Use the Comment Card-Taking & Giving Criticism

Anonymous often breeds rudeness.

My apologies to anonymous, you've written so much great stuff. Yet for it all, you seem often times to revel in rudeness. I guess the old adage is true, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then."

I've had to book a number of hotel/motel stays this year and have read the most outlandish reviews online. More often than not, the criticism has to do with expectations that most times were unrealistic to begin with. I've never expected a roadside motel to measure up to a five-star resort. I try to give the benefit of the doubt and keep my expectations realistic. Very rarely have I been disappointed. More often, I've been surprised about how great things were!

Funny thing is though, that while people won't say things about some stuff, most times they have little difficulty in telling pastors what they did wrong. Often, they are even rude about it.

Make Words Happy is a great blog regarding how Everyone's A Critic. The blog makes a great point on how to take it:
So, what do you say to those finicky folks, whose opinions you couldn’t care less about? A simple “thank you” will do. Take the criticism for what it’s worth, which sometimes isn’t much. But always keep your ears open. You never know when those golden nuggets of wisdom will appear.

But what about giving it?
1. If you're giving criticism, give it as you'd like to receive it.
Says it all I think

2. When possible, share your expectations so someone has a point of reference.
I mean, if you got something for nothing just what are you complaining about?

3. Be gracious and humble.
Just because your expectations weren't fulfilled, did you ever look at or read the description?

4. NEVER be anonymous.
If you're going to put it out there, put on your big boy underwear or your big girl panties. Criticism ought to help a person, a church, or a business, fix errors or do better in which case, they may have an additional question(s). But I imagine, if you didn't do the first 3, chances are you won't do the fourth anyway."

BONUS: You can always use the comment card or online survey when you're not sure how to give criticism.

Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of wise people bring healing. The word of truth lasts forever, but lies last only a moment. (Proverbs 12:18-19 GW)

MAY I ASK: When was the last time you received criticism? When was the last time you gave it?

MAY I SUGGEST: Compare those experiences to the list above. How did they do? How did you do? What did you learn? What will you do different in the future?

Listen to the Old Man

Numerous people conducted an all-night search for an eight-year-old boy named Dominic. While on a skiing trip with his father, the boy got separated from his dad. He had ridden a new lift and skied off the run without realizing it.

As each hour passed, the search party and the boy's family became more and more concerned. By dawn they still had found no trace of him. When two helicopters joined the search, ski tracks were spotted. A ground team followed the tracks which changed to small footprints. The footprints lead to a tree where they found the boy.

"He's in super shape," the area search and rescue coordinator announced to the anxious family and press. "In fact, he's in better shape than we are right now." Dominic was never admitted to a hospital.

The rescuer explained why the boy did so well despite spending a night in the freezing elements: His father had taught Dominic what to do if he became lost. Dominic protected himself from the elements by snuggling up to a tree and covering himself with branches. As a young child, he never would have thought of doing this on his own. He was simply obeying his wise and loving father.

Recently, two of the scouts in my Cub Scout den completed their journey to receive the highest honor in Cub Scouts, the Arrow of Light. Following the ceremony, I shared with them that what I had to offer them as a Cub Scout leader was complete, it was now their turn; their turn to live out what they have been taught and practiced.

There is not always a ceremony to recognize those moments when we take the step to live the lessons of life. Sometimes there is. More often it is a snap decision, something spur of the moment, a chance, an opportunity and we are faced with the choice – to live out for ourselves what we have been taught.

Unfortunately, many of those we look up to for wisdom, guidance and advice, have flaws. Sometimes we see them right away; and other times, years pass by before we realize the failings of those we idolized and trusted.

But live long enough and you may express the same realization Mark Twain who once noted, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

What I am trying to say is, give us guys a chance. Maybe it is your dad or the husband of your children. Maybe it is an uncle or a friend whose example has taught you something more. Be sure to encourage those men who have astonished you with what they’ve learned and taught. Say thanks during this month as we celebrate fathers and what they pass on to the next generations.

Spiritual Fitness Check 013-Generosity

013. Generosity. One easy way to practice generosity is to tip your server - the best this week is to overtip. But don't stop with that - you're investing in someone so focus on getting to know them and being a good customer. Help them to be their best.

Mandles: THE Gift for dads!

Transparent: God Blessing

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psa 84:1-12 ESV)

As a kid, we’d drive through the desolate plains of West Texas to a town called Crane. It is where my dad grew up along with his brothers while my grandfather worked the oil wells for Gulf Oil.

In the early part of the 20th century, there was a sheep ranch owned by Mr. Yates out in that same area of Texas. Yates was hit hard by the depression and had to take subsidies to survive. It even appeared that he might lose his ranch. When seismographic crew came through and asked permission to drill an oil well, he thought might as well and signed the simple lease.

At 1,115 feet they struck oil on a reserve and that well would give 80,000 barrels a day in the years to comes. That was just the beginning and Mr. Yates owned it all. He was multimillionaire living in poverty only because he didn’t know all that was there.

Of course, the so called “blessings” of wealth are not all they are cracked up to be either. But that isn’t really the point of this message – for God has made transparent that his blessings are more than silver and gold – the blessings may be less tangible but the blessings of God are no less real.

The Bible uses two words to talk about God’s blessings. One speaks of receiving God’s favor. The other speaks of the fullness of life. In both cases it is a point to remember that God’s blessing isn’t some kind of magic. It is also true that while being blessed may refer to one’s spouse, beauty, honor, or wisdom – one must never measure the external benefits. True blessings the writer of Psalms says, are found in trusting in God.

These words are written by a king who could probably empathize with the pressure of our days. Meetings to attend, contracts to be signed, negotiations to be made, family pressures (he did have a few wives after all!) along with battles to be fought.

He found going to the temple to be the place where he found connection to God to be the easiest and best. That is one of the things we value here at Crossroads, creating a sacred space. The writer keys in on this idea that the space we worship in IS important.

Verse 4 tells us that part of our blessing will be found in the place we worship and seek after God. Verse 5 tells us that we’ll find blessing when God is our strength – not ourselves and if we skip over to verse 7 we find strength increasing.

We read of the Valley of Baca in verse 6. It is most likely this refers not to a particular location but is instead a reference to afflictions. If that is the case, we get the idea that those who are blessed go through and to places where people are hurting and change what was a place of dispair and barren land into a place of life and joy.

And then we come to the conclusion for the writer: (10) For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (11) For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (12) O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

God does not promise to give us everything we think is good, but he will not withhold what is eternally good. He will give us the means to walk along his paths, but we must do the walking. He will point us in the way to go, but we must use the map and compass. When we obey him, he will not hold anything back that will help us serve him.

God makes his blessings to us transparent – what God gives to us intended to bless the world. God is the sun and will show his light and give life. He will be our shield in difficulties though we still we find ourselves in the fight. And God is transparent about who it that receives His favor – those who trust in him.

Our trust cannot be in the blessings but in God. The gift isn’t the giver. Each blessing, counted or not, is a reminder of the one who gave and chose not to hold back. Now may I ask: What will you do with those blessings?

Crossroads' Worship Leader In Marietta Daily Journal

Brandon Reeves, our worship leader at Crossroads UMC, recently released his second Blues album entitled "Emilia." Today, he got a great write up in the Marietta Daily Journal! Check it out here! Then go over to CDBaby and order yours!

Brandon, you rock! I'm really proud of you and all you've done with the incredible talents God has given you. We're truly blessed to have you leading us in worship at Crossroads!

The Tragic Times of Ministry

I recently read this post from Geoff Surratt regarding the resignation of a church planting pastor.

I don't know Gary personally but know pastors who do. Geoff asks great questions and his points are so valid. Enough have commented on the blog but it bears repeating - this ought to wake us up.

It ought to wake up pastors to how vulnerable we are.
It ought to wake up denominations to realize how vulnerable pastors are.
It ought to wake up churches to how vulnerable a pastor can be.

I will be praying for Gary, his family, and the church they are leaving. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Han Solo, P.I.

Spiritual Fitness Check 012

012. Pray. Pray for your sanitation workers. Leave them a note and let them know you appreciate their work.

Transparent: What Does God Expect of Me?

Click here to view opening video: God Speaks

God is mysterious. God does keep secrets. But when it comes to the heart of what matters most; when it comes to us – God is transparent.

Wouldn’t it be great if God would drop little hints like with Doug? Sometimes, it sure would make things easier especially when it seems so many other people God does seem to be more transparent than he is with us. We begin to wonder, why doesn’t God speak to me in a burning bush? Why don’t I get clear dreams about what God wants me to do? Why don’t amazing things happen to reveal God to me?

I have been convinced for awhile that God prefers hide-n-seek and scavenger hunts rather than e-mail and cell phones. If you’ll notice in the stories in the Bible how even when people like when Moses sees the burning bush or Peter has a dream – they still argue with God about what to do – even when He speaks and becomes transparent.

For YEARS, people have wondered and asked – “what does God want from me and my life?” But long ago, in a sort of three-way, conversation between God, a prophet named Micah, and the people, the people asked…
Micah 6:6-8 (GNB) (6) What shall I bring to the LORD, the God of heaven, when I come to worship him? Shall I bring the best calves to burn as offerings to him? (7) Will the LORD be pleased if I bring him thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil? Shall I offer him my first-born child to pay for my sins? (8) No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.

God has made himself transparent with us. How does he want us to live and what does he want us to do? Do Justice. Show love and mercy. Walk humbly with God. Clearly, there is nothing we can give to God – nothing that God needs from us. But to us he makes himself transparent – sharing with us what he desires of us…

God’s heart says we should give all their due whether it is our boss or friend but also those who have no voice – the needy and the prisoner. We should love mercy – not just seek justice but go farther and act with kindness – meet the need. But that isn’t all, because God asks us to walk humbly. And to do that, we must be transparent.

When a person becomes transparent – authentic with God – then it follows, that we’ll become transparent with others. If there was any doubt of God’s willingness to be transparent with us – we need only look at Jesus the Christ – God in the flesh.
How do we become transparent with God? In his own words, Jesus said, “I can guarantee this truth: Those who listen to what I say and believe in the one who sent me will have eternal life. They won't be judged because they have already passed from death to life.” (John 5:24 GW)

To walk humbly with God means letting go of the idea that you are God – that you’re in control – because you aren’t. I did that for the first time when I was a junior in high school. I did it every time I stepped into the woods and was humbled again – at least 3 guys at Crossroads can attest to that! I had to do it again while I was working on this sermon and praying for Crossroads and our community.

God calls us to be transparent with a God who has never hidden his plan and desire for us. Whatever it is, whatever part of your life that you’ve yet to share with God, may I suggest that today is the day to begin to be transparent.

Spirtual Fitness Check 011

011. Appreciate Others.
Make it a point to be an encourager this month. Pick-up a pack of thank you notes (like 50 pack or at least a 25 pack!) and write thank you notes till you run out and mail them out or drop them off. Say thanks to a favorite business, colleague, family member, friend, postal carrier, trash collector, commissioner, president, etc.

Why Turkey Hunting Is A Lot Like Work

As a pastor, I love what I do! However, I've not always been a pastor...;)

Author Unknown

I realized this morning that turkey hunting and work are so similar as to be nearly interchangeable in my life. I get up early, trudge around in the cold and then try to make myself comfortable while I sit on my rump and listen while those around me make obnoxious noises. Sometimes I make obnoxious noises back at them, but mostly I try to blend into the landscape and not upset anyone. I try to be seen and heard as little as possible.

Most day, I knock off as early as I can and get home and do my chores before going to bed early. However, on a few occasions, I get lucky and somebody gets careless and gets too close and then I blow their heads off with my shotgun. Then I throw them in the trunk of my car, take them home, skin them and throw their carcass in the freezer. Before I do, I make sure to take lots of pictures to post on the internet for my friends…

…on second thought, nevermind.

Pieces: Our Connection

Act (NASB) 4:32-37 (32) And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. (33) And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. (34) For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales (35) and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. (36) Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), (37) and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

I’ve never had much patience for puzzles. Models, now those were a little bit more my speed – a 3 dimensional puzzle. Much more hands on. But what really got me…that would be Legos. Pieces that could be brought together not just in a model but could be taken apart and built into new models.

We’ve got to have all the pieces. To merely have wisdom or to only be recepients of grace leaves us as fat house cats – becoming consumers, never realizing what we are called to be – the Church – people of a mission.

When Luke went from recording the history of Jesus’ life to recording the history of the early church, he made the leap. In the verses we read, Luke connects what the disciples were teaching about Jesus – all that we say in the Apostle’s Creed – with extraordinary and regular social concern.

What the church did, was come together, to connect with God and with one another. They had pursued wisdom – knowing the truth about Jesus and received God’s grace – that Jesus had died for the forgiveness of their sins. When they came together – they became the church. They shared a message (v 33), they shared a common passion (v. 32), and they shared a willingness to share with those in need (v 34-35).

This was the kind of study of the Bible that inspired John Wesley to rethink church. It was his pursuit of wisdom and receiving grace that helped him see there was another way to see church: there needs to be a passion for the Gospel of Jesus AND for others and there needs to be accountability – everything can’t be laid at one apostle’s feet BUT all of them. But what was more, Wesley said there should and could be an EVIDENCE for individuals and others – FRUITS of the change – like the life Barnabas lived (v 36-37).

John Wesley once said, “The love of Christ constrains us, not only to be harmless, to do no ill…but to be useful, to be “zealous of good works”; “as we have time, to do good unto all…”

A little girl went up to the neighbors on a errand for her mother. She was late getting home and her mother asked for the reason why. The child shared that her friend had fallen down while carrying her favorite doll and the doll had broken. She had stayed to help her friend. The mother wondered what her daughter could have done to help her friend fix the doll. The little girl replied simply, “I just sat down and helped her cry.”

Sometimes, sharing ourselves is enough. But as a church, we are part of mission – part of the Church – something bigger than ourselves. British battleships have been known to have a sign on the bridge of their ship stating: “Remember the Next Astern.” It is a reminder to the captain that as part of a fleet, to think before issuing orders which may create difficulties with the nearest vessel.

At Crossroads, we value our connection to God and to our community. As a United Methodist Church, we are a church that believes in connection. We believe that we can do more together than we could do on our own. We believe it is in keeping with the church of the New Testament and the movement that John & Charles Wesley began which became the United Methodist Church we know today.

Is the Church perfect? No. Are her pastors perfect? Are her people perfect? No. So if all things were equal, we’d be failures but it is Jesus’ desire to make us perfect. So all things are NOT equal!

We are being called to RETHINK Church. Look around you. Haven’t you already been rethinking church? We’re meeting in a school, in a gymnasium. Honestly, I’ve been laughed at in conversation about whether we could do what we’re doing. From the music, to the acolytes, to the banners, to the canned food drive, to pet blessings, to Murphy-Harpst Children’s home, Shine Time, Connection groups; we ReThink.

One consultant said to me in the form of a question, “You really like being a church planter in a denomination?” Yes. But not any one – this one. There is a continent-wide University in Africa because of the United Methodist Church. M.U.S.T. Ministries exists because of the United Methodist Church. Crossroads United Methodist Church exists because of the United Methodist Church.

Out of pursuing wisdom and receiving grace, came the vision to see a church exist in north Paulding. A church unique in that WE are part of a larger connection. Unique because you and I know better than any how important giving is. The funding to help Crossroads came from every church in North Georgia. Every United Methodist Church in North Georgia has been paying and will be paying part of my salary for 5 years.

Why? Because as a church, we can do more together than we can on our own. Beginning the end of June, Crossroads will have to begin paying part of my salary for the first time – we’ve grown up enough for that, we’re moving from baby to toddler and we’re making a difference because we CAN do more together than we can on our own.

In June, I’ll be going to Athens, GA as part of a yearly meeting which we do with pastors and church members. This Annual Conference is important for a number of things. For Crossroads, we have a unique chance to do more together this year here in our first year. There is an incredible need that our connection is aware of that I’d like to share with you today.

Outside of the United States, there is a larger connection of Methodist Churches called the Central Conferences. Like our North Georgia Annual Conference, pastors and their families serve faithfully.

Rev. Peeter serves in Estonia. At 80 and retired, continues to serve a small group of Estonians who gather each week for Sunday worship and midweek prayers at the United Methodist church in Narva on the Estonia-Russia border. The voice he combined with those of others to sing for church groups during the Soviet years is still strong.

Tabitha is a member of Revelation United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and the church would not be the same without her. In addition to her choir duties, she is chairperson of evangelism, serves as conference and district women's society adviser, and works with the women's group in the church. She is still a faithful member of the last church where her husband was pastor before he died in 1998. The Rev. Alfred Katsande was a pastor for 40 years. He retired from Revelation United Methodist Church in 1997 at the age of 72.

The difference is that Peeter receives a pension from a pilot program we in the US began a few years ago. Tabitha receives no pension. Throughout the Central Conferences, there are many like Peeter and Tabitha who have served and today need to be served. They have a need. Our family has already committed to supporting one pastor’s pension plan. It costs $38 a month for 3 years to fund this one pension and meet the General Conference goal. I’m asking you in the next few moments to consider your support. Would you match us? If every family at Crossroads committed to give $1 a month for three years – you can match our family’s support. The $38 a month is above our tithe of 10% and other giving.

It is our chance to do more together than we could ever do on our own. It is about our connection.

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