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Archive for July, 2009
I love that Rascal Flatts song, “Life is a Highway.” No doubt about it; it takes some twists and turns. Some we can seemingly control, others we have no clue. Overall, we really have NO control, IF, we believe God has the whole world in His hands. He’s so huge, large, and in-charge, that He can do anything He wants to. Our choices do dictate many of our outcomes. However, one of the unchanging, no-doubt, underlying scarlet threads that run through every choice, good or bad that we make, is the fact that God will NEVER turn his back on anyone; NEVER! His love never changes for us! Pretty awesome. Here’s an acrostic that might make some sense.
S - ensitive — Life is very much a vapor, the Bible says. It’s here today, gone tomorrow. We must take advantage of every minute. We have a lady in our church in her 60′s that was in a terrible automobile accident that told us, “Before the wreck I was living by the day, but after the wreck I started learning to live by the seconds.” What she means is, every breath counts!!!
U – ndeniable — Life can be yours for the asking! All you have to do is ask Jesus to live His life through you. It all starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ; it all ends with a future-forever with Jesus Christ. It can’t get any better than that! God designed it where anybody and everybody could experience the abundant, rewarding, and awesome peace of this life, with sins forgiven and another life to gain one day in heaven. Hey, He even made it where we could all continue experiencing this kind of peace even through hellish times that come our way.
X - ylophone– A xylophone is a noun; it is a musical instrument consisting of a graduated series of wooden bars, usually sounded by striking with small wooden hammers. Kind of reminds me of a dock. You can walk out on a large wooden dock and your feet decide our each sound that results from each different piece of plank. None of them are the same and none of them are cut just exactly alike. Life is like that. Different events serve as the wooden hammer on us that can cause us to make good sounds or bad sounds; we either look for the positive in everything or we always look for the negative; we either give up or keep on going. It sometimes becomes a test of endurance.
Hey, whatever we are all going through today, and believe me, everybody has some kind of cross to bear, admit it, be authentic about it, talk about it, be transparent about it, BUT, “don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.” Live by the seconds; squeeze all the good out of a day you can find. You’ll only find what you let your mind dictate. There’s tons of stuff we ALL have to be thankful for!
God is good!
Steve Spurrier was just quoted as saying, “Tim Tebow is the best quarterback in SEC history.” I remember when Tim rolled into town; four years ago. It seems like yesterday. Now, you’re talking to a family who, while living in Gainesville, rode around town with Bulldog tags on their car, had them ripped off at night by students, and whose kids had no embarrassment wearing UGA stuff to high school. On top of that, Kim and I are UGA grads and our son is on his way this fall. We love college football. I’ve grown up around it; was a football manager for The University of Southern Mississippi and Georgia Tech. We now tailgate in Athens most weekends. With all that said, nobody can avoid the admiration for the sportsmanship and life of Tim Tebow. He’s a man’s quarterback! He’s a believer’s believer! He’s the example of values and taking a Christian stand when others go the opposite way. He was just interviewed and proud to say that he was still a virgin. He makes the way of Jesus the “cool” thing to do. He laughs, smiles, and has passion, all in the name of Jesus. Is he perfect, no, and doesn’t claim to be, but he is REAL! We can learn something here, people! :)
Death is a funny thing. To our family, that know Christ, we often mention it and the fact that no one who loves and lives for Christ is upset with the thought of dying. In other words, it has a very positive outcome and resemblance to us in the Craven home and extended family. However, in thinking about it, as you look around at family, we all KNOW that it is inevitable one day for ALL of us, but nobody really talks about it and there is no real need to. I guess my wonder, sometimes is, how do each of us feel deep down inside? If we knew we were dying soon, how would our demeanor change? How would we act and react? Would any one of us be scared? Would we be able to live with passion in the time we had left? Or, would we just shut down, be totally torn apart and dysfunctional? One thing about family is, you don’t want any of them to hurt.
And so, it is nice to know that family might feel and say something like this, before and after: “Don’t ever wonder how I feel. I am about to soon go on to my eternal home. I will miss you all, but this is the next step, the next stop, and the destination we’ve all been looking forward to. It’s why we’ve lived our lives for something bigger than ourselves. I will miss making new memories with you all, but with every fiber of my being, I have loved the ones we’ve made, the fun times, the big family gatherings, the laughs, and the joys of living life with you, but I’m fine…I’m ok…I’m just taking an early flight…you are coming later and I’ll see you there. I’ll still be with you in spirit everytime you get together and everyday of your life. I know you will always be thinking of me too. So, that’s a win for all of us. If there is any regret at all, it will be that we can’t talk verbally like we always have, but, that, too, is for a short season. As you continue to talk to God everyday, He’ll give me the message, and I will SEE you soon. Bring as many people as you can with you…it’s unbelievable here.”
For those closest to me, I don’t like to think about it, but it is REAL…it lies dormant today, but comes alive one day. I encourage all of us to prepare our minds today. It will make the journey much easier.
“Not yet, Lord, too much to do for you here. We continue to work hard for you. Lots of people to reach; give us some more time. We are loading up as many as we can! Love you!”
Sometimes I find myself feeling a particular emotion; how ’bout depression, for instance. I don’t know a lot about it, just that sometimes we all feel this way. I’ll give you my thoughts: I think it must be a natural bent for humanity and why God spoke through several to say, “Train yourself to be Godly” and “Bring every thought into captivity” and “Have the mind of Christ.” I’m not that good at it! It’s something that has become a discipline I am working on in a big way……..I believe it that we can choose our outlook on ANYTHING that comes our way, good, bad, or indifferent. It’s the ONLY thing we really have a choice in.
However, as I grow in life, I have learned to realize that there are, indeed, seasons that bring on certain emotions. If we are not very familiar with the dynamic of these seasons, we can literally weird out. They are temporal emotions and we need to view, accept, and understand them as such. For example, things like, a move, a downturn in the economy, financial loss, death of a loved one, recession, child going off to college, divorce, bad news, etc. In other words, possibly a perfect storm can create certain emotions. Here’s what I would say: Let those emotions develop naturally according to the circumstance, but do not let them rule you; you rule them! You may have to snap out of it, think on something else, get busy, “Think on these things,” the Bible says.
Why do we feel and have been programmed that to do God’s work as an individual church, we must find a way to “get the credit?” This has no value in advancing the Kingdom; will advance your church, though, for awhile. This will only last until God is tired of it……..your ministry then becomes stagnant, inner-focused, and plateaued. As long as we check our “credit” egos at the door, and decide to build HIS Kingdom, rather than ours, the sky becomes the limit. Remember, it’s all about whether your city is different because your church is in your city, not whether or not people come to YOUR church!
Someone recently said it well:
Live as though Jesus died yesterday, rose again today, and is coming back tomorrow!
It really gets comical to read twitters, blog posts, articles, and books of people who give off the scent that they have it all together, knowing down inside, they don’t. As much as I love all of the above, very few are transparent, real, and authentic with what they say. Not sure why this is, other than that many of us have “the disease to please.” If we look better than we are, we at least have “success,” right? No! One of the things I appreciate about unchurched people, far away from God folk, is the fact that they just say it…………regardless! Church people have learned to be politically correct even if they don’t believe what they just hedged around. People, hear me! This is why people don’t like our churches! This is why they don’t come to our churches! They have an ability to sniff out our fakery and we don’t even know it. One thing I know for sure is that EVERYBODY has something they are dealing with, struggling with, battling with, and life is just not all perfect for them.
If all we ever do is show and tell people how great things are, then we limit our opportunities for new frontiers and promotions. Why? Because everybody knows that you will have SOMETHING that goes wrong at some point and they don’t want to hire you or be around you if it’s going to happen on their time. Plus, they know that NOBODY has it that great and there is a measure of distrust that they will have in you. So, admit it today and share your story: good, bad, and ugly. It has far more impact than your fabrication. There is NO greater value you can add to ANY life than to share your “stuff.” It is an untapped influencer!!!
Integrating Your Team
Our church shifted to an integrated family ministry strategy and combined our preschool, elementary, teens, and college ministers into one cohesive leadership team.
- Hold weekly meetings with an agenda and rotating participation: It is important for creating community. If you meet rarely, you are communicating to the team that they don’t actually need each other’s input.
- Have a standing agenda item for ideas and challenges: Bring a new challenge to the team each week.
- Obtain team leader buy-in: In order to create a strong team, the leader must commit his or her time and resources to the projects that are most important to the team members.
- Schedule one-on-one appointments: I have committed to thirty-minute weekly meetings with the people working directly for me. This is a great way for a leader to communicate, “You and your ministry are too important to me to let a week go by where we didn’t get at least thirty minutes to connect.”
- Communicate weekly to all staff members: I send a newsletter at the end of the week called “The Staff Loop.” Its purpose is to encourage our staff members as well as keep the vision right in front of them. I want them to know I’m accessible to them and involved on many levels.