Thursday, December 31, 2009


New Year's is a great time for reflection.  As I look back on 2009, I see lots of transitions.  We moved into a new house.  We (finally) sold our old house two weeks ago. 

Crossroads bought a building for worship and ministry.  We are phasing out of our use of the Longhouse, as quickly as we can.

In some ways the transitions are just beginning for Crossroads.  We will have to consider many more opportunities and possibilities with our new building.  There is so much God wants to do in this world.  For some reason he is giving us grand opportunities to be in on his work.

Look back and looking forward, I see God doing so much to bring his kingdom.  I expect to be amazed again at the end of 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make it Fun

OK, I always like to get new tools.  Now I have a label maker, a hundred file folders and a set of two in-baskets.  These are key elements in organizing, so says Getting Things Done.  Even if I am no better organized, at least my stack of stuff looks better, placed neatly into baskets.

I won't have my system fully functional yet, but using the tools seems to be fun.  That's one of David Allen's keys to success with organizing:  make it fun.  He's right.  I'm eager to get going on the project -- and use my new label maker.

That's one of the keys to life, though, isn't it?  Make it fun.  Sometimes it means having the right tools.  Sometimes it just means the right attitude.

With that tool, you can't go wrong.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fantasy flop

Tonight is the "Super Bowl" for our Fantasy Football league.  We'll have a few friends over to watch the game together, even though my team has long been out of the picture.  This was my first time with the program, and I pretty much ignored it through the season.  Too busy, yadda, yadda, yadda...

My team started off the season with a huge victory, but pretty much went down hill from there.  I finished with a 3-11 record, just grateful for any victories.  It seems like my efforts to set my lineup and follow the players did not make a whole lot of difference.  When I worked hard on it, I still lost.  My victories came in spite of my inattention.

It makes me think about the parable of the growing seed, found (only) in Mark 4:26.  Jesus tells us that the farmer plants his seed and leaves it alone.  Whether he eats or sleeps, the seed grows, regardless of the efforts of the farmer.  The kingdom of God is like that, Jesus says.  When we share the good news of the kingdom, God makes that seed grow, regardless of our efforts.or lack thereof.  In other words, Jesus is growing his kingdom, even when we can't see it and don't work for it.

I'm glad that the results of the kingdom are so much better than my Fantasy Football season.  Next year I'll work more on my team, and plant more kingdom seeds for Jesus to grow.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Getting smaller

Today at our worship time we had a guest from Jamaica.  Several of us met this young woman when we went on a mission trip to Kingston last May. Through the magic of Facebook, she had kept in touch with one member of our mission team.  When she was visiting in NC, he asked her to come visit with us.

This is a great way to stay in touch with people around the world.  Now I am friends with her on FB, and I noticed that several other Crossroads people have already friended her since this morning.

Because of this connection, we are staying in touch with the people with whom we served over the summer.  We don't have to forget our new friends.

Another benefit is that the folks at Crossroads now have a greater sense of connection with Jamaica.  We can understand the needs better and find ways to meet them.  We can pray for the continued movement of the Spirit of God in Kingston and Spanish Town.

The world is getting smaller, and I hope it is becoming a better place, as Christ followers use these connections to make a difference.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26

In many ways, this day clears our thinking.  Often we expect to get all our wishes fulfilled at Christmas.  Maybe you have had a Christmas when you got everything you wanted.  It produces a strange sensation on the next day.

It took me way too long to realize that getting stuff would not really make me happy.  Stuff promises to make us happy, but it never ultimately delivers.  We tend to believe the lie that we just need "a little bit more."  Then we'll be happy.

Then I reached the point in my adult life when I stopped caring so much about what I would receive.  I pinned my hopes for fulfillment on the gifts I was giving.  I eagerly anticipated the joy in the eyes of my children, my wife, my other family and friends.  It is very exciting to share in their experience.  But even that left me empty.

December 26 reveals the truth.  If we expect to find fulfillment with the Christmas gifts we receive OR give, we are probably going to be found empty all too soon.

Real fulfillment only comes through relationship.  That's why Jesus told us that the most important thing in all the world is to love God.  The second most important thing is to love others. 

It's really that simple.  When we see life that way, then December 26 is no disappointment.  We can soak in the joys of relationship, not just at Christmas, but every day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Ever wonder why Christmas should be "merry" and the New Year "happy"?  Either way, God gives us reason to enjoy his presence as we celebrate Jesus' birth.  Today the world of commerce grinds to a halt, and most of those blessed with a job enjoy a day off.

This year we have had a white Christmas, with snow on the ground, deep enough to outlast the inch of rain today.  All those Christmas specials that talk about snow have really hit home this year.

I feel like the most blessed person in the world, able to enjoy the fellowship of friends and family, celebrating the birth of Jesus.

In our family Christmas tradition, it was my younger daughter's turn to create a cross for our Christmas cross collection.  She had taken photos of our new home, printed them out and shaped them into a cross on which she wrote, "God is Good."  After our brunch today, we all gathered around as we opened the box containing this work of art.  It served as the most poignant moment of the day, a reminder that the Baby in the manger grew up to surrender his life so that we could have a relationship with him.

There is no greater blessing than knowing Him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Invasion

Jesus' coming to earth was God's invasion of his creation.  He came to be with us because of love.  He loved us enough to be with us, even though he was not treated well.  He gave up the comforts of heaven to live on earth because he longs for our company.

That same desire for fellowship drove him to give his life on the cross.  He died to take away our guilt and break the grip of sin in our lives.  He did this because he loves us.

Receive his gift of life and love.  It will change your life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I went with my family and some friends to see Blindside today. It was an incredible story, very well told. I cried through almost the whole thing.

Even now, as I think about the story, it brings tears to my eyes.  I think it has affected me so much because I know there are people in my sphere of life who just need a little love. It's like Linus putting his blanket around Charlie Brown's tree.

After the movie I had to run a few errands.  Walking through the shopping center, I found myself looking at strangers differently.  They all have a story.  I wonder how many of them just need to be loved.

Tonight my family got with a few other Crossroads families to help out a neighbor in need.  The man is neighbor to one of our church folks.  He has grown children, including a son-in-law dying of cancer.  He is separated from his wife and has no one at home with him.  While he was away for the evening, we put up a Christmas tree for him and left him some gifts.  All of our kids helped with the process.

We prayed for God to reveal his love to this man.  God has so much love to share.  I want his love to overflow through me to touch hearts deeply, in a way that transforms their souls.

His love keeps on transforming me.  I need a tissue...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Life in Christmas

The Advent Conspiracy has breathed life back into Christmas for me. I have long fought against the pressure to buy gifts just because you do. In fact, I have considered pushing for gift giving at Thanksgiving.  That way people can still give gifts if they want to, and Christmas can come back to worship of Jesus.

Now I resonate with the whole idea that giving at Christmas can change the world. Gifts can be meaningful in a whole new way.  Rather than giving friends the perfect gift, we can give to someone truly in need.  We can donate to Living Water or World Vision or International Justice Mission or a local ministry.

I long to see the world anticipate Christmas as the time when the followers of Jesus make the world a better place. Jesus is changing the world as he changes the hearts of his people. We don't need more stuff ourselves.  We need to share with others around the world.

So, as we did last year, Lisa and I are giving goats and chickens and clean water this Christmas.  We'll be giving in honor of family and friends, people who don't need more stuff.

And with our church Christmas offering, we will be supporting Living Water and Good Samaritan Ministries of Stokesdale.  Jesus is changing the world.  I want to be part of that movement.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Light Lite

We decorated our Christmas tree on the first Saturday in Dec. Of course I put the lights on it first. We had 4 new strands of lights, so I put those on first. As of today, three of the four strands has failed. Now, I'm not talking about a few bulbs that don't work. These strands have suddenly stopped working, one 100-strand at a time.  Not only do they stop working, they prevent the lights "down stream" from working as well.

Since these strands were put on first, we end up with a dark tree. The first failure happened before we had ornaments on the tree.  No problem.  I just pulled off the problem lights and rearranged.  But since then, we have had two more sets fail.  I just bypass the dead strands and end up with dark sections of tree.

So, what am I learning from this?  First, how to be patient.  I'm now waiting, patiently, for the final strand to give up the ghost.  Second, I'm learning that cheap lights are cheap.  They are priced low because they are low quality.  In years past we have bought cheap lights with much better success.  The new strands normally last at least one season.  I'll be looking for some good LED lights after Christmas.  Hope I can find them.  They are supposed to last longer and use less power.  Sounds like a plan.

Finally I am learning to be happy anyway.  Our beautiful tree now has growing dark patches.  That's OK.  Jesus is still the reason we decorate our home and celebrate in December.  He is the real Light.  He is the One who loved me enough to come to this earth.  He gave his life for me on the cross.

This is news worth sharing, worth building my life around.  This is good news that makes life worth living.  Jesus really loves me.  He really wants to be in relationship with me.  He likes to be with me.  Compared to that, nothing else matters. 

I thank God that he helps me get the right perspective.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

All In

As I read Getting Things Done, by David Allen, I'm learning about organizing.  Sounds like I need a real, live "in box."  My desk served that function for quite some time.  Most recently, I've been stacking things on my filing cabinet and keeping my desk clean.

But now I need an in box.  I guess I will get one, along with a label maker for my manila folders.  Oh, and he says that I should not use hanging files any more.  What?  Just use the adjustable file stopper at the back of the drawer, he says.

Somehow I expected this stuff to be either high tech, or closer to what I'm already doing.  I haven't actually taken action on these suggestions, but I'm willing to give it a reasonable try.  He does have reasons for everything.  And he says to use what you can and ignore the rest.  Even a partial application of his process is helpful.

And that does speak to me.  I'm always one to take an idea and tweak it to fit my own situation.

I may not end up as his poster boy, but hey, at least I'm reading the book.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Like a Kid

We got tons of snow last night. Actually it started snowing about lunchtime yesterday, and was still snowing some this morning.

What I loved most was sledding. In our neighborhood there is a cul-de-sac with a great hill and no houses on it.  Since there is no traffic, we could have open season on sledding.  Actually that's better than it was when I was a a kid -- we had to dodge parked cars and actual traffic back then.

This was almost perfect.  If it had been about 5 degrees cooler, then the snow would have been perfect.  Even when we went out again tonight, it was a little too warm for ideal conditions.

But hey, this was the best sledding I have seen since the 1970s.  Back then, my dad bought a big Flexible Flyer sled for me and my sister.  OK, he used it some, too.  I remember the three of us going down the hill together.

That very same sled took my kids down the hill today.  Lots of memories were made with this snow.  Such a fun way to get in the Christmas spirit.

Thank you, Jesus, for blessing us with the sinple pleasures of life!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I love snow. The forecasters are calling for 3-5 inches for us, and the National Weather service has put us in winter storm warning, starting at noon tomorrow.

Now, I have learned that the more certainly they predict snow, the more likely it is not to come. Feeling this way helps me not to be disappointed when we get rain, ice or clear skies when snow is predicted. Of course I'm never disappointed when the snow does come, whether it has been predicted or not.

I need to clean up my Flexible Flyer and get it ready to go! This snow could possibly be around until Christmas.  I would love to have something close to a white Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Clear Mind

The closing on our old house is set for Friday.  So far, everything is falling into place.  But I've had enough dealing with real estate this year to know that something always comes up at the last minute.

But it has been great to get this off our plate.  We moved into our new house in March, and have been eager to sell the old house ever since.  I have had to mow and clean gutters, and clean inside...  It has taken tons of time, not to mention the burden of the mortgage. 

Today we finally brought home all our stuff from the old house.  We even brought home the broom and dustpan.  Wow that feels good.  It feels good to get that attention- and money-sucker taken care of.  I'm so glad for that house to be a blessing to another family just as it has blessed ours.

I have noticed, though, how freeing it feels to get that whole thing off my mind.  I have more creativity, more interest in my work, more interest in my hobbies.  It is a fresh perspective on life.

I wonder what other "open loops" I need to close.  I wonder how much more mental, emotional and spiritual freedom I will gain when I tackle these things.  I know that God will show me, because he wants me to keep becoming like Jesus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I often get emails telling me about the new people following me on Twitter.  That's always cool.  Most of the time, though, I have no idea who these people are.  I don't mind them following me, even if I can't figure out why they do. 

When I posted about my upcoming trip to DC, I had someone begin following me who was like a travel agent for Washington.  OK...  I guess that some people get business that way.

While I always get notified about a new follower on Twitter, I never get emails saying, "So-and-so got tired of your mindless fluff and dropped you like a wide receiver on your Fantasy Football team."  Yes, followers come and go. 

In the meantime, I'll keep on thinking of the profound, life-changing nuggets of wisdom that will draw followers like, I don't know...Oprah?

Nah.  I'd rather just share what God's doing in my life.  After all, there's not much happening on my Fantasy team.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Favorite Christmas Music

My favorite Christmas CDs are the ones by Relient K and Third Day.  These albums are a good mix of old favorites with a new twist and some fresh, new songs that will stick around for years.

One thing that disappoints me is Christmas albums with the same old songs, just sung by a particular artist.  I like something fresh and new.  The psalmist says to sing to the Lord a new song.  Certainly that applies to songs of this season.

By the way, many of the old traditional songs are notoriously difficult to play on guitar, so it is great to have some new sounds.  But just tonight I heard Trans-Siberian Orchestra's version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and they put some screaming guitar solos on the melody.  Wish I could play like that!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lost and Found

Sometimes as I worship, I find myself lost in the wonder of God's majesty and found by his grace.  Today with our guest band, "Ember," I was able to worship wide open.  God does work in my heart and mind through worship.  He changes me.

We sang "O How He Loves Me," a song done by David Crowder Band.  I think that's the name of the song.  A couple of times through the chorus, we switched the words to, "O how I love him..."  I found that it meant more to me to think about God's love for me than my love for him.  I'm not sure what to make of that.  I suppose that was simply the point at which God was connecting with me today.

I was so grateful for the opportunity to participate in worship without playing guitar.  I love to play, but this was a much needed change of pace. 

God has also been working in others' hearts.  He is leading us to commit to him, to be bold for him, to trust him.  I see his powerful work around me more and more.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fun Neighbors, Fun Town

Last year our neighbors began a tradition of a progressive dinner at Christmastime.  Although our house was not complete last year, we were invited to the celebration, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting our soon-to-be neighbors. 

This year we have more neighbors, as more homes have been built on our street.  Tonight we just walked out our front door to enjoy the time of visiting dining with everyone.

I have to say that I truly feel blessed to have these neighbors.  They are fun to be with, have interesting stories, and most seem to have a good sense of humor.

Today's dinner came just after our Stokesdale Christmas Parade.  Tons of folks from Crossroads came to help set up our stage, plug up the sound, play music, give away coffee and snacks.  It was a huge effort, and a whole lot of fun.  The band always has a great time playing together, and it was exciting to have an outdoor audience.  We had lots more people listening this year, and I think this is the biggest crowd ever for our parade.  I would say that probably 2000-2500 people lined the streets.

The sound set up was better than ever, and our announcers could easily be heard way down the street.  They add a lot to the parade, and I think everyone likes to hear their comments. 

Since we are such a small town, everyone knows somebody in the parade.  We get to cheer for our friends as they parade by.

Our community is such a great place.  I thank God often that I live here.  And now, I'm also glad to be living in my neighborhood.  God has really blessed me and my family.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Christmas is all about anticipation.  Jesus was expected, long before he came.  Mary, of course was expecting.  The shepherds were not expecting anything, but the angels seemed to burst forth with the good news as if they couldn't wait to tell. 

And today people look forward to Christmas.  For many, this is their favorite time of year, with the decorations, music, family celebrations.  Kids look forward to Christmas gifts.  Adults look forward to the looks of pure joy from children.  A growing number of Christians around the world see Christmas as the time when believers give so generously that the world becomes a better reflection of the love of God.

I always look forward to the Stokesdale Christmas Parade.  We have such a great time as a church, scattered among the crowd of parade watchers in downtown.  We give away food, coffee, hot chocolate.  Our band offers a concert for those who come early for the parade.  This year the Stokesdale downtown market will coincide with the parade day, so there will be lots of folks to hear our music before the parade begins.

Then a couple of Crossroads folks will announce the parade entries as they make their way down main street.  It is all a fun celebration, and I look forward to it every year.  It is a time when we at Crossroads can share God's love with our community in a meaningful way.

It's all about Jesus, and we get to point people to him all day!

Parade time is 2:00, tomorrow, Dec. 12 in downtown Stokesdale.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I heard this wseek that a committee in congress has taken up the issue of NCAA football playoffs.  The BCS system doesn't seem to be working so well at determining a genuine college football champion.  So, if there's a problem, then congress has to do something about it, right?

I'm not opposed to congress considering this because there are more important things to do.  I'm opposed to congress considering this because it is none of the government's business.  As far as I know, the NCAA is a private, non-government entity.  The way they run their business is their business. 

If another group wants to organize college sports with a football playoff system, then the free market allows them to do so.  Where does the Constitution give congress anything approaching a responsibility to speak about such issues.  I imagine the Founders would consider this kind of legislation a practical joke.

Yes, we are spending our country into oblivion, but while we do so, we could at least have the satisfaction of knowing who the REAL college football champs are.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Getting Ready for Parade

We loaded up our equipment from the Longhouse tonight, taking it to our new building, in preparation for the Stokesdale Christmas Parade on Saturday.

I'm getting really psyched about the event.  We had a ton of help getting everything packed up and loaded tonight.  Tomorrow we'll set up the sound system in the new building, just to make sure we have all our cables and plugs.  It will be fun to set it all up in the new building, even if it is only for a test.

On Friday, we'll get our stage all set up, and then on Saturday, we have the big day.  The forecast calls for some December-like weather.  I just hope that any precipitation is snow, not rain.  The parade is on, no matter what the weather.

What a great time this will be to share the love of Jesus with Stokesdale, through music, conversations, food, and our team calling the parade floats as they pass by.  It is one of the highlights of my year!  Lord, let us lift you high, that you may draw all men to yourself!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Boiling it Down

"Simple, clear purposes and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior." --Dee Hock as quoted by David Allen in GTD.

I always like to simplify things as much as possible. 

Here's why I like simplicity:
1.  Simplicity makes everything more clear.
2.  Simplicity makes everything easier to communicate.
3.  Simplicity unleashes creativity.

When we don't get bogged down in layers of bureaucratic processes, we can be much more effective at anything we do -- from planning a family vacation to sharing God's love with the world.

The good news is really simple:  God loves us so much that he works to redeem us from our destructive ways through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fueling Dependency

A local guy has been creating bio-diesel fuel from canola oil.  He has been invited to the White House to talk about bio-diesel, and he's been invited for a second visit.  That's cool stuff.  The local economy could also benefit from a new agricultural product.

But something about this news really bothers me.  This local businessman is lobbying the federal government for laws to "level the playing field" in the fuel industry.  That way bio-diesel will have a better chance.  In short, he is calling for taxes on petroleum products and subsidies for bio-diesel fuels.

I understand the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  I'm all for that.  But I'm also for the free market.  If bio-diesel is so great, then it will be able to compete on its own merits.  Getting the government involved is a huge mistake.  Only in recent years has the government stepped out of tobacco farm subsidies.  Do we really want to create another federal program to administer more agricultural welfare?

What really bothers me is the notion that we have to rely on the government to advance any idea, product or industry..  If only Washington will help us out, then we can get something done.  Whether it's medical research, growing tobacco, getting smokers to quit or stopping AIDS, many people believe that Washington has to do something.  That's the worst kind of dependency.

But in a free market, good ideas flourish on their own merits.  The interference of government only conmlpicates and impedes the process.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I learned some tricks about brainstorming in Getting Things Done.  I actually used the idea of "mind-mapping" to think through a project.  This process helped me come up with some ideas I had never considered.  That part has worked for me.

The author of GTD also describes the "natural planning process," which moves the planner through five steps: 
1. Defining purpose and principles
2. Outcome visioning
3. Brainstorming (as I mentioned above)
4. Organizing
5. Identifying next actions

These steps naturally occur, he says, as you plan out anything -- from an evening at the movies to a building project.  When we bypass this process, we just get bogged down.  Sounds plausible to me.

I still haven't put the whole picture together, but I'm still reading.  So far, it seems like stuff that I can really implement.

My family got our Christmas tree put up today, and I guess we went through the natural planning process, even if I didn't notice it.  I had a great time remembering the ornaments and old times.  I tried to worship some in the process, too.  Go Jesus!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Best Christmas Pageant

I just saw the play, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," produced by the Rockingham County Theater Guild.  They did a great job with the production, and it is great story anyway.

In the play, a church's Christmas pageant looks like a looming disaster because a family of six unruly kids shows up to be part of the play.  These kids end up learning the Christmas story for the first time, and really take it to heart -- in their own way.

I know the story, but it still made me cry.  Jesus always shows up in unexpected ways, especially when we think we have things all figured out.  I'm glad to see him at work.  I think he loves to push people like me out of our comfort zones, so we can see who he really is.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Attitude

As I am reading Getting Things Done, I am finding a sense of hope that I can really manage the various responsibilities swirling around in my life and mind.  There is nothing like a clear desk and an empty in-box to free up one's mind.

Now my desk is not completely clear, nor my in-box completely empty.  But they are both improving, and that is what gives me hope.  I have to confess that I have not read much more in the book, but my renewed attitude makes me ready to wrestle the alligators that keep me from focusing.

Maybe it's just the Christmas season.  Maybe it is anticipating our church's new building or our presence at the Stokesdale Christmas Parade.  I just want to seize the moment and do something that will grow the kingdom of God.  That's where the real excitement is!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not So Hot

The debate over global warming or "climate change," is getting interesting now. Most people have now gotten on board with reducing carbon footprints and saving the planet.  But those adjustments might be a waste of time and effort. 

Now we have learned that scientists have disposed of records of world temperatures, the raw data used to create the current theory of global warming.  These records were the readings gathered around the world, recorded on paper or magnetic tape.  The scientists took these reading and adjusted them to account for variables in the way they were collected.  The adjusted data were kept, but the raw data were disposed of when the science lab was moved to another building. 

This matters because other scientists cannot double-check the findings of the first scientists.  That leaves us in a place of having to take their word for it.  And that is extremely unscientific. 

The scientific method requires that results from experiments be reproducible.  In this case, someone else must be able to analyze the data and come to the same conclusions.  Now that can't happen.  The foundational evidence for the hypothesis has be discarded, and the basis for the theory of global warming is gone.

To make matters worse, some in the scientific community have the appearance of black-balling scientists who give credence to evidence not supporting the global warming theories.  Again, not good science.  Science should not be about who/what you agree with, but about the data's relationship to a given hypothesis -- whether for or against it.

Good science is about discovering truth, not scouting about for evidence to support one's theory.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting Things Done

I recently began a book called Getting Things Done, by David Allen.  It was highly recommended to me by a couple of friends, who, apparently, are getting things done.  When I began the book, I was intrigued by Allen's suggestion that one can be organized and peaceful at the same time.  I have often regarded the two as mutually exclusive.

I'm blogging about this as I begin the book, because I want to see if it makes any difference in my life.  I have read time management books in the past, but none of those systems really was workable for me.

Although this is a busy time of year, I expect to have some time read, because our home schooling responsibilities ease up in December.  Plus, it would be great to start the new year with a system of getting things done more effectively.

I'll let you know how it goes!