESV)

In our lives it isn’t so easy for us to be present. We’ve got work on our mind as we talk on the phone with our spouse as our kids are hollering for help on their homework while they are thinking about playing video games or worried what so-&-so said today at school and…the list of things distracting us goes on and on.

It seems that it is lacking the living example of PRESENCE – and so it seems to me it is vital to look at Jesus’ life here. For in Jesus, God’s PRESENCE IS PRESENT. This is the miracle of Colossians 5:19: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…”

Who else could claim that they are all there? Fact is, he never stopped being all there or here. By definition of God being God – God is omnipresent – all there, all the time. But when he came as Jesus, God put flesh and bones on that idea. Not being content being present everywhere – God’s very PRESENCE was pleased to dwell – HERE.

And while Jesus demonstrated that God is present with us it also in verse 13 of Colossians that it makes it clear that it was for “Us” that Jesus came to connect us to God through his death and resurrection. From the beginning, Jesus gathered people together to live by faith.

In recent years many migratory birds have realized that north Georgia is a great place to settle. For good or bad, Canadian geese are some of those birds. Have you ever wondered why the Canadian geese fly only in the V formation?

Engineers calibrated in a wind tunnel that each goose, in flapping his wings, creates an upward lift for the goose that follows. When all the geese do their part in the V formation, the whole flock has a 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. Each depends upon the other to get to its destination.

When a goose begins to lag behind, the others "honk" it back into place.
Now, none of us enjoy being honked at but the church needs to fly in a spiritual V formation, "honking" to one another to encourage our following Jesus. And it must be at least 71 percent easier to live the faithful Christian life flying with the flock as opposed to going it alone.

I’ve got good friends who’ve been encouragers to me through the years but they aren’t here now. I need the presence of ya’ll every bit as much as you do. The writer of the book Hebrews said to, “….not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more… (Hebrews 10:24-25 GNB

It was through Jesus loving act of giving his life for the forgiveness of our sins that we can connect to God. It is in our connection to Jesus Christ and together as a church, that we become the generous people who help others connect to God one loving act at a time.

The next 40 days beginning on Wednesday through Easter is a time called Lent. It has nothing to do with what you find in the dryer. Instead, it is a time when the Church for years has asked of followers of Jesus to reflect on God and to practice what we’ve talked about this whole month: A Generous Life.

This morning I offer you the invitation for 40 days to live the generous life – a call not so much to give things up – but give out – to seek to follow Jesus with giving 1% through your prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. On the back of your connection card is simple list of those things we’ve talked about: “prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.” I’m asking you to take a 40 day experiment from Wednesday to Easter – to take a 1% step-up to a Generous Life. This isn’t a contract, but by sharing with me your decision, know that you’ll be supported through my prayers and encouragement as you seek to follow the way of Jesus Christ – THE Generous Life.

May I Ask?

1. What are the 2 biggest distractions in your life?
2. Who has encouraged you the most in the last six months?
Read Hebrews 10:21-25
3. What privilege comes to those who are part of the God's family? (10:22)
4. What must happen before a person can draw near to God? (10:22)
5. What happens to the guilty conscience of those who put their faith in Christ? (10:22)
6. Why are Christians able to "hold-on" in following Christ? (10:23)
7. What kind of behavior should followers of Jesus show toward one another? (10:24-25)
8. How will you use today’s invitation over the next 40 days to live a more generous life?
9. What encouragement could you use to follow through?
10. How could you spur someone else on?

Mommas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Pastors

The last few weeks have tended toward a bit of sarcasm. I've learned that sarcasm is best not to be practiced at home so I leave it for my blog (and Crossroads Cafe). So when my wife passed this on, it seemed it ought to be added here.

Nothing like ruining a bit of humor with a reflection but the reality of the video begs the questions:

- If you are a pastor, is this you?
- If you are a pastor's spouse, is this your live in clergy?
- If you are a PK, is this your parent?

A Little Muppet Break

As I prepare for worship tomorrow and thinking about generosity, I'm thankful for Jim Henson's generosity and the gift of the Muppets! Enjoy a little Muppet break!

The Church Planting Fish Tale

Call it what you want – stretching the truth, embellishment, fish tale – it is still lying. I always wondered how my parents always busted me on it when I was a kid. As a parent now, Heather and I almost always know when our kids are trying to pull one over – parents just know. The cat is a whole other story.

It is a hard time right now. Period. For everybody. Period.

No one lives in a vacuum and if they are living there then they are the only ones who don’t realize they are covered in dirt (when was the last time you opened your vacuum – I rest my case).

My coach gave me some advice that surprised me. He told me to be more transparent about church planting - that it is the hardest thing I've ever done (it is) and that every day I'm pushed to the limit (I am) and there is always more to be done (there is). It isn't that I was trying to hide these things, I mean, no one wants to be at someone elses' pity party. It just seemed like few other church planters want to talk about it and some people don't want to hear anything else.

Then I read Scott Ginsberg’s post today. At first glance it may sounds harsh. And while it is business focused, the truth is clear:

o Stop lying. Get out of the habit of mindlessly telling people, “Business is great!” No, it isn’t. Not unless you’re a foreclosure company. Stop putting on an act and start sharing your authentic experience. People will take notice of your candor.

o Own your slowness. Try saying this: “You know, business is actually pretty slow right now. But, I welcome that challenge. And the good news is, I’ve been putting in overtime on a few new business growth strategies. And I’m confident that, with a lot of hard work, they’re going to overcome this slump.” People will take notice of your balance between optimism and realism.

Jesus put it this way when dealing with conversations “Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.(Matthew 5:37 ESV)” One of my favorite writers, Adam Clarke described Jesus’ approach...
“Do not equivocate; mean what you assert, and adhere to your assertion.”

Just remember to keep a clear picture in your mind of what happens when the motor on a vacuum is reversed. ‘nuff said.

So for the record:

It is the hardest thing I've ever done (it is) and that every day I'm pushed to the limit (I am) and there is always more to be done (there is) and I'm so thankful to be doing it!

May I Ask: When was the last time covering up or stretching the truth ever benefited you?
May I Suggest: Make it a point to focus on being genuine at home, at work and in your community. It may mean writing out a response just to get the words right.

Will the real "Mad Scientists" please stand up!

This is for all the outstanding and amazing engineers in my life who deserve so much more credit than they ever get! Love ya guys!

25 Things About Me

1. In 1987, Jesus Christ changed my life.

2. I was born on September 4 so every seven years I get a holiday on my birthday!

3. I am married to my best friend and the most incredible woman.

4. I love being a dad.

5. I lean to left because my right testical was removed because of testicular cancer. James Francis gave me the nickname “uniball.”

6. I think it is fine to root for other college teams but you should never back away from your alma mater – “We are the Pirates of E-C-U!”

7. I am a Dallas Cowboy fan because I inherited it from my Texan family, a St. Louis Blues and Cardinals fan because I lived in St. Louis and a Hawks fan because we live in the ATL.

8. I love Skittles and Dr. Pepper: Together – “taste the rainbow and be a pepper!”

9. The Muppets ROCK!!!

10. It should be no surprise...Star Wars, my favorite movies are (h/t Melissa!). Personally, I like ROTJ over ESB.

11. I was almost lost at sea scuba diving on a night dive.

12. My first time hunting (anything), I dropped the ‘hammer’ on a turkey. Hunting is now my favorite sport.

13. I shot my first pheasant this fall with the same shotgun my grandfather hunted pheasant. That was an incredible moment.

14. I love to hike and usually do so every week (if not hunting).

15. When we moved to Paulding County, we bought our first home.

16. I have more people that I call my friends now than I think I ever have had at one time in my life.

17. I once had a backpacking tip published in Backpacker magazine.

18. I never wanted to be a pastor but I’m thankful others did – I love being a pastor!

19. I have a broadcasting degree with a theatre minor and have used both since graduation.

20. I have a Master of Divinity but have yet to master being divine. (We really need to rethink that degree title).

21. I enjoyed college sooooo much more than High School.

22. I didn’t drink coffee until I became a pastor.

23. The USA is the greatest nation but my allegiance is first and foremost to God’s Kingdom.

24. Silence does not imply complicity – “Better to be silent and thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.” I live in the USA and I vote. I am NEVER silent.

25. My parents are at the top of my list of my biggest heroes. Thank you for the mistakes, the sacrifices, the friendship and the love!

Things You're Missing Maybe Right In Front

I logged over 14,000 steps on Friday in the Sheffield and Paulding Wildlife Management Areas. I had two goals:

1. To get to 20,000 steps for the first time this year for my HealthMiles (I did).
2. Track turkeys in preparation for the spring season (I did that too).

So as not to give the turkeys any more reason to be wary, I’m about done tracking till season opens.

Even so, yesterday, early in the day, I did a “shot call” – a call designed to startle a response in a male turkey to gobble. I heard nothing. Mind you, I’m standing still, all camo – silent on the access road. I wait – take two steps – BOOM! Off to my right at least 7 turkeys fly from their roost. Never saw them or heard them.

Twenty minutes later, half mile down the road, I hear the tom gobble and listen as the WMA “lit-up” with hen clucks as the flock gathered back together and then silently disappeared into the early morning sunrise.

For all my miles hiking, I am more impressed with what I’ve learned from wildlife and nature this past year since I began hunting. Yesterday showed me the beauty of nature and wildlife I’ve missed in sport of tracking and being patient.

I still have a ways to go both in hunting turkey and faithful following but these words by Oswald Chambers are a good reminder for both…

“We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power..., and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him.”

May I Ask: What have you noticed lately about God right in front of your nose?
May I Suggest: Be patient this week. Notice things. Try and find one thing you've been missing each day. When you do, share it here and be thankful!

40 Reasons Why I Am Praying

This past month we did a prayer challenge at Crossroads UMC. If just one person would pray for 10 hours for the month, I'd pray for 60. H/T to Jim Hogan for asking me if I did my part. I did and he did so with everyone else who did, we had a bunch of people praying and it has truly impacted Crossroads!

What it also did was change me. About mid way through January I realized this and in my personal writings I wrote why I was praying. These are 40 Reasons Why I'm Praying. I'm not telling you how to pray or why to pray. They aren't some instructions on prayer.

I realized these are some of the most personal things I discovered about myself in the midst of this journey. It is a mixture of what I'm praying for, who I'm praying and why I'm praying. Is it a complete list? No, and it wasn't easy to write.

There isn't a pattern and I wasn't planning on 40 as some magic number. They just ended there. It isn't something polished and it I really haven't edited but a few things. Be careful about reading into it but its your mind so you're welcome to have at it. I didn't even plan to post it but it just seemed like it belonged.

2. I’M praying because I WANT PASSION for Jesus!
4. I’m Praying because I want to see Jesus make the DIFFERENCE in people’s lives the way he has done in mine!
5. I’m praying because I’m NOT who God desires me to BE.
6. I’m PRAYING because I know I’m not who I DESIRE to be!
7. I’m praying because I want the PEOPLE of CROSSROADS to CONNECT with GOD and THEIR COMMUNITY!
8. I’m Praying Because I want the PEOPLE of CROSSROADS to FOLLOW JESUS.
9. I’m PRAYING because I want EVERYONE that comes to Crossroads to BECOME DISCIPLES.
10. I want every child at Crossroads to know that JESUS LOVES THEM!
11. I'm praying because I WANT GOD TO BE ENOUGH FOR ME!
12. I’m praying because I want to be BROKEN!
13. I’m praying because I want to be USED by GOD!
14. I’m praying because I want my Neighbors to know JESUS.
15. I’m PRAYING BECAUSE I’ve not invited enough people.
16. I’m praying because I’ve not LOVED enough people!
17. I’m PRAYING because I’m not the HUSBAND I should be.
18. I’m praying because I’m NOT the DAD I need to be.
19. I’m praying because I’m certainly NOT the PASTOR I need to be.
20. I’m praying because with each and every moment and everyday of my life, I’m becoming more and more aware of how insufficient I am for the task at hand. I’m NOT all that and a bag of chips – I’m not even the bag.
21. I’m praying because I CAN’T do it!!!! But God, I’m praying because with what little pathetic faith I have, I believe YOU CAN do it.
22. I’m praying because I’m realizing you don’t figure this out – you live it out the same way everyone has for centuries.
23. I’m praying BECAUSE FAITH is HARD.
24. I’m praying because EASY CHURCH is a SHAM.
25. I’m praying because POP CHRISTIANITY is a joke.
26. I’m praying because CROSSROADS is more than either and more than what I HAVE TO OFFER.
27. I’m praying because I need to LOVE JESUS MORE.
28. I’m praying because I am a SHALLOW and PATHETIC excuse for a pastor.
29. I’m praying because there is ONE MESSIAH…I’m not HIM!
30. I’m praying because I’m not pouring out.
31. I’m praying because I’m not spending enough time with disconnected people.
32. I’m praying because I’ve not BEGUN to suffer for the CROSS.
33. I’m praying because tomorrow is coming and people are going to HELL because I’ve not done enough.
34. I’m praying because with every breath and every moment I don’t pray, I’m moving away from JESUS.
35. I’m praying because I believe my children CAN be the ones who replace Timothy. I’m praying because Logan and Jillian are the coolest kids in the world AND I want them to be used BY GOD.
36. I’m praying because I WANT my marriage to last a life time.
37. I’m praying because I’m not SELLING ANYTHING – I’m connecting people to GOD.
38. I’m praying because I SHOULD and I CAN.
39. I’m praying because I should have been praying like this a LONG time ago.
40. I'm praying because Jesus made it possible.

Could I add to this list? Well, yeah. Do I see things missing that I pray for? Well, yeah. This is my list one day, hanging with God. This is me being real for a moment in time - this is me stretching out onto Jesus Christ.

What about you? How far will you stretch?

May I Ask? Why do you pray?

May I Suggest? Make your own list. Get away from the noise, pray, and start writing.

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