Monday, June 27, 2005

Auto-emails of good news!

The other day, I was in a meeting about a possible new database system for our church. In the midst of the conversation, I suggested that they add functionality to support auto-emails to certain people when certain criteria became true in the data. For example, there could be an automatically generated email to the pastor whenever the given numbers drop for a second month in a row or an auto-email to small group leaders whenever LifeGroup attendance drops by a certain amount. I left my suggestion at that and didn't think much more about it until I was driving home.

In the car on the way home from church I was thinking (as I usually do!) and realizing that I had made a grave error in my suggestion. I had only thought of sending auto-emails when bad stuff happens. What about sending auto-emails when good stuff happens??!!?? Auto-email the pastor when giving is up three months in a row... email the whole church staff to celebrate every 10th person who signs up to serve in God's work, auto-email the staff when volunteers approach anniversaries of their faithful service to a particular team.

I guess my mind got slanted toward the "negative" automated messages when I worked in a large company as an engineer. I would get auto-paged at all hours of the day when a machine mulfunctioned or when there was another problem in production. Beep beep beep.... "NI401 down -- out of spec voltage"... "Lot 9014323 on hold - contamination". Why could there never have been a positive auto-page? Imagine... The pager beeps and I pull it out to read "NI601 - New record reached in machine up-time! Way to go!".

I need to always remember to celebrate what's right while not neglecting to fix what's wrong.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Insights from a day of fence-building

Two insights from building a fence:

1) Leading a project requiring physical work is a good place to practice being clear. My two neighbors and my dad worked all day today on the fence with me. When people are looking to you for exactly how this should connect to that or exactly what order things should be done, it really requires clear communication... anything less than clarity frustrates people and wastes their time.

2) The fence we were building is our common fence with the neighbor behind us and neighbor next door to us. It's strange that my neighbors and I built relationships today while we erected wooden barriers to divide us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Gifts to give our children - Part 2

One of the gifts we want to give our children while they are with us is the arts. From a very early age my mom gave me a love for music. Even at age five I was interested in classical music and broadway music. She taught me piano for years informally and I owe my love of music still today directly to her.

Though music is the only art I'm remotely good at, I want to also do what I can to encourage any other artistic gifts in our children. I'm not a painter or a sculptor, but I really love to see the work of others gifted in those ways. I love to see a person's creativity (whether they are a good artist or not) come out on paper or some other physical medium.

We are going to try and give our kids all the opportunities we can to express themselves through music, dance, painting, whatever.

So... that's one of the gifts...

the gift of the arts

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Gifts to give our children - Part 1

Taking the lead from Alex McManus, Debbie and I spend most of our drive from Allen, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas yesterday talking about what we would like to give our children while they are under our care. Here's what we think so far ... I'll process through this here through the week.

The gift of the arts
The gift of language and culture
The gift of following Jesus
The gift of confidence
The gift of a family that loves each other
The gift of a good education

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What does a barbarian Christ-follower do?

I've been reading Erwin McManus' "The Barbarian Way" and trying to put into my own words what he is saying. I've started talking about barbarianism in this way:

Being a barbarian is having a radical faith in Jesus and acting accordingly.

I was at the gym Monday morning and between sets on the weights I began to make a list of some examples of what a barbarian might do.

As a barbarian you might:
- Ask a stranger or lost friend how you can pray for him (Jessie Prim models this for us)
- Tell someone a story of how God has been working supernaturally in your life
- Have a meaningful and vulnerable worship and prayer time with your family
- Invite neighbors over for dinner
- Start a new LifeGroup to reach more people
- Listen to God and take a risk in doing what God says
- Spend time serving others
- Dig into God's word, not out of tradition or obligation, because out of a deep longing to know God better
- Pray!
- Work on your character to become more like Christ
- Give away significant and reckless amounts of money to others in need
- Invite someone to come along whenever there's time to talk or a chance to serve other together instead of just doing things by yourself
- Keep God's commands (John 14:15)
- Go through life with incredible peace (14:27)
- Risk engaging in a friendship with someone very different from you (John 4)
- Stop doing stuff that makes you so busy you can't build relationships with others (Richie Morris' idea)

The list is endless... there are so many ways that we can live out a passionate, barbaric, primal faith. We just need to throw off everything that hinders and throw ourselves into the adventure of following Jesus with all that we are. I'm not there yet. The use of the word "you" in my list above in no way implies that I live so barbarically and you don't. It's just easier to type "you" than a bunch of "he/she"s :)

If you and I have had an amazing experience coming to know that Christ is life, let's not gradually sink down into the mundane. If you've never yet come to experience true life in Christ, I encourage you to seek that day when you decide once and for all to throw yourself into all Christ has for you.

What are some more practical ways we can be barbarians?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Accountable Kids

We kind of re-started our use of the Accountable Kids program with our two older kids yesterday. Accountable Kids is a great program that teaches kids to be accountable for contributing to the family through doing chores and accountable for their behavior. We had been a little lax with it at first. Now, we started fresh with the portion we were already doing and added a couple of new aspects of the program. Doing chores earns tickets, which in turn can be used for purchasing priviledges like playing outside or playing computer games. If the kids earn all their chore tickets and don't lose any of them due to bad behavior on a day, they get a date card sticker. Doing that ten times fills up their date card and then they get a special date with mom or dad. The idea is that they'll begin to do their work and behave well without so much direction. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Want vs Need Part 2

Well... it turned out not to be our air conditioner fan after all. The water heater is in the same closet as the air conditioner blower, and it was the water heater making the burning smell instead of the AC fan burning out. So... now we've gone a day with the AC off and now we've got two days to endure without hot water. We'll see what happens next to show us what else we don't "need".

Friday, June 10, 2005

Want vs Need

Lately, we've been trying to get our daughter, Emmaleigh, to understand the difference between "want" and "need". Today, we were goofing around with an idea of spending a day or a week or a month with only what we "need". Debbie, Emmaleigh and I debated whether we should include books... on one hand we want them for entertainment, but on the other hand we need them so we can learn and grow. Do we need electrical power to our house? On one hand we want it because it's nice to have lights and air conditioning. On the other hand, we need it because America has become a society that uses refridgerators. Companies selling blocks of ice are hard to find these days. Maybe we should just take a trip to the poorest part of Africa to find out what we really need in life. In industrialized, materialized America it would be difficult to even run a legitimate "want" vs "need" experiment.

By the way and ironically... our air conditioner went out tonight.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Time in the Bible

I don't know about you, but I can tend to read so many books about Biblical ideas or even do studies related to the Bible, but not get into (or lead others to get into) the Bible itself. Having read and studied the Bible for some time I neglect the fact that some others haven't had as much direct exposure to God's word. If we are studying in our LifeGroup a workbook about finding our spiritual gifts or plugging into serving or leadership or whatever, I tend to briefly go over the Biblical stuff and then get to the application for me and others in the group. I've been convicted lately that I need to lead my LifeGroup to better balance between application to life versus seeing the content in God's word for themselves. I'm not talking about doing half "Sunday School teacher" and half relational application time. I'm just talking about spending a good amount of time reading the Scripture mentioned in the book or study and digging into it in a relational, discussion kind of way. That way, people who have not spent much time in God's word will learn how to do so.

This is not revolutionary thinking and I hope most of us leading LifeGroups are doing well at this. It IS tempting though (at least for me) to spend LifeGroup time on relational stuff and application of God's principles without letting people in the group have a door into reading and growing in God's word themselves. Does that make sense? Can anyone relate?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Nuggets from Jack Welch

Here are a few more things that have caught my eye in Jack Welch's book, "Jack: Straight from the Gut"
- Put people in stretch jobs early on. If they are the right people, they will step up to the challenge and perform.
- Welch says that he hasn't seen businesses fail because they cut costs too much or too quickly. The problem often in cost-cutting is that managers cut back little by little, over and over, causing uncertainty.
- Welch had a "hard" and "soft" side to his vision for a new GE. He preached that any business in GE that could not be number 1 or number 2 in the world had to go. But, he also desparately wanted to create a "soft" feel. He wanted a company that was "high spirited, more adaptable, more agile". He wanted to make a huge company feel like a small company.
- Welch insisted on getting people to see reality. He made them break through their emotional attachment to some business or practice to see what what really happening and act accordingly.

What applications could these prinicples have in the church world?

Monday, June 06, 2005

What is growing in Christ?

Is growing in Christ simply a striving to spend more quiet times with God in the Bible and in prayer? I don't think so. I think that somehow our times with God and actions throughout the day need to connect. If I'm REACHING out to someone, I need to be praying for them and for that divine moment when our conversation goes a little further than it had before. If I'm working on my CONNECT relationships with family and friends and colleagues I need to study in God's word how people are to get along. I need to pray for others. I need to memorize scriptures that will help remind me of what human beings in community need to look like.

Somehow grow is becoming like Christ... not checking off "Bible read daily" and "Prayed"

Gotta go... My wife says dinner is ready!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Will we do whatever it takes?

I led worship at a church plant that meets in a preschool building this morning. I love seeing people do whatever it takes to be the church and reach people for Christ. People arrived early to set up everything. Though it is hard work on Sunday mornings, it must be really nice not to be tied down to debt on a building. The pastor of that church has been delivering pizza to both make some extra money and also to spend time out in the community.

I'm constantly challanged these days to determine whether I'm personally going to do whatever it takes or if I'm just going to take it easy.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Build confidence in people

Just starting to read Jack Welch's book, "Jack: Straight from the Gut". Two things so far:
1) Build confidence in your kids - Welch talks of how he didn't know he was a small kid because his mom made him believe he was so big.
2) Build confidence in everyone around you and those who work for you. Don't "pile on" criticism when a good person and hard worker knows he made a mistake and is already feeling badly about it. Build him up!

What do you think?

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Character Matrix

I been thinking through Erwin McManus' "Character Matrix". If you haven't heard of that it is a tool to help people grow from self-centered life to being the servant leader that God wants us to be... the trip from greed, foolishness, and pride... TO... generosity, wisdom, and courage. In certain areas of life, I've made it through the matrix but in others I'm still far away. Even when you somewhat go through the matrix in some area of life, you don't stop - you just take another interation through the matrix and grow some more. I have a lot of greed and foolishness.

The Character Matrix is a part of Erwin's Promise Keepers book "Uprising". I think that Erwin has plans to publish the matrix in a form more accessible to everyone (instead of Promise Keepers geared).

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Copying church mission and values

I visited Mosaic of Arlington Texas this week. Had great time. Very cool to see a church getting to start from scratch with good mission and values. Actually, they are not "from scratch"... they have adopted Mosaic of LA's mission and values exactly. At first, that struck me a little weird. But then I thought about how a megachurch may have 20,000 people adhering to the same mission and values. Since people don't see anything wrong with that, why do we have a problem if like-minded people (for the sake of my argument - 20,000 people) across the country adopt the same stuff (maybe with some tweaks to relate to local culture) and build a church using it?