Saturday, May 31, 2008


Please feel free to participate in the poll at left - related to the May 30th blog. Thank you.

Happy 29th birthday today to my favorite son-in-law, SAMUEL THULIN (pic with our daughter, Whitney).

Be blessed.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Please participate in the poll at left - related to today's blog. Thank you.

I should probably make it very clear that not EVERYTHING I write on this blog is: A) completely original with me (most blogs AREN'T) or B) something I personally agree with.

As far as "A" goes - some things come from extensive reading in books, newspapers, online - or talking to other people - or listening to the radio and television - in other words, from a variety of sources. Of course, much of it comes from my own little brain, but nobody writes in a vacuum. That said, I let you know when it's from some other source besides me.

As far as "B" goes - I don't just write about things I agree with. MOST of the time, I believe in what I'm writing. But when I don't, I'll give a disclaimer such as: "The views herein are not necessarily endorsed by the management," or "Never mind," or "Gotcha!" or something equally clever.

Having said that, TODAY'S blog is partly "A," having done some recent reading on this subject -- but definitely not "B" at all. I DO agree and believe with what I'm writing today.

My mom took me to church from the time I could breathe on my own. Before that, actually. And from my very earliest memory, I wore suits to church. Even as a 3-year old little guy, I had the cutest miniature suits to wear, courtesy of J.C. Penney and The Jones Store. When I graduated to be an elementary school tike, I also graduated to BIGGER suits from the same stores. I was blessed to live during the time of leisure suits - which were popular when I was a teenager. I dutifully wore them to church in shades of peach, lime green, lavendar and Granny Smith apple. It was all very chic and 'in.' Trust me.

College - early ministry as an adult -- and now middle ministry as an adult -- we're just NOW coming to some new conclusions about how we should DRESS when we go to church - or if there should BE a 'SHOULD.' It has been a long thought process. Some of us still aren't sure about it at all.

Dressing up for church SEEMS like it's been happening forever, but in truth it is a relatively recent practice. It didn't begin until the late 1700s and didn't become widespread until around the 1850s. Not that long ago.

Before that, 'dressing up' was only known among the wealthy. That was the whole point. Only the wealthy could AFFORD nice clothing. Common folk had two sets of clothes: WORK clothes for labor -- and LESS-TATTERED clothes for going out.

With the invention of mass textile manufacturing, finer clothing became more accessible to the common person -- and voila! -- the middle class was born. To demonstrate their newly-found freedom, they could now 'dress up' for social events like the rich people did.

Even as late as the mid-1800s, people like John Wesley were preaching AGAINST dressy, expensive or flashy clothing. The Methodists turned people away from their services if they were dressed too nicely. Imagine THAT today! "We don't allow fur-collars in church, ma'am. You'll have to go back to your car, unzip that thing from your neck - then please feel welcomed to come on in."

But in the 1860s, a Connecticut minister argued that sophistcation and refinement were attributes of God (chapter and verse on that one?) and that Christians should emulate them. And THUS, the 'fancy-dress-and-suit-for-church' concept was born. And persists today. And I guess that's FINE, but it has nothing whatever to do with the Bible, God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.

'So what?' you ask. I agree. 'So what?' It is hardly a burning issue. It is what it REPRESENTS that is the burning issue. To think that God cares one whit if you wear dressy clothes to 'meet Him' is a violation of the New Covenant. Then there is the thought that 'dressing up' actually goes against the reality that the church is made up of real people with messy problems -- but who put on colossal smiles and cashmere as a way to cover it up.

The real fact is, the early church believers did not 'dress up' to attend church meetings. They met 'as is' in living rooms. The book of James even rebukes believers for trying to dress richly and separating themselves from the poor.

And yet, many Christ-followers are under the false delusion that it is somehow 'irreverent' to dress informally when attending weekend services. Read Mark 7:1-13 here.

If you personally feel that dressing up for church is a positive thing and you can do it with pure motives, then by all means, go ahead. But we should NOT look down or judge those who don't dress up.

In our church, we changed from wearing suits a few years ago to what we call 'business casual' on weekends today. Have we stopped worshipping? No. Has our 'reverence factor' decreased? Don't believe so. Have people stopped coming because we're not dressed up? Not at all.

What's next? Jeans? Gasp. Say it ain't so.

And be blessed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


A leak is a hole or other opening, usually unintended and therefore undesired, in a container or fluid-containing system, thru which the contents of the container escape. The entry of matter thru the leak is creatively called ‘leakage.’ Leakage of matter INTO a container or other system could be called ‘inleakage.’ Leakage of matter OUT of a container or other system could be called ‘outleakage.’ (Stop me any time here.)
The presence of a leak does not necessarily mean there is always actual leakage of matter. It just implies there COULD be leakage thru the opening. (O.K. Uncle.)

I don’t know how it is at YOUR house, but over the years, EVERYTHING at my houses has leaked. If it CAN leak, it HAS leaked.

We have four bicycles. All the tires leak air. I’ve pumped enough air into those tires to keep the Hindenberg up.

Not long ago I was driving to small group on a Wednesday night. One-half mile from my destination – flat tire. Major leakage.

There is a two hundred dollar coffee-maker in our kitchen. Um-huh; it leaks.

Every car we have owned over the years --- doesn’t matter if it was a Pontiac or a Ford or a Mercedes --- nor does it matter how many times they were taken in for repairs --- leakage big-time. Hydraulic leaks, brake line leaks, power steering leaks, gasket leaks, sun roof leaks, power steering leaks, oil leaks, radiator leaks, coolant leaks, transmission leaks – you name it. The only PLUS to these leaks is that you can tell what is what by the color of fluid on the floor of your garage. That said, our garage floor has been an artist’s palette of leakage. We now routinely place large pieces of refrigerator box-sized cardboard strategically on the floor underneath each leaking vehicle.

Then there are home faucet leaks, refrigerator leaks, shower leaks, pipe leaks, vacuum bag leaks, gas leaks, valve and fitting leaks, garden hose leaks, basement leaks – (I SAID, 'SOMEBODY PLEASE STOP ME!')

For that matter, it seems of late that I’m suffering from MEMORY leaks. I’d write more about that, but I can’t remember what I was going to say.

Leaks aren’t always bad; sometimes they are highly desired. Something else that leaks is ‘vision.’ That is a good leak. Andy Stanley says, “Vision doesn’t stick; it doesn’t have natural adhesive. Instead, vision leaks.’

I’ve repeated the vision for our church a hundred times. Then someone will ask a question that makes me think, ‘Hey! What happened? Didn’t they hear what we’ve been saying over and over?’

I had read that you can spot ‘leakage’ by listening for three things:

1. Prayer requests. What people pray for will tell you more than anything else whether they are locked into the vision of the church. When you are in a leadership meeting, are the only prayer requests for sick people? When I'm in such a meeting, I say, "Whoa, is anybody in this group burdened for an unchurched friend?” Yes, let's pray for physically sick people – but who is sick in SPIRIT that needs prayer too?

2. Stories of what is happening in people's lives. If there are stories to tell, then maybe the vision for life transformation has leaked. (How great it has been to watch theDIFFERENT STORYSAME GODtransformation videos in our church the past four months.)

3. What people complain about. If people are complaining about the wrong stuff, then vision is leaking. When they complain about the music, or the parking, or that the church is too big, or there are too many people they don't know, I can respond, “I know. God is blessing us.” But it's a sign of vision leakage.

I am tempted to be frustrated with people who don't seem to understand the vision, but I have to ask myself some important questions. How do we keep the church's passion for ministry from deflating? What do we need to do to assure that we have a compelling vision as an organization, and what must we do to make sure it leaks? If the vision is not communicated in a compelling way, then the organization is going to be unfocused. Wherever focus is lacking, only random activity is left. That's when you wake up and find you don't like the organization you're leading. And I NEVER want that to happen.

So I’ve decided I’m actually OK with leakage. In fact, I highly encourage it.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I don't know what is harder than change. Probably not much. One of the phrases that has gone hand-in-hand with change in the last decade is - 'out-of-the-box.'

"Let's think out-of-the-box.'"
"Her way of doing things is 'out-of-the-box.'"
"Uncle Jimmy's new hair? Way way 'out-of-the-box.'"

One of the important aspects of 'out-of-the-boxness' has to do with denial of the 'status quo' by courageous leaders. To be a courageous leader in the 21st century, you need a vital sense of GOD and strong doses of boldness, purpose and direction.

I watch our younger leaders, the ones who will take us where we need to go in the next fifty years. I watch them attempt innovative, creative, 'out-of-the-box' approaches to situations. Then I watch their balloons get popped - their tires get kicked - explanations made as to why their 'new-fangled box' isn't going to work. But for many of these inspiring young visionaries, 'out-of-the-box' is not an adequate description of who they are or how they are thinking. They do not even acknowledge the PRESENCE of 'the box,' PERIOD.
Not until they hang around with US for awhile, that is. In an effort to help them 'appreciate' the past - the rules - the contexts - the processes - we manage to teach them there definitely IS 'a box.' In fact, we try to hurry and construct the box around them, racing to get the nails in and the lid on before they get away and 'do something crazy' that might upset the 'box' and cause problems.

After all ... 'We didn't get this far by ignoring the box, did we?'

But -- here's the deal. We embrace a big vision that can not - MUST not - be contained within any box.

We want changed lives, becoming a community that reproduces other communities of real, authentic disciples of Christ.

We engage people for Jesus in ways that are culturally relevant.

We seek to be Jesus-with-skin-on to our community.

We commit to focusing on maturity and connectivity by doing ministry in small group life and then see what opportunities for serving can flow from that.

How tremendously HUGE is that? And yet, it has nothing to do with preaching or not preaching the Word. The Word is ALWAYS relevant. The problem is, WE sometimes are not.

Today's young crowd can worship God in a coffeehouse - and that setting is just as legitimate as having church in a stained-glass building with a steeple -- and perhaps, to them, much more approachable. A new generation is not concerned with the sacred cows we've set up (way in the box) -- or trying to please every person whose view of 'church' doesn't move beyond their own comfort zones or personal needs.

There is great excitement in my heart for the future of the church. We have people who want to make a difference in the lives of others. But - you can't get different results by doing the same things.

We strive to be passionate, 'out-of-the-box' followers of Jesus Christ ... people who turn the world upside down because God lives in them. We are not interested in simply maintaining or being tied to systems that have lost their effectiveness just because no one wants to rock the boat.

A big THUMBS DOWN to leadership that operates in and is paralyzed by fear. A huge THUMBS UP to moving in GOD-directions because you HEAR His voice - and then ACT on it.

I don't know. You be the judge.
And be blessed.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Today, we learned of a man named Paul Potts. In 2007, he won the European version of 'American Idol' called "Britain's Got Talent," featuring good ol' Simon Cowell ('American Idol') and Piers Morgan ('America's Got Talent' & 'Celebrity Apprentice').

What is most striking about Mr. Potts is that he is decidedly UNstriking. And that's the beauty of it. Potts was raised by a bus driver father and a supermarket cashier mother. Striking? Not exactly.

He was the kind of kid who was bullied in school, exacerbating his lack of self-confidence. Eventually, he was employed at a place called Carphone Warehouse only eight miles from his birthplace. He was a cellphone salesman. Striking? Uh-uh.

He met his wife on an internet chat room. Striking? I don't think so.

The big discovery about Paul Potts is that the man can sing. No - I mean SING. He first sang in 1999 in a karaoke competition dressed as Luciano Pavarotti. Having a dream to sing, he broke his collarbone and suffered whiplash in a bicycle accident in 2003, preventing him from pursuing music as a career. He had not sung in four years when he entered "Britain's Got Talent" in 2007.

Potts received a standing ovation from the audience of 2,000 and ultimately WON that season of "Britain's Got Talent."

What God sees in you is often not what you see in yourself. He only has success in mind for you. All He asks is for you to be READY and WILLING; He supplies the ABLE. And when your time comes to step to the plate, give it everything you've got. Paul Potts did.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

You can watch Potts' "Britain's Got Talent" performance at Enjoy.

And be blessed.

Friday, May 23, 2008


It's important to be in the real world and engaged with what is going on.

Having said that ... power to my personal "REALITY" picks, David Cook and Kristi Yamaguchi. Know where I'm coming from?

Be blessed.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Here are the results of the two polls that were posted on this blog that many of you took over the last week:

Poll A: The main time during the day I spend with God is ...

Morning -- 46%

Sometime between mid-morning and mid-afternoon -- 19%

Early evening -- 7%

Night -- 26%

Poll B: I am a ...

Morning person 46%

Noon-afternoon person -- 19%

Night person -- 30%

I have no good time of day; I am perpetually grouchy -- 3%

It is interesting that the time of day we spend with God almost exactly corresponds with whether we are a morning, noon or night person. Except for those grouchy people ... maybe our next poll should be to see whether you think those perpetually cantankerous people were more MEN or WOMEN.

Be blessed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Only a few hours left to vote. Please participate in the two polls at left. Thank you.

"This isn't your grandma's church." That's a statement I heard someone say at a conference I was at once.

And I know that sounds like such an obvious statement, but the TRUTH is - we tend to keep doing things they same way we did generations ago. I think change is extremely difficult and yet, it's something I keep talking about because I believe it is necessary - critical - vital.

I wasn't there, but I HEAR that the church was very anti-establishment way back in the 30's when the RADIO came on the scene. "Instrument of the devil!" In the 50's, when television made its debut, you heard the same chorus, verse 2: "Wicked piece of machinery!" Then, back 15 years ago or so, when the internet starting to really move forward exponentially and come to the common man, it was same chorus, verse 3: "Stay away from THAT nonsense; it's a TOOL OF THE ENEMY!"

Those kinds of arguments sound ridiculous now, but in their day, they had a strong following within the church. And if the past teaches us much at all, it is ... A) that many of the methods we have attached the word "WORLD" to, are only worldly if used in worldly ways. They are not inherently evil; B) that we have missed out on a lot of opportunities to reach our culture by being late-comers to the table of progress; C) that the methods used a generation ago are not as effective now as they were then; D) that something brand new is probably pushing thru the soil today to take the place of yesterday's 'innovation.'

Where do we fit into that? Our MESSAGE hasn't changed: The transforming work of Jesus Christ takes people who are far from God and gives them a new start - changed lives - maturing lives - connected lives - and reproducing lives. That has never changed. That will never change.

Remember the song, "Gimme that old time religion - it's good enough for me." Well ... MAYBE it's good enough for me. Partially, it is. But not completely, no.

We have to separate methods from Biblical principles. I am excited about new concepts and ways of doing ministry to reach people in 2008. Things I believe we need to grasp, endorse and embrace.

For instance:
Leaders who don't lead SINGLY, but help develop a GROUP of leaders.

Preacher/Teachers who are not few in number, but are part of a network of communicators. One message; many voices.

Failures are not hidden, but actually embraced - even encouraged, in order to learn from them.

One church; various locations.

I love the sound of all that. Definitely something I want to be part of right away.

Be blessed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


One final day to participate in the two polls at left. Go ahead - you know you want to.

I don't know if you're familiar with Lemony Snicket - but he writes about a Series of Unfortunate Events. It's about a family that continues having one bad thing after another happen to them - things come out of nowhere to inflict at most, serious danger, and at least, serious irritation, on them.

Sometimes - just SOMETIMES - not ALL the time - but ENOUGH times - I feel like I'm part of that Unfortunate Family.

Take TODAY, for instance. Earlier I wrote about car shopping with my youngest daughter. (Refer to April 19 blog for that.) Today, we went together, she and I, to actually pick up the car we finally decided on last Saturday, our FOURTH time out dueling for vehicles.

So, at around 4:30 p.m. we took off. It was an hour-PLUS drive down to Crystal Lake, Illinois where the car was waiting for us. There is NO good way to get to Crystal Lake from the Southeast Wisconsin area. NO good way. So we stopped/started/sped up/slowed down/sat in traffic/watched lights turn red-yellow-green over and over without moving/fought rush hour - Unfortunate. We finally arrived at our destination via GPS 80 minutes later.

I didn't remember that you had to sign so many papers to buy a used car. It's not like we're going to LIVE in it. We just want to drive it back and forth here and there. Just give it to us; we have the money.

But after all the obligatory instructions, signing my John Hancock, nodding politely thru all the "AS IS" disclaimers and extended service contract pitches, we eventually headed out to the lot with our keys to the shiny blue car sitting out front.

We casually strolled around it a few times, giving it the final once-over.
Any scratches or dents we hadn't noticed before? Nada.
Any large circles of oil puddled underneath? Nope.
All four tires still there and still round? Yep.
All right. OK. Ready to rock.

So, my daughter got in the car and -- first order of business before we could leave the lot was -- to set all the radio presets to her favorite stations. Couldn't put 'er in drive till that was done.

At last, I got in my car and led the way back home - her driving her new car behind me. It was another 80-minute drive back home - but we never made it. Twenty minutes from home, all of a sudden she pulled over to the side of the road. I turned around and drove back to her. She was panicking. SOMETHING had happened to the tire. It wasn't flat; that was for sure. I got in and drove it about 20 feet. Something seriously grinding at the right front tire. Unfortunate.

Call to AAA.
Call to the place we bought the car.
Call to home.
Call to my daughter's boyfriend.
Waiting for an hour for the tow truck to be towed all the way back to the Crystal Lake dealership.

At this point, please refer back to the second blog of Friday, April 11th - and insert that concept here. Do that NOW, please.

But thru it all, I got to spend some quality time with my daughter in the car by the side of the road - wiping her tears - eating Cheerios from the box together - talking about boys - at last, laughing about the whole thing.

Unfortunate? I don't think so.

And be blessed.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Please feel free to vote in the TWO POLLS at left. Only two days remain to vote.

You've seen them on fairy tales and in movies -- one minute they are flying around smashing anything that moves with their forked tails, breathing fire and scorching everything in sight -- and the next minute some little kid is sitting encircled by their long necks stroking and patting their heads, like they wouldn't hurt a fly. DRAGONS.

It seems like, right after some of your biggest victories come your biggest defeats -- right after your greatest emotional successes come your largest emotional drains. Funny how that works out.

If you're involved in leadership of any kind - at your job - on your block - at your church - as a volunteer - doesn't really matter WHERE ... you know that doing anything effectively means time, creativity, patience and effort. Working with people has the potential of draining you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Sometimes the people who end up draining you are actually sincere, well-meaning folks - it's just that they drive you to distraction and sap your energy and vitality. They aren't intentionally destructive. Often they are outwardly zealous for the same things you're zealous for. But many times you just kind of wish they would go be PILLARS for the organization down the street instead of yours.

Necessary qualities for leaders have been described this way: "Mind of a scholar ... heart of a child ... hide of a rhinoceros." Comforting? Not exactly.

So - what to do?

SIMPLE STEP #1: Realize you cannot please everyone. Jesus couldn't; what makes you think YOU can?

SIMPLE STEP #2: Do not play their game. Say 'No' to unrealistic expectations. Stand up and 'tell the truth in love.'
PS - don't forget the "IN LOVE" part.
PSS - don't forget the "IN LOVE" part.

SIMPLE STEP #3: Do not even THINK about retaliating. Repeat this to yourself 10 times: "I resist the urge to dragon back." Come on. I'm waiting. I can't HEEEAAAAARRRRR you!!!!

SIMPLE STEP #4: Pray for them. If you pray for a person who is a DRAGON to you - and you do that for 30 days straight - something incredible will begin inside you. Your attitude toward that person will begin to CHANGE. And God will change THEM ... or He will change the SITUATION ... or He will change YOU (gasp!). So, pray.

NOW ... go find a dragon - you probably won't have to look far.

And be blessed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


NOTE: Please vote in the two polls at left - four days remain until polls close. Thank you.

The essence of our lives is to “LOVE GOD" and "LOVE OTHERS.” There isn’t much else and God boils it down to those two things, strongly implying that everything in life is governed by two simple commands.

But we haphazardly throw around the word ‘love’ today.
We love our cars …
We love our homes …
We love fish …
We love going on cruises …
We love holidays …
We love ice cream …

But Jesus isn’t confused about the word love. He is very clear when He says: “No one has greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Now if we are going to be like Christ who gave EVERYTHING out of love for us, then why aren’t Christ-followers known as the greatest lovers in the world?

God calls us to care about who and what and HE cares about. So, who are you showing the breadth of God’s love to? Is it to those who are ‘less valuable’ in the eyes of the world? Is it to the helpless or the weak? Or do you show love for people and things that have the power to do something for you – to give back to you in some way? Because no one is out of bounds for love. The whole world belongs to God; so it’s not hard to figure out who to love. We love whoever God loves – and that is everyone.

"GOOGLE" is the homepage of CHOICE at the moment in America. "GOOGLE’s" success is based on sending people away from its website, not toward it. "GOOGLE" relinquishes control and empowers others. In other words, "GOOGLE" lets go. That is risky, especially for a company trying to make money, yet "GOOGLE" has become one of the greatest success stories in the history of business.

The testimony of Scripture is this: if you let go and give your heart away and risk loving, your heart WILL break. And what is the greatest symbol of a broken heart? It is the cross. There on that piece of wood, Jesus defeated principalities and powers. How did He DO that? He gave up CONTROL – He risked loving – He gave Himself away – bowing to death. And in this supreme act of love, He sacrificed Himself and overcame the forces of darkness so we could be free.

When your child tries to describe how much he loves you, it is common for him to say, “Daddy, I love you THIS much!” and as he says that, he spreads his arms out as WIDE as they can go. Jesus was laid on the cross. He hung between heaven and earth – and with His arms stretched out wide, He seemed to be communicating – even with His posture: “I love you ... THIS ... much,” as if His arms were reaching out further and further until they encircled all of creation in this passionate embrace.

There is no off-season for love. God’s love has no limits. This is a love that stops at nothing to give of itself unselfishly and irrevocably. No road is too long or too difficult for this love to travel. The real test of love is the depth to which it will go. God in Christ not only came down from heaven to the level of humanity, but far, far deeper. He came down into the ugliness and shame of our most horrible sin right into the pit and the mire to rescue us. And when you stand looking at the cross, there is something that assures you, not only that those two arms stretched outward to embrace the entire world, but also that the shaft of it reaches down deep to every humble creature who ever breathed.

God loves because it is His nature to love. He can’t STOP loving. And what must He think when He looks at us … those silly, foolish humans – unclean, selfish, disobedient, irreverent – but … ‘Oh, I love them SOOOO much,' He says. And that is the depth of the love of God.

I John 4:16, 19 – “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him … we love because He first loved us.”

Got LOVE? If not, "GOOGLE" it.
And be blessed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Feel free to take the two polls at left.

I was just wondering what you thought about spending time alone with God in the MORNING vs. at OTHER times during the day. Of course, I know some of you are going to say, 'I pray without ceasing. That means I'm praying ALL DAY LONG.' And I get that.

But I'm talking about that time during your day when you really FOCUS on God ... when you sit and listen to Him ... when you soak in what He is trying to say to you and speak to you thru the Word ... when is THAT time?

And I'll just tip my hand. Psalm 5:3 says, "In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice. In the morning I lay my requests before You and wait with expectation."

I know, I know - you're saying: "I'm not a morning person." I can hear it now.

But it just seems that once your day gets moving, the problems of the day crowd in and it's very tough to find that quiet place once the engines start rolling. Schedules in the year 2008 just don't allow it. In the morning, our minds and hearts are freer from issues and we can commit the entire 24 hour period to God in the morning. There is also the element of first fruits offerings to God - we give Him the BEST right off the top -- the FIRST and BEST of our money (first check is our giving) - the FIRST and BEST of our time -- the FIRST of our day.

And ... while we have been asleep, God has been working. He has made changes in all of nature while we have slept. Morning is our time to thank Him and recognize His power. Morning prayer also prepares us for ACTION - to take on what God has prepared for us that day. When we commit something to God that we KNOW will be happening on a given day, once we arrive at that moment, we can more easily see Him at work because we are conscious of having included Him in that circumstance via prayer at the day's beginning.

And we can come full circle to experience the reality of Psalm 4:8 - "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety," and let God start the amazing process all over again the next day.

But don't take it from me. Express your own opinion.

Vote in the polls at left. The first is on prayer (again) - but a little different than the one we took last time. The other is loosely related, just my curiosity coming out. Please participate.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I really sensed the presence of God in our small group tonight. It's amazing when God speaks thru various people in the room - listening to them give wisdom - give good counsel - give particular insight into the Word. It's a privilege to be in a circle like that.

I won't give away what specific people said or who they said it to - (one of our covenants is 'confidentiality') - but we talked about what God's will was in the face of tragedy and disappointment and how much God had to do with that - or not.

And linked to that - we discussed how important it was - or not - to start our day in the MORNING with God, His Word and prayer.

Thanks, small group. You guys inspire me. Thanks for letting me learn from you.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I got my hair cut today. I know that's a really weird thing to blog about -- but it IS "A DAY IN THE LIFE," right? And what could be more 'day-in-the-lifeish' than a hair cut.

I really like the person who cuts my hair these days, even though I left today looking like I belonged in the Mafia and drove home slumped down in my seat, taking all the back roads so nobody would see me. NOTE TO SELF: another great reason to get my car windows tinted.

Why does the everyday act of getting your hair cut put the fear of God into you? Because what's on top of your head defines who you are to an extent and who wants to take unnecessary chances with that? My mother and grandmother both have full heads of hair today, at 71 and 95 years old respectively. Even so, I worry about going bald. I'm one of those people who check the shower floor every day to make sure I didn't lose too much to the drain. But Leviticus says: "When a man has lost his hair and is bald, he is clean ... if he has lost his hair from the front of his scalp and has a bald forehead, he is clean," so I'm not sure what to do with that.

Then, Proverbs says: "Gray hair is the splendor of the old." I'm trying to hold that one at bay, too.

All I DO know is that we have a God who cares about our hair as well as what is right underneath it. Why do I say that? Because Matthew 10 tells us "the very hairs of your head are numbered" by God. THAT'S how much He cares. Enough to sit there and bother counting all those strands so He can keep track of you. He just has to spend a little longer on some of us than on others. But either way, He loves us. Isn't that amazing?

Be blessed.

Monday, May 12, 2008


How would you define the mission of the church? Jesus portrayed 'missio dei' - THE MISSION OF GOD - to and for lost humanity. Being MISSIONAL describes how the Church (the BIG "C" - you and me) are to be engaged in the world as God's agents as its main concern and overriding objective.

Rarely do you see churches that are missionally focused quibbling over trivial pursuits. Those churches evaluate their ministries in light of missional outcomes.

Those who RESIST such an idea - or see these as somehow contradictory to Pentecostal tradition - should be reminded of Assemblies of God history.

Fundamental Truth No. 10 (there are 16 total): "The Church and Its Mission."
  • "To be an agent of God for evangelizing the world."

  • "To be a corporate body in which man may worship God."

  • "To be a channel of God's purpose to build a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son."

Being missional embraces ALL of God's purposes in fulfilling His mission on earth. What do you say? Missional or Not-Missional?

And be blessed.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Tell us what's great about your friends?

Here's what is great about mine ...

They give me an uplift at just the right time - thru an e-mail or a phone call or a text message. They don't even KNOW it's the right time, but it is. Often.

They tell me when I've made a big gaffe - socially or spiritually or verbally - except that when they do it, it doesn't feel like a smack. It stings but it doesn't last. Funny how that works with friends.

They drop what they're doing and come when there is a real need in my life --- like running out of gas in the middle of the street and needing somebody to deliver me a can full.

They watch your dog when you have to be out of town.

They pick up your lawnmower that's acting and sounding really funny and then fix it for you. And they let you borrow theirs in the meantime.

They open their lives to you - so you can learn from them -- be corrected by them -- be inspired by them -- laugh with them -- cry with them -- have fun with them.

You're not drained when you're with friends.


Now ... tell us about YOUR friend(s).
And be blessed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I've been out for a few days because we are spending the weekend in Minneapolis where both our elder daughters graduated from University the same school year. Only one actually walked the aisle on Friday - (the other officially graduated in December) - and the other was named "Outstanding Graduate of the Year" in her major. So it was all very exciting and we're very proud.

Now it's onward and upward. And by that I mean - it's time for them both to venture out on their own (which they're already doing) - into a world waiting to see what they can/will do. I'm waiting to see too. I know it's going to be good.

I'm reading a book right now that has become my prayer for them - and for us all - that we would be energized with some life characteristics that would cause us to be what we were intended to be. Qualities like:

Courage -- because it takes real COURAGE to be bonafide follower of Christ in 2008. It is not a wimpy faith at all. And we need COURAGE and confidence to face our worst fears head-on and know that we never need to fear because God is with us ... and with Him, nothing is impossible. So, COURAGE.

Discipline -- because it takes real DISCIPLINE to succeed and reach our goals. We have to have it to reach our spiritual goals, our relational goals, our family goals, our business goals, our physical goals and our financial goals. Nothing lasting ever got accomlished without it. So, DISCIPLINE.

Vision -- because it takes real VISION to be a person who really makes a difference and VISION is hard work. Life is just a series of difficulties, problems, challenges, trials and disappointments to be tackled. But if we have VISION, then none of those will get us down or defeat us. We will only see them as opportunities ... rivers to be forded, mountains to be scaled, deserts to be crossed -- and on the other side we have become bigger, better, smarter, tougher, more compassionate people -- and it gives us space to let GOD be GOD in our lives. So, VISION.

Endurance -- because it takes real ENDURANCE to keep going forward. What have you quit in your life that you regret quitting because you simply did not endure? If you want your dreams to happen, then get ENDURANCE.

Character -- because it takes real CHARACTER to do anything significant in God's Kingdom. This is the ultimate "I want to be like Jesus" quality in a world that knows less-and-less of it. "Christian," "little Christ," "Christ-like," -- those descriptions of us all scream CHARACTER. Fortunately, Christ is not tight-fisted when it comes to developing it in us. He badly wants to see it happen. So, CHARACTER.

So then, daughters (and all of us out there) - courage - discipline - vision - endurance - character -- my prayer for us all.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I don't know what scares you. What scares most people are:
10 - death
9 - thunder and lightning
8 - cancer
7 - heights
6 - vomiting (sorry)
5 - confined spaces
4 - wide open spaces
3 - flying
2 - people and social situations
1 - spiders

Fear is an ancient and universal emotion. It can be defined as the sensation that you are in danger, that something bad is about to happen. Fear is almost always accompanied by a host of disturbing physical symptoms. When it is not justified by the presence of real danger or threat, or by any rational cause, then we have what is called a phobia.

Know what MY phobia is? It's standing in front of 250-300 senior high school students and talking to them about something relevant. How intimidating is that?

The very first time "FEAR" is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 9 when God tells Noah that, as a human being with authority over the rest of the planet, the fish and animals and birds would live in FEAR of the elder Noah. But it doesn't say that high school students would have any fear of their elders. I read it several times and it's definitely not there.

That's what's happening in 36 hours for me. "OK. HANG ON. I'M GOIN' IN!"

Be blessed.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Today in the office, we looked at the Ephesians 4:11, 12 qualities of pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, apostle - to see what the breakdown on our own pastoral staff was, with the thought that churches may be heavy on pastor/teacher types and skimpy on evangelist/prophet/apostle types. For the church to function in completeness, ALL of those characteristics should be present.

They don't have to all necessarily be present right within our own staff, but we were curious if they were. I won't share what everyone ELSE's results were - not sure that would be fair or right to do in this column without permission from the others. So I'll just share mine.

Of the five leadership functions given in Ephesians 4, my FIRST PRIMARY ended up being TEACHER. Another identifying name for this person would be "THE COMMUNICATOR." According to the evalution, he is a recruiter to the organization who markets the ideas or products and gains loyalty to a brand or cause.

Characteristics are:
Effective communicator of truth -- Philosopher, imparter of ideas and principles -- Encourages exploration in thinking toward solutions -- Has a curiosity to know more and to explain this knowledge -- Willing to take time for people to understand for themselves -- Helps lead others into a deeper understanding and ownership -- Translator of great complexities into simple teachings -- Core issue is understanding -- Discerns audience's ability to comprehend and starts there -- Guides others with wisdom and understanding.

My SECOND PRIMARY (not sure how you can have a SECOND primary, but this evaluation gave you one) was APOSTLE. This person is described as "THE ENTREPRENEUR." He is an innovator and cultural architect who intitiates a new product or service and develops the organization.

Characteristics are:
Visionary thinking and motivation -- Entrepreneurial interests to build communities of faith -- Pioneering new endeavors -- Sees things holistically, part of a larger system -- Deep relationships at a distance -- Comfortable crossing boundaries -- Strategic decision maker -- Uncomfortable with status quo.

As I reflect on what I just wrote, it feels a little self-serving that I would tell you all that about myself, but it's not my intention. Because with every leadership role you HAVE, there are also things you are LACKING. And I don't WANT to tell you what those things are -- but trust me, they're there (or NOT there, actually).

What was gratifying and interesting to me was that our current staff is fairly well-balanced across the five leadership styles - either primary or secondary primary. And that felt real good to know.

You can take the same online evaluation at It'll cost you $10 but it's worth it.

And be blessed.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Tonight I was dressed in waiter's garb -- black on bottom, white on top - and I had the opportunity to serve a bunch of people at a 5-course dinner (each course comprised of three elements). There was a 'catch,' though. The 'catch' was that the menu was written in code so the feeders didn't know exacatly what they were ordering.

Which meant for course #1 they might get spaghetti, peaches and a cup (with no utensils)--- or they might get a fork, ice cream and tossed salad --- or they might get corn, a knife and a spoon. So you might have a grown man eating spaghetti with just his fingers, like a caveman, which I saw happening with alarming regularity. LOOK OUT! SOMEBODY MUST BE REALLY HUNGRY! And so on and so on thru all five courses. They didn't know what they were getting until the waiters brought it out. And each person got something different, depending on what they ordered. It's all very complicated.

Yet this meal reminded me of a return to simpler times. It wasn't like one of those dinners where you eat on tablecloths and fine china with 6 forks to the left of your plate and 3 forks above your plate - where you have to watch the person next to you out of the corner of your eye to make sure you use the right one. It was just paper plates and spaghetti - eat with your fingers stuff.

And as I'm standing there watching people devour cottage cheese with their fingers, it struck me how very complicated life has become. Remember eating chocolate cake with no fork? When was the last time you did that? On your first birthday?

But today? On Monday, you get up early -- throw some breakfast together -- take the kids to school -- do a quick errand -- get to work -- labor very hard all day long, lunch optional -- leave work -- run some more errands -- grocery shop -- run to the kids' sporting events -- cram down supper -- do some yardwork -- get the 4th grader's homework done -- fix some things around the house -- fit God in there someplace -- go to bed exhausted -- rinse and repeat on Tuesday.

What happened to just sitting around eating spaghetti with your fingers?

In 2008, multi-tasking is REQUIRED or you're nobody. It is the new 'badge of honor.'

But hold on.
Can we SLOW DOWN a little?

It’s easy to speed through the day and not notice the little things. Slowing down is a vital part of simplifying your life and enjoying what you have. The only moment we are guaranteed to have is this moment. Life is so precious, yet we spend our most valuable resource - time - on things that are unimportant.

Spending time with family, laughing, enjoying the antics of a pet, experiencing intimate and heartfelt moments with a friend - these are the times that are precious and free.

Enjoy what you have. It is said that 'in order to live the life you love, you have to love the life you have.'

So I challenge you to think more simply. We can start a simple revolution, YOU AND ME. Here are some concrete ideas to take to heart ...

Go outside and watch the grass grow. Look at the clouds. Unelss it's raining. No, I take that back. If it's raining, go outside and lift your head and let it fall.
Curl up on the couch with a good book. I recommend "THE GIVING TREE" by Shel Silverstein.
You like baths? Take one.
Listen to yourself breathe -- watch the clock tick -- drink a cold glass of ice water really slow (no brain freeze) -- enjoy someone you love.
And that spaghetti? Lose the fork -- and GO FOR IT.

I hope you take this to heart -- and be blessed.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Last week I posted a poll (at top left) asking how often you pray. Many thanks to the 51 people who voted. Here are the results:
I pray every day. 35 people --- 68% of respondents
I pray regularly, though not daily. 12 people --- 23% of respondents
I pray when I can. 1 person --- 2 % of respondents
I pray when I need something or am in a crisis. 1 person --- 2% of respondents
I rarely or never pray. 2 people --- 4% of respondents.

Clyde Herring wrote a clever piece about the importance of prayer. Important not only to US - but also to God. Here is the heart of what Clyde wrote:

Our Father who art in Heaven ...
'Yes, My son?'

Don't interrupt me, God. Don't you know I'm praying ... ?
'But you called Me.'

Called You? I didn't call You. I'm praying. Our Father who art in Heaven ...
'There, you did it again.'

Did what?
'You called Me. You said, "Our Father who art in Heaven." Here I am. What's on your mind?'

Well, I didn't MEAN anything by it. I was just saying my prayers for the day. I always say 'The Lord's Prayer.' It makes me feel good - kind of like i'm doing my duty.
'All right then ... go on.'

Hallowed be Thy Name.
'Hold on. What do you mean by that?'

'By "Hallowed be Thy Name?"'

It means ... good grief, I don't know what it means. How should I know? By the way -- what DOES it mean?
'It means honored ... holy ... wonderful.'

OK. That makes sense ... Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
"What are you doing about that?'

Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be neat if you got better control of everything down here.
'Do I have control of YOU?'

Well, I go to church.
'That isn't what I asked you. What about that habit of lust you have? And your bad temper? And then, there's the way you spend your money ... all on yourself. And what about the kinds of books you read and the kind of TV you watch?'

Hey! Stop picking on me! I'm just as good as some of the rest of those phonies at church.
'Excuse Me ... I thought you were praying for My will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. Like YOU, for example.'

All right! I guess I do have some hang-ups. I hadn't really thought about it until now, but I would like to cut out some of those things ... you know ... be really free.
'Good. We'll work together. I think we're getting somewhere now. I'm proud of you.'

Look, Lord ... I need to finish up here. This is taking a lot longer than it usually does ----- Give us this day our daily bread.
'You need to cut down on the bread, too -- you're overweight as it is ... but keep going. I'm particularly interested in the next part of your prayer.'

I'm scared to go on.
'Why are you scared?'

Because I know what You're going to say.
'Try Me and see.'

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
'What about Rick?'

See, I KNEW it! I KNEW You would bring him up. He's told lies about me ... cheated me out of money ... he's made me so mad I've sworn to get even.
'Yes, I know ... but your prayer ... what about your prayer?'

I don't mean it.
'Well, at least you're honest. But it's not much fun carrying that load of bitterness around, is it?'

No, but I'll feel better as soon as I can get even. Boy, have I made some plans for Rick. He'll wish he never crossed me.
'Well, you won't feel any better. Revenge isn't sweet. Think of how unhappy you are already. But I can change all that.'

You can? How?
'Forgive Rick. Then I'll forgive YOU. You may lose some money, but you will re-gain your heart.'
But Lord, I can't forgive him.
'Then I can't forgive you.'

Oh God, You're right! I want revenge on Rick ... but even more than that, I want to be right with You. All right! I forgive him. I do.
'Very good. Now ... you're not thru with your prayers yet. Go on.'

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
'I'll do that. Just don't put yourself in a place where you can be easily tempted.'

What do You mean by that?
'Quit hanging around the wrong places and listening to bad conversations. Things like that. And often, when you get caught in a bad situation that you created, you come running to Me. "LORD, HELP ME OUT OF THIS MESS AND I PROMISE I"LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN." Remember some of those bargains you've tried to make with Me?'

Yes, and I'm ashamed Lord. I really am. Up until now I thought if I just prayed "THE LORD'S PRAYER" every day, then I could do what I liked. I'm sorry.
'Go ahead then. Finish up.'

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
'Do you know what would bring Me glory? What would make Me really happy?'

No, but I'd like to know. I want to please You. I can see what a mess I've made of my life, and I can see how great it would be to really be one of Your followers.
'You just answered the question.'

I did?
'Yes, the one thing that would being Me glory is to have people like you truly love Me. And I can see that happening between us. Now that we have some of this settled, there's no telling what we can do together.'

Lord, let's see what You can make of me, OK?
'Yes, let's see.'

Give God some time today.
And be blessed.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Feel free to take the poll at left. Only two days remain.

I have always been a rule-keeper. From the earliest days, I was the good little kid on the block - you know him -- that compliant, obedient boy who did everything his elders told him to do without questioning -- which turned into an obedient teenager who did pretty much everything his parents and teachers said to do -- which turned into an adult who obeyed all the laws and rules of society -- which turned into an adult famous for making rules for everyone else.

Over the years, that meant keeping all the rules my religion set up for me - which included, but not restricted to:

No smoking
No drinking
No card playing
No mixed swimming
No swearing
No playing pool
No going to movies
No dancing
No wearing make-up or short skirts (OK well - that one was easy)
No associating with anyone who does any of the above

But at some point I came to realize that trying to be 'good' - or maybe trying to avoid being 'bad' was what some of that was about. I don't know who actually made those rules, but I discovered that the people one and two generations above me didn't know where they originated either. They had just 'always been.' Hmmm.

My success at KEEPING the rules - and/or my success at not BREAKING the rules - defined my 'goodness.' It defined my devotion to God. And as one person said, 'Goodness and badness are what matter MOST in this kind of "religion," so they must be what matter most to God.'

But God is not just a rule-setter and commandment-maker. What is personal or intimate about that? That's not what I want to be as a PARENT either. God doesn't prefer lecturing us above having conversation with us. And I don't want to relate to my kids from a distance. Who prefers fear over love?

So I've re-thought that whole original "DO NOT" list thing. Sorry, mom. Since that time, I guess I've broken at least half of them (I'm going to let you figure out which 'half').

And be blessed.