Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

Here are a few random thoughts about Christmas. 

The most profound event of history is God's intervention in the world of humanity.  The Creator came to live among his creatures.  He still intervenes today with his Spirit, and it is still most profound.

Christmas is the season of peace and joy, but the traditions of the season seem to squeeze out the peace and joy.  Even if we had time to relax and celebrate, we might try to fill it up with busyness. 

If Jesus were to celebrate Christmas, I wonder what he would do.  I imagine that he would do something nontraditional, counter cultural.  He might not even decorate his house.  To be sure, his celebration would be selfless, showing God's love.

We need regular events to get us out of the routine.  Sometimes we hear God speak the best when we are a little off-balance in life.  Christmas celebrations help break up the mundane rituals of daily life, so that we can have time to reflect. 

I want to hear God speak, and see God work this Christmas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What if...?

This is one of the most powerful questions, when asked about the right things.  It is also one of the most annoying questions when wielded by curious preschoolers, but that's another story.

When we ask far-out questions, we really begin to use our imaginations.  What if you just got a million dollars?  Easily we can dismiss that question, knowing that it will never happen.  Or will it?  Even if it doesn't happen, we can be stretched by considering the possibility.

Everybody's favorite "what ifs" are different.  What if she says yes?  What if I get the promotion?  What if I had the perfect day?  What if terrorists came to Christ?  What if Jesus gave me the opportunity of a lifetime...what would it look like?  What if I actually enjoyed school?  What if I tried to make my marriage work?  What if I could kick this habit?

God can take our imaginations and lead us to greater service for him.

What if you took a moment and wondered, what if?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Parade Time!

One of my favorite events every year is the Stokesdale Christmas Parade, and it is coming up this Saturday!  Our church is mobilizing to serve the community again.  We will serve snacks and hot beverages, provide a free concert in front of the Fire Station, and announce the parade floats as they come by downtown.  This is one way we can give to the community at Christmas.

Our Christmas Parade Concert, 2007

Every year our folks step up to make this event happen.  We have people providing snacks, workers to serve food and drink, sound techs and musicians to share music with the town.  Because we don't have materials for a stage this year, we are arranging to borrow a flatbed trailer for that purpose. 

We have so much to praise God for, especially this year, and I'm glad we can proclaim his goodness in the public square!

Our concert will begin around noon, and the parade starts at 2 p.m., this Saturday, December 11.  It's going to be a beautiful day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

El Señor

I love being corrected by my kids.  (Not really.)  In my sermon this morning, I noted that in Spanish, "El Señor" can refer to God.  In the same way, in the days of Jesus, the word for "Lord" can also mean "sir."

My daughter corrected me.  El Señor does not mean "God," she informed me.  It means "Lord."  OK, I stand corrected.  But that works even better with my illustration.

Can I be wrong and be even more right than I thought I was?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Real Giving

I love Thanksgiving.  And it's not because of all the great food.  I plenty of great food all through the year.  I like Thanksgiving because it is not polluted by all the busyness of other holidays.  OK, by "other holidays" I mean Christmas. 

Today I got a Thanksgiving card.  I like the idea of sending Thanksgiving cards.  In fact, I think that our culture should move the gift-giving tradition to Thanksgiving, too.  That way we could really focus on Jesus at Christmas, and on our blessings at Thanksgiving.  Giving stuff seems more appropriate at Thanksgiving.  "Giving" is even part of the holiday's name!

Well, I haven't done any Thanksgiving shopping, so I guess I won't be making that transition this year.  But I do want to do my Christmas giving with the kingdom of God in mind.  I am asking Jesus to guide me as I give.  It's really all about him.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Third Grade

A Facebook friend recently posted a photo of our third grade class at Joyner Elementary School in Greensboro.  This post generated a long list of comments from classmates and others at Joyner, 1970-1971.  Suddenly we are all eager for a reunion!  (That's me on the far right wearing the Cub Scout uniform.)

I have always looked back at third grade with a profound fondness.  When this picture showed up on fb, I realized a few things.  First, I never realized that so many of my memories from elementary school were all connected with the same class.  Second, I discovered that lots of my classmates feel the same way I do.  Finally, I am surprised at the wealth of positive emotions I find associated with that chapter of my life -- it is a stark contrast with the feelings of insecurity associated with my high school years.

The person who set the culture for our class was our teacher, Mrs. Pearl Durham.  From an adult's perspective, I can really appreciate all her innovative, creative teaching methods.  She gave us one of the greatest gifts:  freedom.  Anyone could go to the restroom without asking permission:  she had two textile spools, about 8 inches long, one for the boys and one for the girls, placed in the chalkboard tray.  When a boy needed to use the restroom, he would take the boys' spool with him down the hall, and return it to the tray when he came back.  No tugging on Mrs. Durham's skirt -- we handled the responsibility ourselves, waiting for the spool to return, if necessary.  Man, she was smart.

I remember a lot of free time in class when we could work independently on assignments.  There was a card file box with several sections in which we could find ideas for creative writing; I loved going to the box to find just the right idea for a fun story. 

More than once she had ice cream brought to the class, in those little tubs with wooden spoons.  Clearly that's the way to a third grader's heart.

She arranged for our class to go to a recording session at a radio station, and later we heard our class on air! 

We took a train ride from Greensboro to High Point, where we ate breakfast at (what seemed to be) a fancy restaurant.  A caravan of moms met us there and brought us home.

We put on a play based on the first book in the "The Little House on the Prairie" series.  I only had one line, but I still remember it.

All this was packed into one year of school.  Wow!  I thank God for Mrs. Durham.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dirty Tricks

There are some dirty tricks out there.  The commercials tell us that there are only "easy" payments.  Ever heard about the "gut-wrenching" payments?  Ever made one?  Or a hundred of them?  The idea that it's better to have it now and pay for it later is, I believe, a dirty trick.

Then there are the ridiculous email phishing schemes:  "I'm a poor widow in [some foreign country], and I'll give you $10,000 if you'll just give me your bank account number."  It's a dirty trick.

Then there is the ubiquitous lie that stuff will make you happy.  It's a dirty trick.

We do have an enemy who is seeking to deceive us all the time.  He will put thoughts into our heads.  "That person doesn't like you."  "All you need is a little bit more."  "You are not ever going to succeed."  "God is holding out on you." 

And then there's my favorite:  "It's too late.  You can't make up for lost time.  You may as well give up."  I say it's my favorite, not because I like it, but because I constantly fall for it.  But I'm getting better at recognizing the enemy's tactics.  I can see how he's trying to deceive me.

What about you?  Do you see his dirty tricks?

He is seeking to wreck your life.  Or at least neutralize you.  He wants to wreck your relationships.  He wants to destroy your courage.  He wants nothing good for you. 

We need to be aware that our enemy is always on the prowl.  Don't fall for his dirty tricks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Prayers I never prayed

I know that every kid has frustrating habits.  Mine do.  Today I just jumped on my daughter for such a transgression.  (Yes, I have such habits as well, but that's another subject.)

Then it occurred to me:  I should pray about that.  I should ask God to work in her life.  Why has that not occurred to me before?  I must be stupid.  No, faithless is more like it.

Now I'm wondering what else I have never prayed for.  Jesus said that we should ask.  I'm just not asking enough.  He wants to make a difference in my life, and in the lives of those I love.

I can pray for the car to work right, for my grass to grow (it needs help), for my habits to become more like Christ's, for all those annoying habits in others, for my finances, for my vacation, for ... well the list is truly endless. 

It is shocking to me how much of my life seems to be outside the realm of prayer.  How many prayers have I never prayed?

Lord, please show me what to pray for.  Forgive me for not believing that all of life belongs to you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ask, Seek, Knock

Reading in Matthew 7 today I came across the familar passage in which Jesus says, "Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door shall be opened to you..." 

I wonder if these three commands indicate a progression.  First we ask God for something.  We just ask.  Then we seek it out.  We get going, looking, pursuing.  And when we find it, we knock, expecting it to open.  We begin passively and get more aggressive at each step. 

Of the three commands, only one can be fulfilled through our own effort.  We can seek and find on our own. The first and last commands require someone else to act.  We can ask, but someone must respond if we are to receive.  We can knock, but someone else must open the door.

The process begins with God's gracious answer and ends with God providing opportunity. 

I need to start asking.  I need to seek what he wants me to find.  I need to knock at the right doors.  God eagerly desires to pour out his blessings.  I need to ask, seek and knock.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thanks to God

I had a big surprise on Sunday.  We were celebrating our Tenth Anniversary as a church, appropriately at 10:00 on 10-10-10.  We saw slides of our journey together and all ten of our meeting places.

Ten people shared their stories about God working their lives through Crossroads.  Tears were shed, lives were touched.

Then I was surprised when the church presented me with a gift, a card and a check.  Whoa!  I did not see that coming.  The card was signed by nearly everyone in the church.  I really like the gift -- a Bible bound in beautiful fine leather.  My old NIV was falling apart at the binding.  It would have lasted another 3 months before falling apart.  The new one is well bound and should last for decades. 

More than the gift, I am touched by the thought, the love, the joy.

I am humbled to serve such a loving God who would allow me to serve such gracious people.  They are more than gracious.  They are fun, kind, and excited about Jesus.  "I thank my God every time I remember you..." 

To God I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Only Thing that Matters

What if nothing mattered but God?  That's the attitude of the Servant in Isaiah 49:4, a prophetic passage about the coming Messiah.  He says:

I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.  Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God.

I want some rewards now.  If I work hard at any task, I want to see some payoff.  When I do yard work, I want to see green grass.  When I plan an event, I want it to run smoothly.  When I pour my heart out in a sermon, I want to see God working.

The Servant was willing to pour out his life and completely trust God to take care of his reward.  It didn't matter if he saw results here and now. 

That is a life lived with abandon to God.  It is a life of freedom, and even joy.  It's joy that comes from beyond this world.  That's the kind of life I want.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lots to Celebrate

The old Church of the Living God building in Stokesdale
In April of 2000, Crossroads began regular weekly worship celebrations.  We met in this building, the old building of the Church of the Living God.  Because they worship on Saturdays, they allowed us to use this building on Sundays.  It was quite a blessing for us to have a place to gather.

Our journey has taken us to ten different Sunday morning meeting places!  There were many times that I wondered how God would work things out.

Now we are celebrating ten years of ministry in the Stokesdale community.  God has done a lot through this energetic group of believers.  We have hosted community worship services, had floats in the Christmas Parade, provided live music for Stokesdale Community Days, helped in the Good Samaritan Food Pantry, served at Stokesdale Business Association Business Fairs, hosted Fifth Sunday Sings, provided parade announcers for parades in Stokesdale and Summerfield, given away pool noodles at two marinas on Belews Lake, baptized in lakes and church sanctuaries, sent youth on out-of-state mission trips, sent adults on mission trips domestically and internationally, and, well the list goes on...

Connection Point, November 2009, beginning the up fit

On Easter Sunday this year we moved to a new place called Connection Point.  Because the church owns the building, we have many new opportunities to serve.  We want it to be a place where people connect -- with God, one another and the community.

We are celebrating what God has done, and looking forward to what God will do in the next ten years!

 So, on Sunday morning, October 10, 2010 at 10:00, we are celebrating 10 years of God at work.  It's gonna be a blast!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What we can do

We have to work together.  A young man at our worship celebration yesterday told a story about teamwork.  As an Army recruit, he has begun his training.  And he has always tried to do his best.  He wants to outwork all the other recruits -- be the fastest, strongest.

His drill instructor shared a key insight with him.  "On the battlefield, it doesn't matter what you can do.  It matters what y'all can do."  After hearing this he was ready to help his fellow soldiers through the obstacle course.  That helped the team.

What a great lesson for all of life.  We are doing nearly everything with others.  When we work together, the job is better all the way around.

We also need to be on the lookout for the enemy who would divide us.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What about Ground Zero?

There has been no shortage of opinions about the effort to build a mosque near the site where the Twin Towers once stood.

I see a couple of issues here.  First, there are legal issues.  Apparently the interested parties have every legal right to build the mosque.  With freedom of religion in our country, everyone has equal protection under the law, and there is no legal reason to deny the construction.

The other issue I see is one of philosophy.  Members of this religion have repeatedly stated that they want to destroy our country.  I do not know of any other religion which has made a similar declaration.  The Communists after WWII and the Fascists during WWII clearly wanted to destroy the United States, but they were more easily recognized as national movements.  They were identified as governments, not a religious group. 

Here we have religious extremists who want to destroy us, and  have repeatedly acted out violence against us.  It seems that they may be preying upon our niceness.  We are too nice and tolerant to stop them as they infiltrate our society with the intention of destroying us from without and within.

As  planes were enroute to destroy the twin towers, terrorists told the passengers to keep their seats, and no one would be hurt.  They preyed upon our trust, naivete and goodness.  Those cooperative passengers perished, along with nearly 3,000 others. 

The philosophy in which lying and treachery are justified as means of advancing a religious war is dangerous.  Clearly those who carried out the 9/11 attacks in 2001 were willing to do and say anything to achieve their goal.  Those bombings were part of the holy war against the United States.

Ideally, the mosque would voluntarily be build in another location.  But I find that unlikely. 

We are left with two questions: 
Are all (or many) Muslims really out to kill those of different faiths? 
How much freedom will we grant to those who seek to kill us?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dixie's Origin

I have wondered where the term "Dixie" came from, and how it came to refer to the American South.  I came across the answer today, doing some background study for an economics seminar with Classical Conversations.

A recent issue of Kids Discover magazine was dedicated to the history of money, from ancient times to today.  In the early decades of American history, there was no real standard currency.  During the 1830s a bank in New Orleans printed some $10 notes, on which they used the French word for ten, dix.  People began calling these bank notes "dixes" or "dixies."  Over time, the term Dixie referred to Louisiana, and eventually the whole south.  [Kids Discover, Vol. 20, Issue 4, April 2010]

Now that's an interesting bit of Southern trivia.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

We all have a history

The more I study history, the more clear it becomes that people are not perfect.  More specifically, we are all descendants of opportunistic people.

The Western influence on Hawaii, for example, may seem paternalistic or motivated by greed.  In 1778, Captain James Cook discovered the island as he looked for the Northwest Passage.  With Hawaii on the map of Westerners, the islands became targets for merchants and missionaries.  What would have happened if the "real" culture of Hawaii had not been disturbed?  Well, according to some historical theories, the islands of Hawaii were first discovered and inhabited by people from the islands of Marquesas.  Centuries (?) later, the people of Tahiti also discovered Hawaii, and brought with them new elements of culture.

So, when you think of the "real" culture of Hawaii, is it that of the Marquesas or the Tahitians?  And doesn't real Hawaiian culture include the famous luau tradition?  I was surprised to learn that the luau tradition was actually brought to Hawaii by Westerners.  So what is the pure culture?

(We also need to ask if original, native cultures are worth preserving.  In some lands, the native culture includes cannibalism.  Should that be preserved? But that is another discussion.)

We naturally want things to be right and fair.  But human history is full of conquest.  I expect that nearly every land in the world has been conquered at one time or another.  It did not take long in history for there to be no pure cultures.

As lands were conquered, wrongs were done.  Everyone today is descended from a combination of victors and victims.  The wrongs of history cannot be undone.  Perhaps, for recent history, some compensation can be made for victims.

But in the grander scheme of life, we can only do what is right in the here and now.  I follow the laws of real estate for the current government of my land, not the laws of the Native Americans who once lived here.  I can't undo the past, but I can live honorably in the context of my life.  It's the best I can do.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Celebrating Baptism

Yesterday at Belews Lake we celebrated new life as two people were baptized.  It was a great time of excitement about the redemption of Jesus and the encouragement of fellow believers.  As the crowd gathered in the light rain, we all felt a spirit of excitement.  It was inspiring to see so many come together to share the moment.

Baptism reminds us of several things.  First it remindes us that Jesus died for us and was buried in a tomb.  On the third day he rose from the dead, winning the victory over death.  Second, it reminds us that anyone who comes to trust Christ has put to death the old, sinful nature, and has received new life in Jesus.  Third, baptism reminds us that we have friends and encouragers who will walk with us through the good times and the bad times of life.

Finally, baptism reminds us that belonging to Jesus is a reason to celebrate!  He frees us from our guilt, gives us spiritual eyes to understand the truth, and showers us with his love.  In Jesus we are truly free and truly alive!

Heaven rejoices with us when someone says through baptism, "I belong to Jesus!"

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Life to the Max

I'm reading a book called A Thomas Jefferson Education.  It has lots of good ideas about learning and teaching.  The most important insight is that students have to take responsibility for their own learning.  Teachers can't make students learn.  Unless the student wants to learn, he will never do more than the bare minimum. 

Jesus also wants us to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth.  Loving God means knowing him, growing in our relationship with him.  We can read the Bible and pray with a sense of obligation, but unless we bring a hunger for God, we will never really become intimate with him.

If we miss out on intimacy with God, then we have missed out on the best part of life.  So, I want to be a student, a disciple, of Jesus.  I want life to the max.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Worth the Effort

There is always more to learn.  I love it when I read a passage and find a new insight, something so obvious that I wonder how I ever missed it before.

Reading Job 28 we find the words of Job himself, a man crushed emotionally and devastated physically, describing the material treasures of the earth and comparing them with the value of wisdom.

He describes the process of mining for silver and gold, digging and tunnelling through the rock to find treasure.  Not much has changed in the 4000 (?) years since these words were written.  We still want the treasures of the earth, and we still dig holes to get to them.

All this effort effort goes into finding treasure, Job says, but we don't work nearly as hard to get the stuff of real value.  "Man does not comprehend [wisdom's] worth," he says in v. 13.

Am I working hard enough to gain wisdom?  I need to use the right tools:  humility, listening, asking, reading, thinking and praying.

I need to do the right kind of mining.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Americans have always been suspicious of those who want control.  Pilgrims came across the Atlantic to get away from those who would control their religious beliefs.  The colonists rejected the control of the British government, which sometimes set policy from across the ocean.

The old West was populated by people who wanted freedom and elbow room.  They rejected the control of those in the East.

But the study of history is a study of which people were governing or controling others.  Sometimes those controling forces were miltary, sometimes religious, sometimes both.  Sometimes those forces were benevolent, but often they were not.

God seeks to control us, but not by force, and not by religion.  He wants to change who we are on the inside, so that we freely choose to do what is right.  That is life and freedom.  And it brings us joy!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

American Openness

In the U.S. we value truth.  Truth figures prominently in our Declaration of Independence.  In the first amendment of our Constitution, we provide for the freedom of the press.  While many government actions have been kept quiet, we value the "right to know." 

Our spirit of openness seeks to shine light on even the dark episodes of our own history.  We don't ignore our history of slavery, but but recognize it as an institution of gross immorality.  We can evaluate our leaders of the past, without having to whitewash their images for propaganda purposes.  We can request the publication of documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

And we demand that government business be conducted in the open.  Except for matters of national security, we don't like secrets.  The secrecy of this year's health care debate among our legislators struck a nerve with Americans. 

We value openness.  We want to know how our government is working.  After all, we are governing ourselves.  We are the government.  We do need for our citizens to be informed.  That requires freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  We can ask anything.  I'm naturally curious, so I like asking questions.

Monday, July 5, 2010

American Cooperation

Another thing I like about our country is the spirit of cooperation.  When our mission team went to Jamaica last year, one of the nationals saw us working together, building concrete columns.  He noted that we could cooperate, each man doing a different job for the project.  He did not often find that spirit of cooperation among his own people.

I'm learning that other cultures are not accustomed to such teamwork.  As Americans, we just take it for granted.  We have corporate teams, sports teams, even teams of emergency workers -- each person does his or her job to complete the task.

Our culture of freedom allows us to be creative and inventive -- think about the light bulb, phonograph, airplane, assembly line, etc..  Then our culture of cooperation helps us bring the dreams to reality.

Friday, July 2, 2010

These truths are self-evident

I've been more and more interested in what makes this a great country.  As we celebrate our independence, I want to brag on our country.

It all begins with the truths that we hold to be self-evident:  that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In 1776 we said to the world, "We can all agree on this..."  Certain rights come from God, not government. 

Our country was founded on freedom as a gift from God, not a privilege to be granted by government.  By appealing to God and setting people free, our founders unleashed the power of the human spirit to create the greatest, most prosperous society in history.

It is a Republic, Benjamin Franklin said, if we can keep it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The King and I

Watching the TGRC's production of The King and I was a fun experience.  I shed tears watching my daughter play the part of Eliza, the lead role in the play within the play. 

I also found myself shedding tears for the king.  He has invited an English school teacher to come to Siam and teach his 67 children.  Set in the early 1860s, the story shares the difficulties of Eastern culture meeting Western culture. 

The king longs to bring his country into the modern era, and he sees the value of the "scientific" ways of the West.  But the culture shock is more than he expects.  Anna, the teacher, respectfully presses him without hesitation about traditions and culture she finds offensive.

She particularly hammers him about his promise to provide a house for her and her young son.  The king claims not to remember such a promise, and as king, he says that only his memory matters. 

The East/West tensions mount over issues such as slavery, women's roles, polygamy, and justice.  His view of a strong king includes ruling his people with fear.  The breaking moment for him comes when he is ready to whip a runaway slave girl.  The king wants to show that he is a strong king by whipping this teenage girl, held down by two grown men.  The irony is more than he can bear, and he becomes a broken man.

Prevailing wisdom teaches that all cultures are equally valid and good.  But is that true?  Is a culture with slavery just as good as one that emphasizes freedom?  Is ruling with fear as good as ruling with law?  When promises mean nothing, is society better?

And finally, why was the Eastern king seeking a teacher from the West, instead of vice versa?

Western culture has its flaws, to be certain, and I think we can learn a lot from Eastern cultures.  But every culture benefits when it recognizes truth and adjusts to truth.  The real rub is not the clash of cultures, but the battle between truth and man-made traditions.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Last Sunday we had the privilege of celebrating new life in Christ through baptism.  It is always a joy to know that Jesus has transformed a life.  His work of transformation lasts a lifetime, but the moment a believer acknowledges Jesus publicly through immersion is  a sacred moment.  It is a time to reflect on God's goodness in loving someone into relationship with himself.

Now, the weather also made last Sunday's baptism memorable.  As we began gathering at the lake, just before 2:00, the clouds also gathered.  Soon there were rumbles of thunder.  When we began our baptims, there was a look of urgency on the faces of the crowd.  I couldn't see it, but streaks of lightning were clearly visible behind me.  I did hear the thunder.  It kept getting louder.

Fortunately Jesus held off on the rain, and there were no close calls with lightning strikes.  I'm glad that none of us got an early trip to heaven.

We had planned to have a fun time swimming after the baptisms, but by 2:30 the rain was coming in torrents, and everyone was safely away from the beach. 

Next time we baptize, I hope we all get to swim.  But better than that is hearing the stories of Jesus giving life, joy and hope.  That never gets old.  I love displays of God's power.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Worship, Nurture, Work

The Radical Life Process, as I call it, describes the way that God develops us, from the inside out.  I see the process working in three concentric spheres.  At the core, we Center on God.  In the middle layer, we Connect in Relationship.  On the outer layer, we Change the World.  I see this process throughout the scripture, as the way God matures us and makes us like Jesus.  I plan to write a book someday.  (Don't laugh.)

As I keep developing this model, God continues to give me new insights. 

At the Center layer, our focus is on Worship.  We get to know God, and we get to know ourselves in relationship to him.  That's what worship is.

At the Connection layer, our focus is on Nurture.  We develop integrity as we nurture our souls.  We deepen community as we nurture our relationships with others.

At the Change the World layer, our focus is on Work.  We engage life as we pursue our life's work.  That work may be a job or career, but that work may be something else we feel passionate about.  We pursue the thing that God has created us to do.  Then we live radically, as all the layers of our lives line up.  We live in the power of the Spirit of God to accomplish that work he has for us.  We give him glory, he gives us complete joy.

That's real living.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Almost Getting Things Done

Last fall sometime I got the book Getting Things Done, by David Allen.  I pledged to cyber-space that I would let you know how it's working for me.  I haven't forgotten about it, and I've been working on it.  This week I got an old-fashioned paper calendar/planner. 

So far the GTD system has helped me a lot.  I'm not quite working the system properly, though.  I'm trying to figure out the difference between my projects lists, my projects folders, and my Next Actions list.  I know there is a solution, and I'm re-reading those sections of the book.

Sometimes I'm not the best at grasping the obvious.  In any event, my organization is worlds better than it used to be.  There's some good tweaking to be done.  I'll put that on my Next Actions list.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The way into fellowship

How do you become part of a community?  It takes time and it takes some things in common.  Living in a town or a neighborhood can make you part of a community. 

For Christian fellowships, being part of the community involves believing, belonging and behaving.  These three elements don't all come at the same time.  Some fellowships require that you first believe as they do about cultural, moral and spiritual matters.  Secondly, you must behave as they do, following the rules, both written and unwritten.  Finally, if you can pass these tests, you are accepted and you belong.

The problem with this order of business is that the cost of belonging is so great that few people can rise to the challenge.  Such fellowships of believers remain small, and can become clique-ish.

A better way to grow a community is to change the order of the steps.  People can be allowed first to belong, warts and all.  In a loving environment, the Holy Spirit can work in their hearts and lead them to believe.  Once they belong and believe, they have the will to behave.

The Holy Spirit, living in the new believer, helps him or her want to change behavior, to become more like Christ.  The others in the fellowship can provide the love, support and accountability that makes the transformation possible.

Maybe loving our neighbors where they are is a good place to start.  We bring people into fellowship through belonging, believing and behaving.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How could they?

I am amazed at the ancients.  I was inspired to pick up Augustine's Confessions today, and I marvel at the detail of his account and the depth of his insights.  Before he came to Christ, he struggled with discovering truth.  He tested the ideas of the prevalent gnostic religion of the day, and his search for truth led him to Jesus.

After these years of searching and discovery, Augustine wrote multiple books, commentaries and essays.  He drank deeply of the classical works of Greek philosophy and passed the truths of these non-Christian writers along to Christian thinkers.

What amazes me his how prolific men like Augustine were.  They read and studied vast works of the thinkers before them.  And they did it without the incandescent light bulb, and without reading glasses.  I imagine that large-print scrolls were hard to come by, too.

Then, they wrote so thoughtfully.  I would feel quite accomplished if I could just read all the works of Augustine.  But he read all the works of all the ancient philosophers, grappled with the ideas, came to his own conclusions and THEN wrote voluminously about them. 

Today we have word processors.  (Wish I had a computer back in my college days.)  We have spell checkers in our computers and thesauruses on line.  We have lights and glasses to help us see.  The information available to us in an instant is staggering.

And, yes, there are a lot of people who write a lot of stuff today. But rarely do we find someone as thoughtful and profound as Augustine.  It's not hard to see how someone could write volume after volume today--it's easy.  So how did they do it hundreds of years ago?  I'm amazed.

Now for my confession.  I began reading Confessions probably 15 years ago.  I'm maybe a third of the way through the book.  But today, for the first time, I think I get it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kids just aren't safe anymore

The latest menace is Silly Bandz.  Those shaped rubber bands -- the ones that look like animals or rockets or waves -- could be dangerous to your children.  Sound the alarm. 

As it turns out, these rubber bands could actually constrict the flow of blood to the hands.  It's the tourniquet effect.  Some kids like to wear hundreds of these bands, all up and down their arms.  Having lots of Silly Bandz indicates high status on the playground.  

Maybe the government will require the manufacturer to have a warning label.  Maybe they will tell you how many you can safely wear on your arm.  Maybe they will put these behind the counter at Wal-Mart, so only responsible adults can purchase them.  There could be public service announcements. 

"Parents, do you really know how many Silly Bandz your child has on his arm?  Oh it looks like fun, but wearing these bands could result in gangrene.  Is it really worth it?"

Or parents could instruct their children not to cut off their blood flow.  Is it too much to expect parents to teach common sense to their kids?

Of course, you can cut off your circulation with ordinary rubber bands, too.  When I did that as a kid, my mom told me not to.  "It can cut off your circulation," she told me.  Wow, apparently she's smarter than a lot of parents today.  And I still remember the lesson.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Paper or electrons

I'm considering getting an old-fashioned paper calendar again.  For years I carried a pocket Day-Timer everywhere I went.  Then, in 2003 I got a Palm Pilot PDA.  I could justify spending the money because I would no longer have to buy those expensive Day-Timers every year.

Well, the PDA was not everything I had hoped for.  It did a fair job keeping me organized, but I never enjoyed entering "graffiti" with a stylus.  When I got my first laptop in 2006, I could carry my computer with my Outlook calendar.  Who needs a PDA?  I used Outlook's calendar fairly well for a few years.  This year I had to get a new laptop, and I planned to purchase the Microsoft Office suite, including Outlook.  The clerk told me that MS is moving away from Outlook.  They have something newer and better.  Fine.  I got Office without Outlook, and went looking for a new calendar system.

For now I'm using Google Calendar.  It's OK for an electronic calendar.

But here is my problem with electronic calendars:  There is no real permanent record.  I suppose I could dredge up my Palm PDA software and try to find the files on my old desktop.  But I think that all those files have now been deleted.  I can turn on my old laptop and pull up my Outlook data from the archives.

Eventually I'll donate these old computers to Good Will or something.  Before I do, I'll reformat the hard drives and get rid of all that information.  I suppose I could copy the files onto some storage device, and hope that I could pull out the info later if needed.  Nah.  It's too much trouble.

But with my old paper calendars, I've got all that history right at my fingertips.  I know right where they are (more or less).  When I pull them out, there are no compatibility issues, no archives to dig through.

Popular formats of electronic calendars will probably change every few months from now on.  Whatever I choose will be obsolete in a matter of mere months.  But paper is always there.  Yeah, I could print out my electronic calendar every month, but that's too much trouble.  I'm not even sure how to do it.

So, why do I want a permanent record anyway?  Hey, I've looked back through those old Day Timers many times.  I nearly always find exactly what I'm looking for.  But rarely have I looked through my Outlook or Palm files.  I'm not sure that old info is even there.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting Connected at Connection Point

We had our first fellowship meal at Connection Point yesterday!  Of course we ate pizza and sat on boxes on the last Sunday in March, but this was our first real meal.  Our hospitality team did a great job planning, coordinating and serving the meal. 

We also had  special prayer time in our worship celebration, asking God to provide for our financial needs.  We are "this close" to having all our work paid for, but the home stretch of paying our last subcontractor bills has been a real challenge.  It is really hard for a church hit hard by unemployment to go to the well again.

In the spirit of Hezekiah's prayer in 2 Kings 19, we took the bills and laid them out before the Lord in worship.  We asked him to provide, not knowing how he would choose to do so.  As it turned out, we received enough special offerings to pay the most urgent bills.  We also received a challenge from an anonymous donor.  The donor promises to match all our gifts received next Sunday!  I never saw that coming.  But then, that's how God works -- with surprises.  He also always provides for the the things he calls for. 

We are getting connected at Connection Point, but we are not there yet.  While we were enjoying fellowship after worship, my daughter (who had left earlier) was trying to reach me and Lisa on the cell phone.  Unfortunately, still no cell signal in the building.  We are working on that!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why are you alone?

Sometimes we face situations by ourselves.  When David was fleeing from Saul in 1Sam. 21, he runs to the priest at Nob.  The priest asks, "Why are you alone?  Why is no one with you?"  The priest knew David, and knew that he never traveled alone.  The priest was obviously -- and rightfully -- concerned about David's situation.

We may need to ask that question more these days.  Might need to ask ourselves the question.  Why am I facing this situation all alone?  Am I shutting people out?  Am I avoiding meaningful conversations?  Or is this situation just one of things you have to do alone?  I think that only a very few situations are really that isolating.  We just choose to go it alone.  And it only makes it worse.

David's response to the question is interesting.  Like any normal person, he lies.  "Oh...uh...I'm on a secret mission for the king.  Yeah, that's it."  Sure you are.  I get the feeling that the priest doesn't buy it, but he agrees to help David anyway.  He gives him bread and a sword.

Does anyone ever ask you why you are living life alone?  Do you respond truthfully to that?  If you are a loner, you may be cutting yourself off from the best things in life.  After all, the best things in life are relationships, not achievements. 

We work so hard to achieve something in life.  If we succeed, then we may become proud and self-centered.  If we fail, we may feel dejected and worthless.  But "success" in the world's eyes is really not the point.

What we really long for is relationship.  That is the substance of fulfillment in life.  God gives us a relationship with him through Jesus Christ.  He then empowers every other relationship we have.

We don't have to do life alone.  Reach out to someone.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Enigmatic Saul

As I read through 1 Samuel, I have come across one of the most puzzling characters in the Bible.  Saul was the first king of Israel, anointed by Samuel for the job.  God selected Saul, a young man who stood much taller than other men.  He seemed to have all the right stuff for leadership.

Samuel promised the young man that God would come upon him in power, and that Saul would be a different person.  Sure enough, as Saul left Samuel, "God changed Saul's heart."

Saul was even humble.  After being anointed as king, he didn't tell anybody.  Only when Samuel called him out publicly did Saul acknowledge that God had called him as the nation's leader.

But soon the power of kingship went to Saul's head.  He began taking shortcuts with his instructions from Samuel.  He tried to justify his actions and explain his good reasons for disobedience or "near obedience."  At one point he even asks Samuel to make him look good in front of the people, in spite of his disobedience.

Eventually God removes his hand of blessing and decides to take the kingdom away from Saul.

It really gets bad when David comes into the picture.  Saul becomes convinced that David is conspiring to kill him and take the throne.  Saul behaves like a madman, suspecting everyone of treason.  His bizarre behavior actually leads some of his subjects to work around him, but not to kill him.  Saul eventually dies on the battlefield, having led his army to defeat. 

So, I wonder, what's up with Saul?  Did God really change his heart?  Did Saul change it back?  Was God's work in his life conditional upon Saul's obedience?

I believe that God changes hearts today.  He transforms lives.  He puts his Holy Spirit in us to lead us and to change our patterns of behavior.  This work of God depends not on our righteousness, but on the righteousness of Jesus, who gave his life as a sacrifice for us on the cross.  We can't undo the work of God.

That's why I just don't get Saul.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I'm reading A Patriot's History now, and learning everything I never knew from American history.  Somehow I missed a lot of important stuff in my school years.  For example, I knew that Benedict Arnold was a traitor, but in reading this book I learned exactly what he did.

Another thing I am learning is that the partisan spirit has always been part of American politics.  Last year I read Washington's Farewell Address, in which he warns of the dangers of opposing parties seizing political power from one other in alternating elections.  On that basis, I assumed that after the Constitution was ratified in 1788, everyone got along like one big happy family.

We speak of our "Founding Fathers," and what they would say about various issues today.  What I am learning about our history is that different founding fathers had different (strong) opinions about how government should work, and what government should do.  We have always had opposing points of view, struggling mightily with each other.

What really amazes me is that both the Jeffersonian and the Washingtonian camps have left important marks on our history and traditions.  From today's vantage point, it seems like we received the best from both extremes.  If either party in the country's infancy had had full sway, our country would not be nearly as great as it is today.

So, my illusion that political fighting is something new is just that--an illusion.  Now I'm trying to wrap my head around what really makes our country great.  Why did we get the best from both sides in the controversies?  What if each side had left us with its worst ideas?

The more I read, the more I see God's fingerprints on the history of this nation.  Yes, we had egregious faults, especially allowing slavery anywhere, any time.  But somehow, God, I believe, has really blessed us.  And I think he has blessed us for a reason.  Why has he so blessed me that I could be a part of this nation?  I'm trying to find out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I'm not normally an angry person.  I'm glad, too, because it takes a lot of energy.  I got angry this week over some personal issues, and I learned a few things. 

First, anger affects the way I relate to everything and everyone.  It doesn't just affect my relationship with person I'm angry with.

Being angry changes the way I see everything.  Fun things are not as fun.  Beauty is not as beautiful.  I cannot think very clearly when I'm angry.  I have to measure my words, and my thoughts seem to swirl in my head, defying me to express them.  And that's how I feel talking to a complete stranger.

Being angry makes me tired.  I get exhausted when I'm angry.  I need a lot of sleep anyway, and anger makes it even worse. 

It takes a long time for me to get angry, but when I get there, I tend to camp out.  My anger is always so righteous; I like to enjoy being so right when someone else is so wrong.  (symptom of unclear thinking)  Eventually reality sets in, and I see that I have to move beyond my anger.  Often I realize that I wasn't nearly as right as I thought.

I can't imagine living every day angry, like some people seem to do.  I don't think I could get enough sleep. 

It feels good to move beyond anger and return to joy.  That's where I really want to camp out.  The joy of the Lord is our strength, said Nehemiah.  No wonder I was so tired.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Amazing Help

We have been putting the not-quite-final touches on Connection Point this week.  We are very excited about having our first worship celebration there this Sunday.  Everyone has shown up to help with the process.

Last Sunday it was amazing to watch as we took down and packed up all our stuff from the Longhouse.  I don't think anyone left without helping in some way.  Even without anyone calling the shots, every piece of furniture and every piece of hardware was quickly loaded on trucks and trailers.  Then the building got clean.  I'm not even sure who did it.  It happened so fast, probably while I was in the crawl space untangling cables.

The same crew came to Connection Point, not just to deliver, but to work.  We got the construction dust thoroughly removed, installed some ceiling tiles and began to organize our stuff in our new space.

This week I have seen lots of people at CP, doing whatever needs to be done.  It is amazing help, and I really believe it is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

It will be exciting to celebrate the Resurrection this Sunday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Maybe Marx was right

Karl Marx said that capitalism is a step along the way to socialism.  This is a very uncomfortable thought to me, I must confess.  To gain some perspective, it helps to look at a little history.

In the late 1700s, there was a lot of dialogue about what makes a good government.  John Locke (1638-1715) and French enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu (1689-1755) advocated the separation of powers in government.  Our constitutional form of government was forged during this era of philosophical/political thought.  Government should be limited, they believed, and this is clearly expressed in the the Tenth Amendment of our Constitution:  "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."  In other words, the powers given by the Constitution are the only powers the federal government can have.  This provides for most laws to be determined by individual states.

Thus our Founders put together a system of government, based on the prevailing wisdom of the day, and began the great experiment in government known as the United States of America.  It was based on the belief that liberty is a gift from the Creator and not to be taken away by any government.  With that freedom comes the right to free enterprise, or freedom to carry on commerce with limited interference.  We also know this system as capitalism.  The wisdom of this experiment can be seen with over 200 years of freedom and unprecedented prosperity.

But there is a problem with capitalism.  The owners of the means of production can become selfish.  They can begin to seek only profit, while taking advantage of the workers.  Think of history's sweatshops and factories relying on child labor.  Marx (1818-1883) said that these conditions are a necessary by-product of capitalism, and that the workers will eventually push for a more "fair" distribution of profits and ownership.  This has happened in Eastern Europe through bloody revolutions, and has happened in Western Europe through democratic reforms leading to socialism.  Most of Europe is now socialist.

But things have not (yet) gone that way in the U.S.

Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790) in his book called The Wealth of Nations, describes the process of free enterprise as a self-regulating system.  The marketplace rewards innovation and quality, while punishing poor systems and low quality.  The marketplace takes care of this as people buy good products and services and don't buy the bad stuff.  Good businesses prosper, bad businesses go broke.

For this system to work, however, Smith notes that the culture must have a moral foundation.  Entrepreneurs must be motivated by more than pure financial profit.  They must also seek to benefit society through their businesses:  they provide valuable goods and services, they provide jobs for their employees, and they also feed their own families (that is, they earn a profit).

The U.S. was begun with a uniquely moral foundation, based upon the Christian beliefs of many who settled here from Europe.  Historically, our nation has experienced numerous "awakenings," in which great numbers of people have surrendered to Christ.  This moral foundation has served as a check against raw capitalism.  It was the moral outcry that shut down the sweatshops and led to laws against child labor, for example.

So the United States experienced favorable conditions for prosperity:  freedom and morality.  The freedom was granted by the Founders who created a form of government and trade based on liberty.  The morality was the inheritance of the early settlers who sought freedom of religion.  Of course neither our commerce nor our morality has been perfect.  There have been many failures in both areas.  But the free market, based upon morality, has arguably produced the greatest nation in world history.

But when the Church fails to share the gospel, problems develop.  Capitalists forget that there is  a higher value than profit.  The poor become neglected as the church lets government feed the needy.  The social unrest creates the conditions that Marx describes.  The masses come to prefer the security of a strong government to the freedoms which made our country great.

So, where will we go from here?  If we rely on the prevailing philosophical/political thoughts of today, then we will clearly head toward socialism.  That's where Europe has gone.  I do not believe that the European Union can begin to match the greatness of our country.  Marx seems to have ignored the corruption that comes with power.  The Soviet Union collapsed, in part, because of the corruption of its leaders.  Notably, one other contributing factor in the fall of the U.S.S.R. was the rise of the Church behind the Iron Curtain.

We can return to the political structures of our Constitution, but the freedoms granted there will only go so far without a rise in our national sense of morality.  That's a job for the Spirit of God to be carried out through his people, the Church.  Jesus changes hearts and lives.  We need another awakening.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Get 'er done, on taxes

I've got less than a month to get my taxes done, so I'm finally buckling down to do it.  Every year I promise myself that I will do the taxes in Feb.  Then something comes up.  So I promise that I'll do them by March 15, still way early.  I missed that again this year, so I'm setting my sights on getting them done before April 1. 

It might actually happen.  I sat myself down tonight and began plowing through it.  Got a good start on it all, and it's not as bad as I thought it might be.

Speaking of procrastination, there is still something I need to blog about -- David Allen in Getting Things Done explains why only smart people procrastinate.  One of these days I'll write about it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Winding Down and Gearing Up

Moving is never easy, and it always helps to have a plan.  We are coming along with the construction of Connection Point, and we'll begin taking things out of the Longhouse this week.  There will be a wedding at the LH this weekend, so we have to get our band equipment out anyway.

The video projector and its cables need to come off the LH ceiling and out from under the building.  We will be winding up the various cables and storing them until we are ready to install them in Connection Point. 

It looks like we will have a couple of Sundays without our sound system and without video projection.  Then we should be ready on April 4 for our Easter service at Connection Point.  I hope we can have a rough schedule of the process in the bulletin this Sunday.

Thanks to all the people who helped us clean and dream at CP yesterday.  The youth group and several parents came and cleaned up.  Meanwhile others were imagining how we will work the staging, sound and video set up.

We are winding down at the Longhouse and gearing up for a new era of ministry at Connection Point.  Thank you, Jesus, for making it happen!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nomads or Warriors?

Reading Numbers 3 this morning, I saw a portable worship set up.  The Levites were the ones who took care of the worship equipment and set up, moving it all from place to place.

I had never noticed that their work was similar to what portable churches do today.  Some of the Levites carried tent poles, some the curtains, others the utensils.  They had to move the tabernacle around in the desert, following the Pillar of Cloud/Fire.  Now, they would set up for up to months at a time, not setting up and taking down every week.  But the similarities are there.  Eventually, after 40 years, they entered the Promised Land, and the real battles began.

For years Crossroads has been a nomadic people in Stokesdale.  We have met in 9 places:  houses, school facilities, a nursing home, borrowed church buildings.  Now it seems like we are entering the Promised Land.  We have bought a building, and we are completing the construction now to make it an assembly space. 

I wonder, though, if the battles are just now beginning.  We soon will have much more opportunity for ministry.  We will be able to share the love of Jesus with our community much better, with a place of outreach and ministry.

But when Israel went into the Promised Land, they had to fight for it.  We have gone through the requisite red tape, but there are certainly spiritual battles ahead.  As we work aggressively to build the kingdom of God, there will be spiritual opposition. 

We need to pray for God's leadership, so that his Spirit will guide us and bring us success.  The battle is the Lord's.  We need to remember that and stay on our knees.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Connection Point construction underway

After months of jumping through hoops, we are finally getting our new building ready to use!  Materials were delivered yesterday, and crews began work today.  We owe a special word of thanks to the men in our church who have been doing all the behind-the-scenes work.  From site plans to parking arrangements to blue prints, it is a complicated process.  At least it seems complicated to me. 

But now we are moving forward.  It is a good thing, too.  We need to be moved out of the Longhouse by April 1, so we have only a few more weeks to work with.  God has provided exactly what we need at just the right time. 

The possiblities of the new facility are exciting.  This will be a place of ministry to the whole community, and just a tool for building the kingdom of God.  I look forward to seeing many lives transformed through the connections made at Connection Point.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Screen saver

Yes, I do love snow.  This is the perfect kind.  It is falling for hours, sticking a little to the ground, and we're not getting snowed in.  Perfect.  It also doesn't seem like it will mess up too many scheduled events.  And the power hasn't gone out.

I watched it snow tonight for hours, just relaxing while staring into the backyard.  The flood lights turn it into a show.  It is better than a screen saver -- unpredictable, flowing, changing, peaceful.

Thank you, Jesus, for making your creation beautiful, and for sharing it with us.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Reading Exodus 33 today, I noticed again what Moses asked of God.  At this point, the Israelites have rebelled by making the golden calf.  God is so disgusted that he threatens not to accompany his people on the journey to the Promised Land.  Moses pushes back, and asks that God reconsider. 

In v. 17 God says, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am plesed with you and I know you by name."

Now, if I were Moses, at this point I would say, Cool, glad we reached this understanding.

But Moses says, "Now show me your glory."

Moses knows there is a whole lot more to God than meets the eye.  He has seen God reveal himself in a burning bush, ten plagues, a pillar of fire and cloud, a parted sea and water from a rock.  Even with all these spectacular revelations, Moses knows that God has more to reveal.

He dares to ask God to show his glory.  I like Moses' boldness.  I need that same kind of boldness.  As God does miraculous things for us at Crossroads, I need to ask him for more. 

Show me your glory, O Lord.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Olympic effort

The Olympic games always take me back to childhood.  The music alone is so friendly and familiar.  It's fun to watch all the competitors.  The stories of the athletes tell of dedication and support from families.  I was especially touched by the Canadian who won the first ever gold medal earned by a Canadian on Canadian soil.  This athlete's older brother has cerebral palsy and serves as his biggest fan.  It was great to see them celebrate together.

But some athletes pay a very high price for their success.  They spend years of their lives, sacrificing everything but the sport.  Some athletes only see their parents a couple of times a year.  They get up at 4 a.m. to train, then go to school.  After school they train some more, then stay up late to keep up with their studies.  That level of sacrifice is impressive, but I wonder how many of these folks regret what they have missed.  Not only do their relationships suffer, but they miss out on a lot of the fun of youth.

Is it worth it to win an Olympic medal, if you give up your childhood?  I don't think you can make up for the lost years.  Most athletes never receive medals.  After giving your whole life for something, it must leave you empty when it's all over, with or without a medal.

I'm sure many dedicated athletes can overcome these challenges, and live a balanced life through their training.  But to me, many of these training programs look way out of balance and can keep someone from having a normal life in the long run.

Yet to compete at the highest level, it looks like you have to go for broke.  What would it look like if we went for broke in loving Jesus and loving others?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Getting There!

Today we heard from the Stokesdale town planner that our site plan has been approved!  I can't believe how long this has taken, but at least we can move ahead with the process of up fitting our new building, Connection Point.

From here we apply for permits for our building process.  I think this should be fairly straight forward, because we have been working with the authorities in the whole planning process.  We will be constructing walls, upgrading the septic system and adding to the HVAC system. 

The possibilities are exciting for this new community gathering place in Stokesdale!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ten Years

On Feb. 13, 2000 Crossroads held its first ever public worship celebration.  We rented the Stokesdale School cafeteria, imported some singers, and invited a Sunday school class from Eden to come boost our numbers.  We had done plenty of praying and advertising, and trusted God to show up. 

In the weeks before, we had had about 16" of snow.  Seems like we had four good snows that Jan.  I was loving it, when it dawned on me that weather could put a damper on our Feb. 13 launch.  Suddenly I began praying for God to rein in the weather.  He did.

It was a cool, damp day, but nothing frozen.  We had greeters with umbrellas to help people get inside.  Our children's Sunday school was held in a wide hallway, down from the cafeteria.  We did not have access to any classrooms.

I was nervous, of course, as I preached on "Getting the Love You Want."  Lisa and I sang with the guest vocalists, and we were accompanied by performance tracks.  It was a lot of fun, actually. 

Now we've been at it for ten years, and we've met in ten different locations.  Soon we will move to Connection Point, a building we are up fitting for worship and ministry. 

A lot has happened in the last ten years.  These have been the best years of my life, and I have seen God at work the whole time!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Plans can change...

After an entire weekend without power at my house, I am learning a few things.  First, I can't count on things always working out like I plan.  Even the best laid plans are subject  In James 4, we see that we have to acknowledge that our ideas for the future are also subject to God's will.  That's why we throw around the phrase, "Lord willing..."  We know that something can happen to change our plans.

I also learned that communication is different than it used to be.  I was w/o power from 4:15 Friday afternoon until about 6:30 last night.  We had watched the first half of the Super Bowl at the home of some friends, and got back to an electrified home (YES!), but we had no cable.  I had to listen to the second half on an AM radio.

Worse than that, I could not check email or even use our digital phone.  Good thing we have cell phones.  When we got up this morning the cable was working too.  Finally.  Of course, with an appt in GSO first thing this morning, I did not have time to get connected right away.

I would have thought that a weekend away from digital communication would not be such a big deal.  It's probably not.  It just feels weird.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Half Done

I finished Getting Things Done last night, thanks to snow on the ground and more time to read.  The last 3 chapters of the book show how practical organization can lead to greater accomplishments.

He had some profound things to say about procrastination, but I'll have to blog about that later.  What I want to do today is collect all my "stuff" and put it in my in-box.  Stuff, as David Allen defines it, is anything you might want to do something about sometime.  That's such a broad category.

This includes projects at work, projects at home, ideas for developing relationships, trade magazines to read, letters to write, items to get at Wal-Mart, things to repair, etc., etc.  In other words, we can get a handle on EVERYTHING we care about doing, or might care about doing at some point.

This task alone seems daunting to me.  But, he says, if you can get a system that captures everything, then you can feel good about what you are not doing. 

I fall victim to the uneasy feeling that I should be doing something else right now.  There is always the possibility that I should be engaged in something else:  a book I should read, a blog I should write, a book of the Bible I should study, a person I should pray for, a situation that needs my attention.

When I get it all organized, then I can feel good about what I'm not doing.  Then I can really focus on the task at hand, rather than being plagued by a vague sense of foreboding.  "Oh yeah, I need to remember to do that...and that...and that..."

As Allen puts it, the human mind should be engaged in thinking about things, not thinking of things.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Old School

My 30th high school reunion is this fall.  Whoa.  I went on to the class reunion website today to fill out my profile.  I also signed up to receive emails when certain classmates updated their info. 

As I read through the list of 524 students, the memories came flooding back.  I saw names that I remembered hearing, but could not put a face with.  I thought of folks I had forgotten for 30 years.  I felt like I was in high school again:  Does that person want me to stay in touch?  Do they care about me?  What would they think?  Do they remember me? 

I was never part of the "in" crowd.  It always seemed like I was trying to fit in.  I guess that made me a normal teenager, but it was not very comfortable.  Should be interesting to see these people again.  I'm going to get out my old annuals and begin remembering names and faces.

I would much rather just remember the old times than go back and live them again.  I'm glad that I'm not who I was.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Out there

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test yesterday and learned that I'm no longer an introvert.  I took the test in 1997 and I was clearly introverted.  I have noticed my becoming more outgoing, and the MBTI folks noticed, too.

Over all, score as ENTJ, that is, Extrovert-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging.  I'm real high in intuitive and thinking, and just barely in the categories of Extroversion and Judging.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It just shows that people can change.  I may be growing up.  Nah.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tim Tebow is alive

I'm not a Florida Gator fan, but I do have a ton of respect for their QB.  He is a superior athlete.  And he usually has something curious under his eyes.  He puts Bible references on his eye black. 

Now this 2007 Heisman Trophy winner is to be featured in a Super Bowl commercial which celebrates life.  His mother was advised in 1987 to abort her son, because she had contracted some serious infection on a mission trip.  They told her that she could die in childbirth.  She elected to carry her son anyway, and Tim has lived to tell about it.  The mother and son are both in the commercial, which has been seen by only a handful of people. 

I applaud him for taking a stand for something significant -- something much more important than the Saints or the Colts winning a championship.

I also applaud CBS for allowing the ad, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Giving through Samaritan's Purse

As we all wonder what we can do about Haiti, we see lots of worthy relief organizations at work on that island.  Donations can be made to many organizations to help.  In some ways, it almost seems immaterial which organization receives our dollars.

At Crossroads we will be sending our donations to Samaritan's Purse, an organization head quartered here in NC.  Through SP we can help bring food, water, medicine and other relief to the hurting Haitians.  Franklin Graham says that there will be about six flights per day taking the needed supplies into the disaster area.

It is my prayer that this disaster will become a turning point in the history of that impoverished nation, and that the future would bring much better living conditions for all people there.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I'm sucking wind on reading the NT through in 30 days.  A couple of days behind. 

I read the NT a lot, but have never read it through in 30 days before.  Reading big chunks helps me see the big picture better.  But I'm also seeing some interesting details that I've never noticed before.

Today I have been reading Mark, and I saw something curious in ch. 8.  Jesus meets a blind man in v 22.  The man's friends lead him to Jesus and beg the Lord to touch him.  Then -- and I had never noticed this -- Jesus takes the man by the hand and leads him outside the village. Hmm.  Why did Jesus want to get him out of town?  Maybe Jesus just wanted to talk with him along the way. 

Jesus restores this man's sight partially and then fully:  the only two step healing in Jesus' ministry.  But why did he have to be out of the village of Bethsaida?  You could just ignore that detail, except the last thing Jesus says to him is, "Don't go into the village."  Jesus sends the man home, apparently to another town.

That's just curious.  Sometimes Jesus does things that we don't understand.  He has a reason for everything, but sometimes we just don't get it.  Same is true today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

LOL Cat Bible

I am not making this up.  There is a lolcat Bible "translation" available on the www.  This is an open source translation, produced by people who get into the lolcat scene.  In honor of my current series on the Ten Commandments, here is the translation of the fourth Commandment:

"Remembur Caturday An keep holy. U ketch mousies 6 dais An finish ketchin, K? Caturday, u no ketchin mousies. U An all ur peepz go wrship me. And, if yu beez gudd, I maks it so yu can stays home and do alla stuffs yu wanted tu doos.  I maded heavenz An erth An see An the stuff that does teh funney hoppey stuffz in An on it - so I make it holy cuz I no ketch mousies."

This fad began with photographs of cats with clever captions rendered in broken English.  The lolcat language was used for creating a LOLCODE programming language.  Eventually someone took on the big project to translate the Bible, getting many authors to contribute.  I'm not sure if the whole Bible is even complete yet.

I have found some of the wording to be, shall we say, off color.  The translators most likely did not consult the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts.  God is called "Ceiling Cat," Jesus is "Happy Cat," and Satan is "Basement Cat."

I am probably really twisted, but I find the whole idea hysterical.  It's not the stuff for personal discipleship, and I can't imagine a lolcat devotional Bible.  According to Wikipedia, there may be a lolcat Koran produced, too.  That's really insane.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Needing Grace

I began reading the New Testament through in 30 days.  First time for me to read the whole thing that fast.  I'm not quite current, but I see that there are grace days ahead.  I did not finish today's reading, as laid out in the website.

I finished the book of Matthew already and need to get on the next book, which is Acts.  It may really help to read a non-gospel book in between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Looks like a good plan!

I'm actually becoming a big fan of reading large chunks of scripture at a time.  I get much more of the flow of the book that way.  Especially when I read the Gospels, I think, "Now, didn't I already read that?"  When I read a whole Gospel in a day or two, I can remember better which stories are in that Gospel.  I can see connections.  I can see what the (human) author was trying to emphasize.

I have heard of Christian leaders who would read the whole NT every month.  Maybe I'll get there someday.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Tickler File"

It's a funny name for a filing system, but it shows some potential.  In GTD, I learned about this system that lets me plan to address a certain item on a certain day in the future.  If I don't want to (or can't) work on something today, I can put it in a folder up to 30 days out.  It will automatically remind me to work on that item on that day.

This is all done with good old manila folders -- very low-tech, but very understandable.  I don't want to explain it in detail (like you would want to read that here anyway...), but I do plan on creating such a system.  I still haven't finished the book, but I'm about 3/4 through it.  I want to wait until I read the whole thing before I go whole hog.

I mentioned the tickler file system to Lisa, and she said, "Yeah, I already do that."  Well thanks for sharing the brilliant idea.  No wonder she's so organized.  But I'm WAY ahead of her in reading the book.  Heh, heh.

I'm also using my label maker on my file folders.  It is fun, and I can tell a big difference in my filing cabinet already.  I'm filing stuff now, instead of stacking it all up to deal with later.

I'm still on board with Getting Things Done.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


When I was in graduate school, newly married, a friend called me to invite us to come play Rook on a Friday night.  I wondered Why?  Why me?  Why play cards?  What's the point?

I was perfectly content to sit at home in our cozy apartment and read or watch our 13-inch b/w TV.  It was a lot of trouble to get up and go somewhere.  (This was long before having children, so I had no idea what real inconvenience was all about.)

I could not think of any real reason not to go play cards, so we went.  I really needed to go, but I didn't know it.

Life seems OK without friends, but God wants us to have a much richer experience.  He wants us to connect.  He wants us to know other people and be known by them.  Friends help us become more like Christ.  They encourage us, challenge us, correct us.  They build our capacity for joy.

Friends help you when your car breaks down or your family breaks up.  They are there to say the hard things.  They know your heart, and ignore it when you act like a jerk.

Because of all this, friends are fun.  They add real depth to your life.  Ideally, our friendships show God's love to the world around us.  People see our friendships and understand that being loved is a gift that comes from Him. 

Life is all about relationships.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Over the weekend I noticed a new green light on my cable TV box.  Being new to cable TV anyway, I wasn't sure what the light meant.  The label on the box said "bypass."  OK, my bypass is on.  It didn't hurt though.  I mean, the cable picture still worked fine.

I did the online chat with a "technician."  Yeah, right.  After I waited my 20 min in the queue, I got the technical advice to unplug the box and plug it back in.  Actually I did not think of that (shame on me), but it didn't work anyway.  The chat guy told me that I needed a service call, which he promptly set up for me.

The tech guy shows up on Wednesday, and with two presses of the remote turns off the bypass light.  It would not have caused me a problem b/c it has to do with a feature we don't have.  Then he fixed problems I was not aware of.  He set the picture to fill up my widescreen set.  He adjusted the volume with the box, so that I would not need to turn the TV up to 65 to hear the show.  And he adjusted the picture from 780p to 1080p, so that I could really get the full benefit of the HD signal. 

"You really needed a service call, and you didn't know it," he said.  Wow.  This guy knew his stuff, and he fixed problems that I didn't know I had.  It should really improve the TV experience.

I wonder how many things God wants to tweak in my life, just so that I can fully experience him. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Easy or hard

I bought some replacement shoelaces for my daughter's shoes recently.  Now the hard part of that project is remembering to buy the laces.  The old, knotted strings had to go, but more than once we walked out of Walmart with no replacement strings.  Finally we remembered to get them.

I sat down to perform the surgical procedure.  As I began pulling out the leather thong, I noticed that I could not find the other end...

Then I noticed that the laces weave in and out all the way around the heel.  I had always thought those laces were purely decorative, but it turns out that they really connect to the tying end.

That presented me with two problems.  First, I would have trouble threading the laces through a 3-inch subterranean pathway.  It's hard to push a string, especially through a long, tight, curved sheath.  And the other problem was that I had bought laces that were way too short.  Dang.

So, I laced them back up, and forced my kid to walk around with knotty shoes again.  It wasn't too long before we got some longer strings.  By then I had mentally engineered a process for threading the strings.

The big surprise is that it worked.  I taped the new string to the old string and carefully pulled out the old as I threaded the new.

What I expected to be so hard turned out to be easy.  I often find that to be the case.  The hard things turn out to be easy.  But I never know until I try.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back in the swing

It was hard for some folks to go back to work today.  We get spoiled very easily.  It is much easier to go back to work when  you know another day off is coming soon.

That was actually God's idea.  His people should never be more than six days away from a real rest.  With a schedule like that, going to work ain't so bad.  For the Israelites, God also called for several feasts every year.  That gives you weeks of celebration thrown in as well.

Maybe this year we can get closer to God's ideal for real living.  That's worth celebrating!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Coming in 2010

I have been working on my new message series on the Ten Commandments, which begins tomorrow.  This is a foundational piece of scripture, with implications for history, faith and culture.

I was interested to note that we will be studying the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 in 2010.  Only God could put all that together.  Another bonus, Crossroads will be celebrating our Tenth Anniversary on February 14.  Got to love it.

God has great insights in his his ten words shared with us for covenant living.  I'm eager to dig into the words and learn more of who God is and how he is calling me to live.