Monday, March 31, 2008

If I'd known back then what I know now...

I'm pretty nostalgic these days. In case you're wondering why, it's because I'm currently reading my sister's manuscript for a book she is planning on having published. Her working title is 100 things I wish my mother had told me. I know, I know, there are a gazillion books out there with similar titles... but this one's special. This one speaks directly to my heritage and it brings back memories of my childhood that have shaped my worldview and my outlook on life.

I thinks it's a really amazing gift for her daughter (which is her professed reason for writing the book in the first place) who otherwise has little or no insight into her Nigerian heritage since she has lived all of her life in the UK. I must admit that the book has got me thinking about a few things I wish I'd learned earlier on. Apparently there are quite a few of us who wish we'd known back then what we know now. Perry Noble and Craig Groeschel have both posted blogs on things they wish they'd known earlier on in ministry, and I found both their blogs on the subject to be extremely eye opening.

Here are a few things I wish I'd known earlier on:
  • Not everyone who starts out professing their commitment to you will stay with you during the tough times.
  • If you define success in ministry exclusively by what happens each Sunday, you will quickly determine that you are a failure.
  • God is much smarter than me! (Go figure, right?)
  • Great preaching isn't the formula for a great church.
  • You must commit yourself to doing what God called you to do no matter how many dissenting voices there are.
  • God defines success by obedience and not by perceived results.
  • God will do what He will do inspite of you and not because of you.
  • Pastoral ministry can sometimes be thankless and painful yet incredibly rewarding.

What have you learned now that you wish you knew earlier in life or ministry?

Friday, March 28, 2008

I'll give you the moon

George Bailey, in It's a wonderful life promised the moon to his sweetheart as he professed his undying love. My wife is currently in Nigeria making preparations for her mother's funeral. It's been a whirlwind week of activities since we first learned of her passing away on Saturday April 22, 2008. A few nights ago, I stood outside my house quietly contemplating all that I need to do in preparation for my trip to Nigeria on Tuesday next week. Then I noticed the bright, full moon in the sky. It made me realize how small we really are in the grand scheme of creation. As I contemplated the moon I was awestruck at the fact that God, having created such amazing wonders would consider us the greatest work of His creative process. In that moment, I felt grateful to be alive and to realize that I'm a truly blessed man.

It occurred to me that moments of such great epiphanies are few and far between (at least in my life) and so I wanted to "build a monument" to the memory of that moment (kind of like saving a piece of the Berlin Wall). By the way I have a dear friend who actually has a piece of the Berlin Wall... I'm sorry, I digress. Back to my moment of epiphany... I wanted to capture the moment and couldn't think of a better way than to try and grab the moon and save it as a gift for my wife. The beauty of the moment was completely spoiled by having a digital camera with a ridiculously low zoom capacity, and so all you get is this picture that looks as if I'm trying to take a speck off a black cloth. You're just going to have to believe me when I tell you that it really is a picture of me reaching for the moon.

I hope your weekend is not as frenzied as mine is shaping up to be. Whatever the case, have a great weekend and I'll see you next week.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gollum or Smeagol... who are you?

The two figurines in this photo have pride of place on the mantlepiece in my study. They represent my favorite character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It never ceases to amaze me how we can be so divergent in our personalities depending on the day. There is a constant battle going on in us. On the worst of days we are Gollum and on the better days we are Smeagol, while most times we are conflicted between the two. There's so much that life demands from us, that we are constantly having to make a decision to be one or the other. I wonder if we are meant to live between the two? I wonder if successful living is learning to control the measure of how much of each personality is manifest at any one time?

You see, Gollum is the daring, risk-taking, rule-breaking, confident one, but the down side is that he is selfish, mistrusting, scheming and devious. Smeagol on the other hand, is the play-within-the-boundaries, follow the rules, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth, loved-by-everybody type of guy. The downside: he's timid, insecure, and scared of his own shadow. The Gollum in us ensures that we don't allow our failures and difficulties in life to beat us down, so that people don't take undue advantage of us. Smeagol teaches us that we must learn to live within the parameters laid down by civilized society. Smeagol serves as our constant reminder that we don't live in a vacuum and cannot therefore "retire to the wilderness to live off the land" while eschewing the value of community.

I'm convinced that there's a bit of Gollum and Smeagol in every person, and learning to live within the limitations they create is the key to living well. In case you think I'm making that up, read what the most prolific New Testament writer (Apostle Paul) had to say about this struggle: "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing." So, just in case you thought you were in pretty bad shape wrestling with your "multiple personality disorder"... remember Paul! If he struggled with daily living and yet successfully penned three quarters of the New Testament, I'd venture to say you're in good company. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A good day to die!

Is it ever a good day to die? I'm not sure that there's a right or wrong answer to that question, but if I had the option of picking a day to die, I must admit that there's something poetic about it being during Easter weekend. My mother-in-law passed away quietly in her sleep on Saturday (technically, that would mean that she and Jesus were both dead during the same time frame). I'm not trying to be morbid here, I'm simply walking through my own grieving process by reflecting on life and death, afterall, both are invevitable if you're reading this. Sometimes life doesn't seem fair. In times past, I've wondered why good people have to suffer or hurt. Why do the innocent suffer? Lately I don't ask that question because I'm beginning to observe that those who have been most battered by life seem to have a greater grasp and understanding of the love of Jesus.

His reassuring presence and love find their way into the deepest and darkest recesses of the lives of people who have walked a hard road, because, regardless of our circumstances, God is always there to meet our needs. In the few days since my mother-in-laws home going, this fact has been demonstrated time and time again in the most powerful of ways. The prayers, support, and love we've received have been invaluable as well as a deep source of strength for us. Death, for those who believe in Jesus, is not the end, it is the beginning of the greatest life conceivable. So while we struggle to come to terms with the hole left by my mother-in-laws absence, we are confident that she is enjoying the greatest life she ever dreamed of, a life we can only look forward to. As usual, I find that there are those who express these sentiments so much better than I can. Here's how Max Lucado says it:

"If you have no faith in the future, then you have no power in the present. If you have no faith in the life beyond this life, then your present life is going to be powerless. But if you believe in the future and are assured of victory, then there should be a dance in your step and a smile on your face."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Of Nails and Donkeys

This past Sunday was Easter Sunday! I know, I know, I have a remarkable ability to state the obvious. I say that only to tell you that because it was Resurrection Sunday, we had a special service at The Well that was really well attended. As we scrambled to set up extra chairs as more and more people showed up, I thought to myself, "It's a great problem to have, having to deal with setting up extra chairs. I hope we do this more often." Anyway, I digress. Our little monologue dramatization was titled The Nail. I love productions like this one because I tend to think somewhat differently from most people, in that I'm always looking for signifcance and relevance in the most obscure of things.

For instance, I'm the guy who, when I get to heaven (while everyone else is hobnobbing with Moses and Elijah, David and Samson and so many other "greats" of the faith), would be more inclined to seek out Zaccheus and find out what was going through his mind as he climbed a sycamore tree wearing his expensive "tax collecting" designer suit, in the hopes that Jesus would pass by where he was so he could get a close-up glimpse of the professed Messiah. You see, I'm fascinated by the fact that Jesus chose to dine at Zaccheus' house. Why? Zaccheus, I'm sure, was not the only irreligious man in the crowd that encountered Jesus that day, so why him? What about the guy whose donkey Jesus' disciples "borrowed" so He could ride into Jerusalem? Or Rahab the harlot, whose rope helped the Isrealite spies escape Jericho?

God seems to use the most common of people and things to create the most uncommon of miracles. Who knew that the fate of a nation rested in the decision of a harlot and her willingness to provide shelter and a rope that had probably sat in the corner of her kitchen gathering dust from misuse? Did any one have an inkling that one day Jesus would send his disciples to fetch a donkey that was as much a fixture of everyday activity, so much so that it blended into the scenery like wallpaper? I mean, "What real King rides a donkey?" Could the iron worker have had any idea, as he carefully crafted those 8 inch spikes, that they would one day be used to nail God to a wooden cross? So, if you're reading this today and you're feeling as if you don't possess any great skills or gifts... if you believe that you're abilities are commonplace and nothing special... then you're the perfect candidate for the miraculous. You see, He delights in using the common to create the uncommon.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Abigail Olumuyiwa Obaweya - 1935 - 2008

I am breaking with tradition and posting on the weekend because I have an extremely important task to fulfill. I want to celebrate a life well lived. My precious mother-in-law, Abigail Olumuyiwa Obaweya, went home in the small hours of Saturday morning (GMT) after a somewhat arduous struggle with illness. We are left clutching tightly to the fond memories of her time on earth, while she exits from the grand stage of life into an inconceivably grander eternity. If the truth be told, I envy the fact that she can now hang out with Jesus any old time she wants. She gets to ask Moses what it felt like to walk "through" the red sea. She can even talk with Elijah about the heady feeling of running on foot faster than a horse drawn chariot when he was a geriatric.

My mother-in-law didn't fit the stereotype. I was blessed to have two mothers, because that's exactly what she was to me. She liked me and accepted me into her family even before my wife accepted the idea of becoming my wife. She prayed for us, encouraged us, loved us.... I vividly remember the first time she found out what my favorite food was: she ensured that my wife became an expert at preparing that dish. Her entire life was devoted to serving others and placing everyone else's needs above her own. "Mum, now it's time for you to sit back and be served." I have no doubt that Jesus is introducing you to faith's "greats" as He proudly parades you down the streets of gold, declaring His pleasure in you before the vast array of Saints and Angels.

We'll miss you terribly. You've left a hole that can never be filled, but we draw strength from the knowledge that you are in the best shape you've ever been in, living in the most coveted and desirable zip code of all time and eternity. "We love you mum. Say hi to Jesus and all the faithful who are resting from their labor, and we'll see you soon!"

Friday, March 21, 2008

What's so good about Friday???

Good Friday? Seems like something of a paradox when the day that symbolizes Jesus' crucifixion and death is referred to as good, doesn't it? Or does it really? Theories abound as to the origin of the term "Good Friday," but none seem to have taken hold quite as well as the idea that it came from the term "Gottes Freitag" (German) meaning God's Friday. As Christians we might struggle with the concept of having a day that holds such supreme sadness be called a "good" day. This struggle may well be rooted in the fact that by some accident of vocabulary, "good" has come to be synonymous with "happy"

No doubt it was not a happy day. How could it have been happy for anyone who was not a short-sighted Pharisee, or an uninformed observer? It could have been called "Black Friday," "Deadly Friday," "Sinful Friday," "Pharisee Friday," or any number of sad epitaphs that would recall its brutal happenings. But I believe that this "accidental" name did not come about without some divine intervention. It was a good Friday simply because, while the fate of the entire world hung in the balance, the price for mankinds redemption and reconciliaton to a loving Father was being paid for by the flagelation, suffering and ultimate death and resurrection of Jesus.

For this reason, and this reason only, I now have a hope and a future. This is a good thing! For this reason, and this reason only, you can come boldly before God's throne seeking to find mercy and grace to help in your time of need. This is a good thing! For this reason, and this reason only, when all seems hopeless, you can rest in the knowledge that there is One who is not oblivious to your pain and suffering. This is a good thing! So, were the events of that Friday so long ago a good thing? Absolutely not. But I state unequivocally that everything that is good about our lives have come as a result of that Friday. Our salvation and eternity have been secured as a result of the events of that Friday. This is a good thing! So today, while you ponder the mysteries of the universe and other lofty ideas, remember this simple truth: He died so that you might live, and this... is a very good thing! Have a good "Good Friday" and a wonderful Easter. (P.S.: Just incase you didn't hear the end of the story: He rose from the Dead the following Sunday. Halleluyah!!!)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The grass isn't always greener...

I've met some rather acerbic people over the years, many of whom have successfully navigated through hardship and difficulty and come through the other side with dramatic improvements to their character. I find that the little "course corrections" brought on by difficulty and hardship are often the catalysts for a greater "work" of God in your life. God is clearly not the author of our woes and worries, but that doesn't mean He can't and doesn't use them to prune us until we are flowering and leafing just the way He wants us to.

Recently, Sola and I had some friends over for dinner who shared with us that they had literally set their lawn on fire and burned it till it was black! Apparently, in order to have a significantly greener lawn in the summer, you must burn away the dead brown grass in the spring. It looks pretty drab for a while, especially since all your neighbors have brown lawns and you're the only one sporting a black lawn. But once the new growth begins, the burned dry grass actually acts as nutrients for the soil and the new grass comes in healthier and greener. Wow! Who would have "thunk" it? It kind of reminds me of God's pruning process. It's painful to burn away the impurities in our lives, and for a while we don't really look that good. But the cycle doesn't end with the burning or pruning. That's just the beginning. It would appear that this is an age old truth that the Church would do well to remember as we seek God's greater purpose for our lives. I've been reading a lot about what a number of people have said concerning difficulties and God's purpose:

When God is about to do something great, He starts with a difficulty. When He is about to do something truly magnificent, He starts with an impossibility. - Armin Gesswein

Embedded somewhere in each act of betrayal, is the purpose of God waiting to be discovered - Garris Elkins

I found out for my own life that breakthroughs are normally camped right outside my comfort zone. - Dino Rizzo

We shouldn't give leadership to people who have never been broken. - T.D. Jakes

Do you know any great quotes that point us to God's purpose being accomplished through hardship or difficulty?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Horton hears a Who???

On Saturday my family and I went to see the movie Horton hears a Who! I went simply because I really enjoy spending time with my wife and kids. Every time we plan these family movie days, at the back of my mind I typically think "this is going to be another one of those long drawn out kids cartoons." You see, I'm somewhat partial to the mindless, adrenaline pumping action movies that make you want to hit someone as you leave the theater (oops, did I say that?). I loved Horton! I liked it even better than Ratatouille, and that's saying a lot since I'm a gourmet food lover (hence my passion for road biking).

My favorite parts of the movie were the myriad spiritual lessons unwittingly embedded in the story. Horton on the one hand represents the Christian who is called to make a significant difference that will change lives. He is villified, ridiculed and laughed at for believing in a "fantasy" yet he doggedly ploughs on knowing that he has an assignment that can be carried out by no one else. Then there's the Who. Who are they (pun intended)? Well they are a group of people whose very survival is dependent completely on a being that they can't see and don't believe exists. Like our world, they are myopic and arrogant enough to think that life begins and ends with them. Unknown to them though, they are about to face a rude awakening. There is a plot to "boil" their little world in a pot of hot oil, yet they don't even believe that there is a world beyond theirs.

I know that there are lessons along the way in everyday life, but sometimes I am pleasantly surprised when even Hollywood delivers those lessons most succinctly. Horton, in his completely selfless sacrifice to ensure that the Who don't become extinct, is willing to pay the ultimate price of estrangement from his community and potentially death. Hmmm I think that's a familiar story line, except that the original story has far greater stakes than a fictional town on a flower getting fried in hot oil. So, I know Horton hears a Who! But the question really is, Who do you hear?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What's in your wallet?

I have 3 daughters... well sort of ! Now before those of you who know me personally go off half-cocked, wondering if I've been messing around on my wife, let me explain. I have two biological daughters whom I love dearly. They teach me so much about a father's love. Sometimes I wonder if there's enough room in my heart to contain the overwhelming affection I have for my girls. Recently though, I've been really inspired to love another "daughter." I have always had a passion for Rwanda. A few years ago I watched Hotel Rwanda and it left an indelible imprint on my soul. Then I watched the HBO special Sometimes in April. I wept for days. I couldn't eat or barely even sleep for 3 days. I was gutted by what I'd discovered about the genocide that threatened to wipe out a whole nation.

Then I reconnected with a young pastor that I'd met while I was in Uganda who happened to be, yes you guessed it, Rwandan. He shared with me about so much that was going on in the country and about how his generation had inadvertently become the "elders" and leaders of that society because the genocide had wiped out the majority of his father's generation, and those that were left were maimed or incapacitated in one way or another. Elders? This young pastor was in his late twenties! My burden further increased and I determined that The Well would one day make a trip to Rwanda and invest in any and every way that we could in the lives of those precious people. We have yet to make that trip though all the planning and preparation are at an advanced stage.

So a few months ago I took a small first step in the direction of Rwanda. I adopted a young 12-year old girl through Compassion International. I specifically chose her because I wanted a child that was about the same age as my youngest daughter (who is 11) so that I would be mindful of the different stages of life she is walking through. Her name is Jeannette and she is the most delightful little girl you could ever hope to set eyes on. She lost her father during the Rwandan civil war and is now being raised by her mother and her grandmother. Why am I sharing this? Because my life has been impacted by this young lady as I pray for her and play a small role in ensuring that her future is filled with hope. I have no doubt that your life would benefit significantly from investing in the life of someone else. It costs $32.00 a month ($1.00 a day) to support a child through Compassion. So I ask you... what's in your wallet?Sponsor a child here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Banal Banter!

Wow! My white twin!! That's what Byron Bledsoe appears to be. We had dinner with Byron and Angie on Friday night. I tell you what... wow! We really connected with them. He and I have so much in common. She, is fit to be tied... she is such a scream. Their honesty, transparency and passion are contagious. Sola and I really like them and feel as if we may finally have found a couple that our hearts truly resonate with, that are doing ministry right alongside of us here in Orlando. We talked about a ton of stuff (wouldn't you love to know) and finally dragged ourselves away from each other about three hours later. Ministry becomes a lot easier and a lot more fun when you do it alongside people who have walked where you have walked and are standing strong and committed to their calling and purpose.

So, Byron and Angie, if you're reading this, the only thing that's left to do is the "cult" deal (so we can really be exactly alike), so if you can start a rumor or something, that would be great. Brows For the rest of you, I'm curious as to what your Easter plans are. If you have nothing really exciting planned, you might want to hop a flight to sunny Orlando and join us for our Easter presentation titled, The Nail. It's going to be a really creative presentation of Jesus' death from the perspective of a Centurion. "What's a Centurion?" you ask. Well I can tell you that it isn't a 100 year old person (century... centurion... get it? Hey, that's why I'm not a comedian) so maybe you'd better book that flight and join us so you can find out.

Alright, I feel better now after all that random rambling. I promise I'll be a lot more articulate and profound tomorrow. After all, it's only Monday and I'm still suffering from weekend-damaged-brain-cells-syndrome (boy it's lovely to be able to invent stuff). Finally, I want to leave you with some advice from a wise old sage (don't ask who): Don't rush to finish everything today that you can spread out over the whole week! See you tomorrow;)

Friday, March 14, 2008

This One's for you! (Yes, I'm talking to you)

David asked the following question in the book of Psalms:

"When all that is good falls apart,
what can good people do?"
The Lord is in His holy temple;
the Lord sits on His throne in heaven.

I have this inexplicable sense that someone out there in cyber world needs the encouragement that David was offering. I'm not sure what the dire circumstances you're facing are, but I do know that God is not overwhelmed by them. While your circumstances may have come as a surprise to you, they were not a surprise to Him. Unlike you and I, God is not threatened nor frightened by our storms. The established order of His purpose has not changed as a result of what we might be going through.

Because He is still in His holy temple, because He still sits on His throne in heaven, He is well able to bring about His perfect will for you. So no matter what you're dealing with today, remember that He is still in control and will cause all things to work for your good if you will only trust Him. I'm saying a prayer for you as I type this. Have a blessed and wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Machiavellian Pastors???

My new friend, Byron Bledsoe, has a great church in Orlando (C3 church), and they are really doing church the way it should be done... but it has come at a price. His and Angie's (his wife) blogs are insightful, creative and real. There are no pretensions about them, and my wife, Sola, and I already know that we are going to be really good friends with them. They have walked some very similar roads to us, and yet have not become bitter and jaded. It seems that, the lot of the pastor who wants to grow and become more like the Scriptures command us to be, is destined for ridicule, criticism and judgement.

A while back, I posted a blog in which I stated that one of the most profound statements that had shaped my approach to ministry was one I heard Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.TV make. He said: "The growth of your church is in direct proportion to the amount of pain you are willing to endure." Why is this the case you may wonder? Shouldn't the Church be the safest place on earth for anyone and everyone? I found the short answer to those questions on Byron's blog. The quote on the side bar of his home page is a quote from Niccolo Machiavelli, and it says this:

"It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it."

Jesus backs up the truth of this statement in many instances, such as when he healed the paralytic that was lowered through the roof of a house in which He was preaching. Initially everyone murmured and complained at Jesus' methods, questioning who he thought he was to dispense forgiveness. As soon as the paralytic was healed though, they all began to sing Jesus' praise and talk about how wonderful a guy he was. So, to Byron and all those in ministry who are willing to endure the pain so that they can usher in a new order, I doff my hat!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kids Can... walk with Jesus!!!

A few posts ago I posted a blog titled Kids Can... what? It talked about our Childrens Ministry at The Well and highlighted the fact that the tagline of our childrens ministry was Kids Can... Pray, Worship and Know God. Kids are a big part of who we are and why we exist as a church (our passion and one of our core values is to reach the lost, the hurting and the next generation), and we are constantly learning new and creative ways to stimulate their minds and grow their understanding of what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

We have an amazing childrens pastor, and she is not diffident about ensuring that our kids know that their prayers and their personal walk with the Lord are just as vital, engaging and powerful as those of any adult, including the pastors. Recently Claudia (our children's pastor) sent me this priceless photograph. It's a picture of her daughter, Daniela and a friend walking with Jesus! It was taken at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, and as soon as I saw it I knew that it represented the culmination of everything that we do at The Well regarding kids ministry. You see, the idea behind the tag line: Kids Can Pray, Worship and Know God is completely exemplified in the simple idea that Kids can walk with Jesus!

Need I say more? Enjoy your day, and, somewhere in the midst of all the busyness, see if you can spare a moment to walk with Jesus too. I promise you, you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I was feeling a little more daring this morning so I decided to change up my workout routine. I drove to the YMCA for a 5.45am spinning class! For the uninitiated, spinning is a workout on a stationery bike that is built to simulate a road bike. Depending on the person leading the class, it can be a pretty intense workout. There is one primary problem with spinning, and that is the fact that you are pedaling furiously and going absolutely nowhere! I've been in some of the most intense spinning classes led by sadistic, masochistic tyrants who took delight in watching us puke all over the place as we reached the zenith of our endurance, but... we still went nowhere!!

Life often tends to draw close parallels with a spinning class. Working, living, hurting, laughing and playing at the most frenetic of paces yet feeling as if you're spinning in place or going round in concentric circles. The tendency is to want to give up the pursuit of your dreams and goals when there are no immediately apparent results. Unlike road biking, spinning gives no apparent immediate results. With road biking I go from point A to point B. I know the distance between both points. I make steady progress from one point to another and at the end of the workout there are measurable miles behind me. Not so with spinning. At least not apparently. But there is as much benefit to your body as if you were road biking. Three months into an active lifestyle of spinning, your pant size will drop. Your endurance will increase, and you will feel increasingly fitter and healthier.

The drudgery of life can often be like that. In the mundane, monotonous routine of everday living, we can begin to think that our lives are counting for nothing and that we are making little or no impact on the lives of people around us. The truth is that there is so much more than you can visibly observe, going on. And sometimes the ultimate "fruit" of all your labor may not even be manifest in your lifetime. How do you think Martin Luther King Jr. would feel if he could see what his persistence and sacrifice had accomplished in the fight for racial equality? What would Abraham Lincoln think about his fight to keep the USA one united country? can you imagine communism as the dominant political system of our world? You may compare your life to a spinning class and think that you are constantly "doing" yet accomplishing nothing. I encourage you to view it from a different perspective: Your life is like a seed that will one day become the tree that will provide shelter, nourishment and life for so many others. So, on your darkest days think of the difference it will make to someone elses life because you persevered.

Monday, March 10, 2008

football + hardwork= pastoring!?

My son, a few of his team mates and I, drove to Tampa this past Saturday. It was "Junior Day" at the University of South Florida (USF) and he had been officially invited to attend. He is actively being recruited by them, along with numerous other D-1 college football programs. These are heady days for him as he begins to enjoy the fruit of much of the unseen, and generally unrewarded and intense labor he has put into training to become a prime athlete. They are heady days for me as well! Not purely for the reasons you might think, though I am as proud as a pea (artistic alliteration license) to see my son accomplishing his dreams and desires, but more because of the lessons in church planting that I am learning from watching him.

Like working to earn a D-1 football scholarship, pastoring a church is hard work! Much of it is done in obscurity and what is seen by others is open to criticism and judgment even by people who don't know you, or for that matter, know anything about what they're criticizing. The rewards though, are literally and figuratively "out of this world." Nothing gets my adrenalin pumping quite like seeing someones life tangibly changed by an encounter with Jesus, knowing that I, in some small way played a part in that. But, like football, the work has only just begun. In football, a scholarship doesn't earn you the right to rest on your laurels, but in fact really begins the process of football becoming "your job." A full-ride scholarship is tantamount to being paid a salary for going to school and in return you work your b*** off to ensure that you justify your "pay" whether you feel like it or not.

As a pastor, introducing people to Jesus is only the first step in the life-long process of coaching people to live life according to the dictates of the Scriptures. Even on your worst days, you can't "take the day off." I really enjoyed meeting the head coach and his coaching staff. They looked like they were having more fun than should be legally allowable, and they genuinely seemed to love what they do. I imagine being recruited by people like that must be a really good feeling. It sort of reminds me that I am privileged to serve the greatest Life-Coach of them all, as part of a team that touches the lives of the people that are nearest and dearest to His heart. So in the rugged, sometimes hectic days of pastoring, I remember my son and the price of accomplishing his dreams, and I'm quickly reminded as to why I do what I do. It's a real privilege to serve at The Well! What new lesson are you learning in your journey?

Friday, March 7, 2008

A - is how we roll!

I've been reconnecting with quite a few 'old' friends lately (thank you facebook) and the thing I've enjoyed most is listening to the stories as I catch up with everybody's lives. There appears to be a prevalent theme of refining that God is doing in each person's life. I guess what we call refining is really the reality of "waking up" to real life and to the fact that there are certain things that God will no longer allow us to get away with. In my estimation, this is the process of maturing that must be evident in the life of everyone who professes to be a Christ-follower.

In light of these discussions, I've been doing a lot of processing myself. What is value to me? What are the things that would rank as my greatest accomplishments? I must tell you that the answers I'm coming up with surprise even me! Nothing that I've done in ministry, secular vocation, athletically, or anything else for that matter, ranks remotely close to watching the impact of a relationship with Jesus, in the lives of my kids. The amazing thing about this is that, while I have been largely responsible for many of the things that I've accomplished in my life, through hard work, prayer and moment by moment decisions that could have taken me one way or another, My greatest accomplishments have really little to do with my abilities. Allow me to foolishly brag for a moment, but I really do have the greatest kids in the world. They are my greatest accomplishment!

I've told you all about my son in a few posts that have highlighted his athletic prowess and his drive to be a successful and godly young man. You have, however, never met either of my daughters. Today I'll introduce you to Temi. She's my youngest (she's 11) and most like my wife in personality. She's a stickler for the rules (she doesn't do well without guidelines and boundaries) and is amazingly well adjusted for having a dad like me. Temi has been on the A-honor roll for as long as there has been an A-honor roll. She ran for student council within 3 weeks of starting a new school and came 2nd in the voting! She is also on the safety patrol at school, which is the highest honor given to 5th graders as the faculty decide who gets to serve in that capacity, based on a number of factors. As if all that isn't enough, she's super athletic, musically gifted and incredibly fashionably aware for an 11 year old. I'm immensely proud of how my kids are turning out, and those who know me well attribute it all to God and my wife Sola. Have a great weekend!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Rebel" with a cause!

I am an avid reader! I think there's a vast world to be learned in the careful exploration of a good book, or even a good blog. I've read a number of books and blogs lately in which a clarion call has been sounded, drawing you... no... hog-tying and dragging you toward a particular "cause." Some of the arm-twisting tactics border on vicious: telling you that if you don't campaign against abortion, vociferously oppose homosexuality, or feed the starving in Africa, you are probably not a good Christian. I've often wondered at the motivation of such people and why it is they think their "cause" should take precedence over any other. Don't misunderstand me to be suggesting that these are unworthy causes. I simply take exception to the tactics used to promote their causes.

I have begun to place more credence in the notion that it is human nature to live, and maybe even die for a cause. I think our lives derive value and meaning from having a cause that makes a positive difference in people's lives. Whether it is teaching the Bible to unreached peoples, teaching English in a foreign country, or just putting a smile on the faces of "faceless" and "nameless" kids that we probably won't ever see again this side of heaven, we seem to thrive on causes. So I wonder: is this an active part of being a good Christian or are we in danger of becoming so much like Martha, that we are too busy to sit at the feet of Jesus, like Mary? Do we hide behind "serving" others, to avoid the spotlight being placed squarely on us, and our need to let God do what He wants to in our lives? Isn't the primary purpose of Christianity a personal life-altering encounter with the Savior?

I'm only asking these questions because it seems that there are so many of us who spend so much time serving "causes" and so little time serving Jesus, so that when the enemy strikes a blow against us, we all-too-quickly turn our backs on the "cause" of Christ: simply living for and loving Him regardless of what that may look like. What does it look like to serve Jesus as our primary cause? No answers from me today, only questions. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Guest blog: Are you surprised? (Part 3)

I don't know about you guys but I've really enjoyed Thea's refreshing posts on being surprised, fascinated and 'simply' in love with God. This is the final instalment of her series. Let's hear your opinions loud and clear!

So in the midst of a desire to know God and putting that desire into action, there is culture - ever think about how it affects your relationship with God? Recently my husband and I were discussing how social norms so ridiculously affect our relationship with the Lord. We're supposed to be "in the world but not of it" yet we fight a constant battle to be relevant to our culture in an effort to “reach them” and be approachable. Our generation places a very high value on transparency. I believe this pendulum swing comes as a result of feeling ‘duped’ by the duplicity evident in so many ways, in previous generations. This effort to "be real" or "transparent" has so jaded us from things that are intrinsic to our faith and often times we don’t even see it… or at least I didn’t until recently. Think about it - when someone says they are "gut-level honest” and “real" it sounds attractive… finally! An honest person! But…do kindness, gentleness or self control spring to mind for you when they say that? Not for me they don’t. I think of harsh opinions, unsolicited advice and “saying what everyone is thinking but no one else will say” So where in all of that is there room for a changed heart… and for the values we say we hold dear?

The Bible says that people will know us by our is patient...kind...not envious...not's not self-seeking...keeps no record of wrongs...and the list continues. How is it that we live in a culture where kindness and hope is nearly always associated with insincerity or being overly optimistic? Or putting the needs of others before your own is seen as "martyrdom" instead of service... and again, insincere? I guess as I process through this idea and those in my previous two posts, what it boils down to is the intent of your heart. Asking your self the question "why?" "Why do I want to know Him?" I think most of us will find we truly love Him... and that simple truth has been overshadowed by past experiences, the opinions of others, and cultural influences.

So what’s my conclusion to the matter? Let’s seek God and let everything else begin to fall into His goodness unfold in our lives...and let the fruit of the Spirit that results from it spill over onto others with sincerity. Let's bring what God intended back into the picture...knowing Him and loving Him…because He is God. Loving your neighbor as your self... taking time out to be fascinated by who He is and all He does. The world would be a very different place if we could do those things alone... they seem so simple don't they?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guest blog: Are you surprised? (Part 2)

If you haven't already done so, please read part 1 of Thea's guest blog so that you can get a full picture of the great ideas she's sharing with us. Join us for the concluding part tomorrow. Oh yeah, show Thea some love and leave a comment!

When I consider seeking God to know Him and not with some other motive in mind, it feels less daunting than “getting in my devos today.” That happens by default when you truly seek Him anyway. How have I fallen in the "weight loss rut" with God, making time with Him seem like drudgery sometimes? It’s like starting a diet "That’s it, Monday I'm getting up early and reading my Bible!" doesn’t happen… "Ok... for real this time... I'm going to have prayer in the morning before everyone else is up." Snooze button got the best of you… " mornings don't work for me...let's try evenings!!" How is it that seeking Him has again become…all about me in this scenario? I never intend it to be about me but when my schedule is what determines when I talk to God then it's certainly about me. Believe me - if my husband started to “pencil me in” for time alone with him… I’d be broken hearted. It would devalue so much about who I am to him and my confidence in his love for me... but... we treat God that way all the time.

So, to make up for it, I justify and overanalyze... I've heard all the arguments before and have even made them myself. “Feeling this way isn't what grace is about... that’s the 'law'” or “I shouldn't be trying so hard... God just wants whatever I can offer him” or maybe even “Why have a dedicated time of prayer!? I just can’t keep up... screw it - I'll just get to it when I can.” And so begins the vicious cycle of vain effort...guilt...and justification. We do it to ourselves and so easily fall prey to an elementary trick of the enemy!! The crazy thing is... God has never required a specific time of prayer but has simply asked us to devote ourselves to Him wholly… to love Him most. Yet, we take the time to invent requirements for faith and being “good enough” (which, incidentally takes a lot more energy than devoting myself to Him in my estimation).

It's like Paul says... “...Not that I have attained all this... but instead, I press on toward the goal....” Having an understanding of what God requires of us, or asks of us and not being perfect at it isn’t wrong. Having an understanding of what He requires of us and conforming it to fit our own needs first, that qualifies for being wrong. It's a relationship... a lifelong process... not something to be figured out over night. So, how do you do it? How do you seek God... know Him... and not fall prey to Satan's simplest of schemes that weigh down the joy of spending time alone with the Lord? I’m open to suggestions….

Monday, March 3, 2008

Guest blog: Are you surprised? (Part 1)

Meet Thea. All around energizer bunny. At least when I first met her she was. Marriage and motherhood have tempered her and smoothened her sharp edges. She is smart, witty and incredibly articulate. She is guest blogging for me this week. Let her know how much you appreciate her words.

"It's funny how I am always surprised by the goodness of God in every situation even though He is ALWAYS that way...He never changes... and He has never failed to be good in any situation I have faced, yet, I am still surprised every time."

I wrote this phrase in my journal last week after sending out a praise report about a miracle during my pregnancy…let me just say…I was praying for a miracle, but I didn’t truly expect one. That left me reflecting - If I really believe God is good, why does it surprise me when I'm the recipient of His goodness? It isn't because I don't expect Him to be good... I know with 100% certainty that He is good. When I’m honest with myself, I find that it's more because I don’t feel deserving of His goodness. Of course, I don't deserve any part of what He offers me every day...but still...Why does He do it? What is it that gives me favor with him even when I have royally screwed up and have broken His heart?

If you pause to consider Him for a moment… He is God... His hand spans the breadth of the universe. So, in the grand scheme of creation, what about me touches His heart?? For that matter what is it about YOU?? The fact that He is so interested in His creation perplexes me and drives me to want to understand Him. He wants to reveal Himself…to me?? Whether you like Oprah or think she’s nuts, I bet if she invited you to lunch, you’d be curious enough to show up, wouldn’t you? I mean come on, it’s Oprah – why would she be interested in you!? Yet, we tend to casually view God's interest in us as some how deserved and, well, irrelevant.

I don't want to know God just because I NEED Him and believe me - I NEED HIM!!! Come over to my house mid-day: The pot pourri of diapers, unwashed hair, and toys strewn about the house will prove it to you! Other people's opinions of who He is don't satisfy my curiosity or my desire to know Him. I need to know for myself. It’s such a different perspective on what we are usually told…to read your Bible, pray every day and you’ll “grow, grow, grow” – great principle behind the song but – the song is about you, isn’t it?? I don’t want it to be about me…when it is...things get foggy. I am intrigued… why is the God of Heaven, Earth and everything beyond interested in me...really?